Josh Reddick hit a blooper to center field in the bottom of the sixth inning on Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati. During any other game with any other center fielder, it would have dropped in for a single. Billy Hamilton instead made a great diving catch for the out, and once again Reddick returned to the Dodger dugout frustrated. That at-bat was a microcosm of his Dodger tenure so far.
The Dodgers’ new right fielder has played 18 games in blue since being acquired from Oakland and he has little to show for it. He has a slash line of .149/.208/.164/.373 (10-for-67, -0.7 WAR) with just one extra-base hit and five walks in 72 plate appearances. His 6.9 walk percentage has dropped from 10.3 percent with the A’s this year, his strikeout percentage has also gone up from 12.5 percent to 16.7 percent. His ISO has taken the biggest hit going from .152 (.140 is league-average) with Oakland this year to a dismal .015 with the Dodgers. Of course, this is a small sample size, but that’s not the right field production the Dodgers were looking for when they opted to demote Yasiel Puig and replace him with Reddick.
The reasoning behind Puig’s relegation — and probable end to his Dodger career — is legitimate. The Dodgers had enough of his steady decline in offensive production over the years and his refusal to properly prepare for games in order to prevent reoccurring injuries, but Reddick’s struggles have only exacerbated the thorny situation spurning many fans to call for Puig’s return. It didn’t help that Farhan Zaidi cited one of the reasons, if not the main reason, for Puig to be usurped by Reddick to be the lack of right-field offensive production when he spoke with SportsNet LA after the trade deadline.
Even as one of Puig’s biggest devotees, I certainly don’t want Reddick to fail. Yasiel may be tearing it up in Oklahoma City (.417/.472/.750/1.222 with four home runs, five walks and just four strikeouts in 53 plate appearances), but it’s time to accept the reality of his banishment and likely trade (if anyone wants him). A Dodgers outfield consisting of Puig, Joc Pederson and Reddick would allow Howie Kendrick to move back to his rightful position of second base while adding right-handed power in the lineup, but the Dodgers might not have that plan in mind.
A post-Puig era may not be as dramatic or rousing without his highlight-reel outfield assists and his wild abandon on the base paths, but this Dodgers team is in the midst of a pennant race. October thrills and success are far more important than individual accolades. Reddick may or may not be with the team in 2017, but the Dodgers need him to contribute down the stretch and into the playoffs should they get there.
Dave Roberts finally moved Reddick out of the cleanup spot in Sunday’s lineup, pushing him down to the sixth slot. Frustration was mounting for Reddick who was seen slamming down his batting helmet in the clubhouse tunnel during Friday’s 9-2 loss to the Reds. He did later single in the ninth inning after the outburst. It seemed as though Roberts wasn’t setting up Reddick for success by continuing to bat him cleanup, and his abysmal .077/.182/.077/.259 showing in 39 at-bats out of the fourth spot this season was more than enough to suggest he should be moved down until he can turn things around.
Over his career, Reddick has only 93 at-bats as the cleanup hitter (.161/.240/237/.477), and he has mostly batted third (1,097 at-bats) where he has found much more success (.252/.318/.446/.763). He also has experience batting seventh (433 at-bats) and sixth (335 at-bats). With Justin Turner rightfully entrenched in the third spot, it makes sense to bat Reddick sixth or seventh at least until he becomes more comfortable with his new team and league.
Any one of the Dodgers who were placed lower in the lineup than Reddick, recently including Adrian Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal or Pederson, would be a better option to bat cleanup over Reddick until he at least breaks out of this slump. Even though Gonzalez’s power had seemingly disappeared earlier this season, he’s now hitting .324/.412/.509/.921 with runners in scoring position and still bringing home the butter and eggs as evident from the three home runs he crushed during the series finale and home run derby in Cincinnati on Monday.
The question that remains is what is going on with Reddick and how can he snap out this in order to contribute to the Dodgers down the stretch? It’s a bit unfair to judge him entirely on his first three weeks with a new team. An overall assessment can’t really be made until the conclusion of the season. Yet if he does only pan out to be a rental whom the Dodgers don’t bring back next year, then this shockingly unlucky streak will no doubt be costly in hindsight.
Reddick’s bad luck is getting to be remarkable at this point. Every line drive is snagged, every blooper caught. Although his defense has been admittedly poor at times, especially if you must compare to Puig’s athletic abilities in right field, the offensive problems he’s had have been more about the absurdness of baseball than anything.
Even Eugenio Velez wasn’t as bad as his historic hitless streak suggests. I clearly remember him getting robbed out of a base hit or two with some plays that didn’t go his way. Reddick is not going to hit nearly 100 points below his career average (.253) his entire time with the Dodgers, he’s going to hit a home run eventually (he had 20 homers with the A’s last year), and his low .182 BABIP is going to even out. If healthy, he’s going to be a contributor on this team that is, by the way, in first place.
As if things couldn’t get more comical, Reddick was scratched from the lineup on Monday with a jammed right middle finger which he suffered during a room service debacle at the hotel in Cincinnati.
Josh Reddick hurt his finger when his hand got caught in a door last night while ordering room service. “This is rock bottom,” he cracked.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) August 22, 2016
It’s not his first finger issue, though. He fractured his left thumb in mid-May while stealing second base with Oakland, and he missed over a month but rebounded in July hitting .273 with three home runs, five doubles, a triple and nine walks in 25 games before being traded to L.A. He appeared as a pinch-hitter during the home-run fest at Great American Ballpark and popped out.
Luckily for the Dodgers they’ve had increased offensive production from many of their veteran players, including Turner, Grandal, Gonzalez and Kendrick, plus unexpected positive contributions from guys like Rob Segedin and Andrew Toles in the second half of the season. There’s also this kid named Corey who I hear is pretty good at baseball.
So for now the “Bring Yasiel Puig Back” crowd may continue to ring in Reddick’s ear while he is in the batter’s box, but once the positive results come, because they will if he stays healthy, those sliding catches by Freddy Galvis and the running catches by Obudel Herrera won’t sting as much.