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OnBaseMachine
04-04-2008, 08:53 PM
Keppinger continues to turn heads
Reserve shortstop making his case for more playing time
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- Like a greyhound seeking the rabbit or a robin after a worm, Reds infielder and No. 2 hitter Jeff Keppinger has one singular focus every plate appearance.

Just get on base.

Last season, Keppinger safely reached base in 55 of the 67 games in which he appeared. In eight plate appearances over the previous two games, he has reached seven times. Entering Friday, he was batting .500 (5-for-10) in three games, with a .583 on-base percentage.

"He's the guy that's kind of a perfect second hitter," manager Dusty Baker said. "He's not afraid to hit with two strikes, and he has an idea of what he's doing."

Keppinger, who is listed at 6-foot-0 and 180 pounds, has two other key ingredients to being a good No. 2 hitter -- he's unselfish and knows his limitations.

"I'm a contact hitter," Keppinger said. "I don't necessarily try to drive the ball every at-bat. Sometimes I look for the holes in the infield and try to punch the ball through the hole to get on base. Look behind me. You have a lot of boppers. The more times I can get on base, the more RBIs they'll get when they leave the yard with the ball."

In Thursday's 3-2 win, it was Keppinger who provided the power. With two outs in the second inning, he jumped on a 2-0 pitch for a solo home run to left field.

In the two at-bats that followed, Keppinger worked a walk and hit a double down the line in short left field.

"A lot of young hitters, when they hit a home run, they want to hit No. 2," Baker said. "But he hit a home run and went back to using the whole field again.

"He's the guy on the team practicing hitting during batting practice. On any given batting practice, he's 8-for-10. The other guys are hitting the ball up in the air a lot and seeing how far they hit it and stuff. When that happens, you can practice making outs like you can practice making hits. He practices getting hits."

Going for contact was embedded in Keppinger's DNA early on. As a youth player, he played on the same teams as his older brother, Billy, which was always one level higher than his ability.

"The fences are always farther when you're a level above where you should be," Keppinger said. "I could never reach the fence, so I never tried. I just let my brother be that guy. I tried to get on base, steal bags and get around until he got to bat."

Keppinger got a taste of the life of a power hitter at the University of Georgia, where he hit 18 homers in his final collegiate season in 2001. Drafted in the fourth round by the Pirates organization, he hit 10 in his first pro season before settling into a different routine.

Last season, Keppinger hit five in 241 at-bats, his highest professional season total since 2001. Over the course of his professional career, he's also drawn more walks than he's struck out.

Keppinger batted .332 for the Reds in 2007, and earned regular playing time when shortstop Alex Gonzalez missed extended time with injuries. Gonzalez started the 2008 season on the disabled list with a knee fracture, which makes Keppinger the Reds' de factor regular shortstop.

It will be an interesting problem when Gonzalez returns. What will Baker do with Keppinger?

"I'll figure that out when that happens," Baker said. "In the meantime, we have to get what we can. Kepp is seizing the opportunity."

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20080404&content_id=2491601&vkey=news_cin&fext=.jsp&c_id=cin

HumnHilghtFreel
04-04-2008, 09:00 PM
Hopefully he stays in the lineup. He seems like the prototype 2 hitter to me. Not quite the speedy guy traditionally in the leadoff role, but chances are good he's going to be on base for the heart of the order.

Who would assume that role if Gonzo takes his AB's away? Dunn back to the 2 hole?

GAC
04-04-2008, 09:21 PM
He needs to stay in the lineup. The question is where? Gonzo is due back in a week or so (15 day DL since 3/30), and when he does he's going to start at SS.

There's really no openings right now for Kepp. It's going to be interesting to see how Dusty handles this situation.

edabbs44
04-04-2008, 09:38 PM
He needs to stay in the lineup. The question is where? Gonzo is due back in a week or so (15 day DL since 3/30), and when he does he's going to start at SS.

There's really no openings right now for Kepp. It's going to be interesting to see how Dusty handles this situation.

I think Keppinger will be filling the super sub role, where he plays for EdE once per week, Gonzo 1-2 times per week and Phillips once every 2 weeks.

Then dependent upon what happens with the 1b role, he could fill in the platoon role vs LHPs that they sorely need.

mbgrayson
04-04-2008, 11:18 PM
I'd keep Kepp at short, AGon notwithstanding. The guy is going to have close to a .400 OBP, and he has a very low strike out rate. According to last year's stats, he is 'average' at short defensively....

Ravenlord
04-04-2008, 11:54 PM
400-500 PAs for Kepp...at possibly 7 different postitions under my watch. best overall bat in our lineup.

Sea Ray
04-05-2008, 02:34 AM
I'd keep Kepp at short, AGon notwithstanding. The guy is going to have close to a .400 OBP, and he has a very low strike out rate. According to last year's stats, he is 'average' at short defensively....

I agree. I don't even see why this is open to debate. Kepp has proven what kind of hitter he is. His OPS last year was .877. That's higher than AGon has ever put up in his entire career and I have to think his career has peaked.

Defensively Agon has slipped even further. Kepp's defense is underrated. His range is not that bad and he is very steady. Remember Cal Ripken won a Gold Glove at SS by playing a "steady" SS.

On this team Kepp is by far the best bet at SS. If we had the AGon of 5 yrs ago, it's debatable, but as of right now he's the best bet we have. He'll play at least avg defense and his offensive numbers will rank among the best in the league among SS as well as supplying offensive skills this lineup sorely needs.

During the rain delay a caller asked Marty about this and he said if AGon came back tomorrow he'd be sitting the bench. I agree.

StillFunkyB
04-05-2008, 04:59 PM
Why does AG have to start when he comes back?

I say you keep Kepp where he is at.

savafan
04-05-2008, 05:06 PM
Alex Gonzalez meet Wally Pipp

pedro
04-05-2008, 05:09 PM
Alex Gonzalez meet Wally Pipp

Ironically, Cincinnati was the next destination for Mr. Pipp after losing his job to one Mr. Gehrig.

He hit .291 w/ 99 RBI's as a Red in 1926

savafan
04-05-2008, 05:12 PM
Ironically, Cincinnati was the next destination for Mr. Pipp after losing his job to one Mr. Gehrig.

He hit .291 w/ 99 RBI's as a Red in 1926

Then I'd like to wish Mr. Gonzalez good luck on his next stop.

WebScorpion
04-05-2008, 11:49 PM
It all depends on how well Gonzalez has healed. I believe it was a stress fracture in his knee...you've gotta think that's going to require some pampering to get back into game shape. Not to mention, he never really had a Spring Training yet. I'd guess he'll spend the maximum amount of time in the minors on a rehab assignment, then require quite a few days off IF he goes back to starting. Say waht you will about the effects of age, etc., but a healthy Alex Gonzalez this year is worlds better defensively than Keppinger. Keppinger is adequate, but he is below average defensively at SS, and that is something you cannot afford on a championship team. With our young pitching staff, it's even more important to have a top shelf defense backing them up. Phillips, Patterson, and Ross are fine...add Gonzalez and you have one of the best up-the-middle defenses in the league...add Kepp and you've got a league average up-the-middle defense. Like I said, I don't think Gonzalez is going to be full strength for a long time, so Kepp will find plenty of playing time by spelling him and the other infielders. Having too many good players is a nice problem to have. ;)

GAC
04-06-2008, 05:44 AM
It all depends on how well Gonzalez has healed. I believe it was a stress fracture in his knee...you've gotta think that's going to require some pampering to get back into game shape. Not to mention, he never really had a Spring Training yet. I'd guess he'll spend the maximum amount of time in the minors on a rehab assignment, then require quite a few days off IF he goes back to starting.

I agree. With the way Kepp is playing, I think this FO is in no hurry to rush AG. He'll go to Louisville on a rehab assignment for who knows how long; but I bet the earliest he is back with this team is the beginning of May. There is no reason to rush this guy. And once he is back, then until he shows he's OK, Kepp will get playing time.


Say what you will about the effects of age, etc., but a healthy Alex Gonzalez this year is worlds better defensively than Keppinger. Keppinger is adequate, but he is below average defensively at SS, and that is something you cannot afford on a championship team.

Again I agree. Prior to last year, Kepp has never played SS. He has spent a vast majority of his time as a 2nd/3rd baseman.

WMR
04-06-2008, 08:59 AM
Keppinger sure turns my head whenever I see him, that sexy beast!!

KronoRed
04-06-2008, 12:33 PM
Keppinger sure turns my head whenever I see him, that sexy beast!!

Why WMR I think you have a crush on him :D

Highlifeman21
04-06-2008, 02:23 PM
Why WMR I think you have a crush on him :D

Whenever WMR is wanking stats, he's always thinking of Jeff Keppinger.

Strikes Out Looking
04-06-2008, 03:41 PM
When (and if) Gonzo returns, Kepp will play 1b against righties and SS when lefties are in there until (or if) he returns to earth.

membengal
04-06-2008, 04:29 PM
Jeff Keppinger is an everyday player. However they work that out, they certainly must know that. I love watching him hit.

Will M
04-06-2008, 04:34 PM
When (and if) Gonzo returns, Kepp will play 1b against righties and SS when lefties are in there until (or if) he returns to earth.

He will also play 2B when Phillips needs a day off and 3B when EE needs a day off. If he continues to play the way he has since he joined the Reds he will get playing time.

Once thing I thought of today is that EE looks uncomfortable at the plate ( I know he hit the big homer wednesday ). If Gonzo was here Kep could play 3B and give EE a 'mental' day off. But with Castro as the backup that isn't going to happen.

P.S. - for all you Wayne haters out there - add Kep to the list of absolute steals Wayne has picked up for the Reds.

Steve4192
04-06-2008, 06:04 PM
P.S. - for all you Wayne haters out there - add Kep to the list of absolute steals Wayne has picked up for the Reds.

Yep.

Wayne built the current Reds middle infield by trading away Russ Haltiwanger & Jeff Stevens. IMO, that more than makes up for his boneheaded Kearns/Lopez for Majewski/Bray/Clayton/Harris/Thompson deal. The Arroyo for Pena deal is just icing on the cake.

dfs
04-06-2008, 07:25 PM
Why WMR I think you have a crush on him :D
I don't know about WMR, but I sure do. He's fun to watch. He does everything well. He plays aggressive and smart. .....Fun player.

I liked the pickup when they got him, I like it even more now.

By the way, I agree with Will M. Edwin looked...almost clueless at bat today, and he's never looked like that before. Something to watch for.

Sea Ray
04-06-2008, 08:06 PM
Say what you will about the effects of age, etc., but a healthy Alex Gonzalez this year is worlds better defensively than Keppinger. Keppinger is adequate, but he is below average defensively at SS, and that is something you cannot afford on a championship team. With our young pitching staff, it's even more important to have a top shelf defense backing them up. Phillips, Patterson, and Ross are fine...add Gonzalez and you have one of the best up-the-middle defenses in the league...add Kepp and you've got a league average up-the-middle defense.

I disagree on your defensive analysis. I think you have underestimated Kepp's defense and over estimated AGon's. I think Kepp is an average SS defensively and AGon is also average at this point in his career. You can't expect AGon to regain his defensive skills of yesteryear considering his knee issues and his birth certificate. We saw it last--he was at best average defensively and this year he's a year older and is rehabbing a bum knee.

RedsManRick
04-06-2008, 08:07 PM
I wonder what instruction EE is getting? He's had his most success when he's been patient, but punishes the first good pitch he sees. When he gets off that, he starts chasing that soft stuff outside. He seems alternately scared and anxious right now, some at bats watching everything, others jumping out of his shoes for crap off the plate. I almost wonder if he's seeing the ball alright...

fearofpopvol1
04-06-2008, 08:38 PM
At the rate Kepp is going, he's got a shot at the triple crown if Dusty moves him down in the order! ;)

HumnHilghtFreel
04-06-2008, 09:05 PM
I wonder what instruction EE is getting? He's had his most success when he's been patient, but punishes the first good pitch he sees. When he gets off that, he starts chasing that soft stuff outside. He seems alternately scared and anxious right now, some at bats watching everything, others jumping out of his shoes for crap off the plate. I almost wonder if he's seeing the ball alright...

He was definitely chasing some bad balls today. I think he's probably pressing and trying to do way too much to make up for his bad start and as a result just doing even worse. A day off might do him some good.

savafan
04-06-2008, 10:10 PM
EE was moving out of the way of every pitch thrown his way...even the ones that were in the strike zone.

I'm pretty sure I saw Austin Kearns selling cotton candy in section 135 today.

Caveat Emperor
04-06-2008, 11:36 PM
EE was moving out of the way of every pitch thrown his way...even the ones that were in the strike zone.

My friends and I still refer to this move (jumping out of the way of a called strike) as "Pulling a Kearns."

WVPacman
04-07-2008, 01:27 AM
Jeff Keppinger is an everyday player. However they work that out, they certainly must know that. I love watching him hit.


Yes I agree with you he is a everyday player.The guy played great all last season and now is on fire again at the start of this season.I don't know what else the man has to prove to Baker that he should be playing everyday.When Gonzo comes back Kepp should still be in the lineup everyday and playing at shortstop.