The Reds, a team that plays their home games in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park, have not been a very good offensive team. Instead of eighth in runs scored and ninth in batting average as a team, soon they could likely be even worse.
Their best hitter, first baseman Joe Votto, was removed from Saturday's 2-1 victory in San Francisco because of an injury.
"He originally jammed his knee sliding into third base Friday night," stated Cincinnati Enquirer Reds reporter John Fay. "Votto left Saturday's game after grounding out in the fifth inning."
The Reds are downplaying the injury to their MVP, who just signed a lengthy contract that pays him an average of $22 million per season until 2024. Obviously the club will have to be cautious with their valuable slugger, who had started every game but one this season.
An injury to a key player of Cincinnati's primary rival occurred at nearly this same point last season, when St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols injured his wrist just a few weeks before the All-Star break. The three-time MVP spent three weeks on the disabled list, and he returned to lead the club to the World Series championship.
Reds' fans cannot expect the same scenario should Votto's injury cause him to miss considerable time. The 2011 St. Louis lineup was strong enough to play .500 baseball, even without Pujols.
The Cardinals, who led the National League in hitting last season, actually had a higher team batting average without Pujols in the lineup. The overall team batting average was .272, but without their slugger it was .278.
The primary reason for the slight rise can be credited to the St. Louis bench. Manager Tony Larussa had the option to shift veteran Lance Berkman to first and play John Jay in the outfield. St. Louis also had hitters such as David Freese and Allen Craig to help fill the void left by the injury to Pujols.
The Reds, alas, do not have such luxuries. Their lineup would be devastated should Votto miss any significant time, as the 2012 numbers indicate.
Votto is hitting .354 with a .471 on base percentage. The team overall is hitting .249 with a .319 OBP, both of which rank in the bottom half of the N.L.
Remove Votto's numbers from the lineup, and the team batting average drops to .238 and the OBP to under .300. Only the Pirates and Padres have lower team batting averages, and San Diego's OBP is actually higher than that of a Votto-less Cincinnati lineup.
Even if the injury does not force him to the DL, the Reds must bolster their lineup to protect Joe Votto. No other contending team in the Major Leagues, this year or any season in the past, depends as much on one hitter as the Reds do on Votto.
Doug Poe once delivered newspapers to Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and Joe Morgan, three customers who have made him a lifelong fan of the Reds.
Cincinnati Enquirer, 7/01/12
- Sports & Recreation
- Albert Pujols