I'd been considering posting this for a while now, and with Ocab going down and Paul getting the nod as starter, I thought it might be a nice time to clarify things.
I've seen this debated over and over again (most commonly in the game threads) but I've yet to see stats put in front of me that show me why Janish shouldn't be the starter over Cabrera (regardless of the injury). People go back and post his minor league numbers. Or they post his short stints in the bigs when he's getting the occasional spot start. But those stats never seem to take into account that his numbers were lower during those stages because he was rusty due to inactivity. But regardless, last spring training (2009) Dusty suggested to Paul that he work on his upper body strength (most notably his forearms and wrists) as that will help him increase his power at the plate. Not necessarily homeruns (like today...YIPPEE!), but with line drive power. He apparently took that suggestion to heart and Dusty said that he was working on that very thing quite hard last year.
But as we all know, once a player gets a reputation, it tends to stick with them until they destroy that reputation once and for all. Well, Paul's reputation was "all glove, noodle bat". And prior to 2009, that description fit quite well unfortunately. But now let's look at 2009. From the beginning of the season until August 14th he was a bit player. He got the occasional playing time and the occasional spot start as Alex Gonzales was the full time starter until his trade to Boston for Kris Negron and some guy named "Cash". Now while Paul ended up with a paltry stat line of .211/.296/.305/.601, there were signs of improvement. Most notably, his 21 doubles in such limited playing time (256 ab's...168 of those after the Agon deal). I personally attribute a portion of his struggles to him sitting so much during the year. When he did see action, it was defensively and sometimes without a plate appearance at all. But the stats don't lie, he struggled despite the optimistic doubles numbers.
Fast forward to spring training 2010. Paul has spent all off season preparing to be the starter. And in his mind, that means improving his numbers at the plate. More strength training. But then the surprise signing of Orlando Cabrera happens. Paul sees himself blocked by Alex Gonzales version 2.0. Instead of pouting, he works harder. During spring training, Paul got nearly identical opportunities as Cabrera did. In 20 games, he hit .350 with 3 doubles and 2 home runs in 40 at bats. Meanwhile, Cabrera in 20 games, hit .184 with 2 doubles and 0 home runs in 49 at bats. Big advantage to Paul, wouldn't you say? But Cabrera is the starter and Janish is relegated to the bench...again. All of this and we're STILL not even talking about the defensive differences between the two players. Don't worry, we'll get there.
In April 2010, Paul got some limited playing time due to Rolen dealing with the flu and some back problems. The result for the month, .353, 3 doubles and 1 hr in 17 ab's. Most of that coming with him playing at third, not his natural position. But remember, he's not in the lineup because of his BAT. Meanwhile, in April, Orlando gets nearly every start (only 2 games he didn't start) and hits .241 with 3 doubles and 2 homeruns. And lets not forget that he played probably the worst defensive shortstop during that month that the Reds have ever seen. Keppinger & Hairston were GG'ers compared to Cabrera's range early in the season.
In May 2010, Orlando again started every game but 2. Remember, this is a 35 year old shortstop we're talking about here. Rolen, whom everyone wants to get regular rest is...yep, 35. Now that we're starting to warm up a bit temperature-wise, Orlando's starting to get his legs loose and his defense is slowly improving. But just remember who his defensive counterpart is. So in May, Cabrera racks up 114 ab's and hits .289 with 5 doubles and a homerun. Orlando's bat has warmed up along with his legs.
Meanwhile, Paul sits idly on the bench keeping the seat warm. He manages to get 2 starts in the whole month. Two. A whopping 15 at bats. And with that much rust and inactivity...he hits .200. He had a hot bat coming out of ST and in the first few weeks of the season...and he's put to sleep. Oh well. Done is done.
In June, Cabrera doesn't start THREE games. Paul gets 3 starts that month too. Hmmm...I see a pattern.
Janish's stats for the month plummet. His inactivity is making him extremely rusty at the dish. .083 for the month. Cabrera, well he's getting tons of playing time. He's almost NEVER getting days off and he's almost never pulled late in the game for defensive purposes. And the effects are showing. He also plummets back to earth to the tune of .204 for the month in 108 at bats. Only Phillips has more at bats than cabrera by this time.
July gives us the All Star Break and a rejuvenated Cabrera. But it also gives us some nagging team injuries and increased playing time for Janish. He didn't get many more at bats, but he played much more regularly. Only getting 2 or 3 games off between appearances instead of the regular 7-9 days off. But Paul managed to put together a .368 average and Cabrera did well too with a .298 average. This one month seems to showcase what I've been wanting most of the season. More regular playing time for Janish to keep him sharp at the plate, and more regular rest for Cabrera to keep his legs fresh, his mind sharper, and his bat speed higher.
So here we are with Cabrera down with an injury (Would regular rest have avoided this injury...I have no clue, and I don't want to saddle Dusty with that burden) and we stand thusly.
G AB H R 2B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG OPS
Janish 41 70 21 9 3 3 10 11 .300 .395 .471 .866
Cabrera 102 416 108 51 24 3 25 47 .260 .302 .339 .641
The things that jump out at me here are the doubles, homeruns and the bb/k ratio. The bb/k ratio isn't something new for Paul either. He's always had a good eye at the dish. His "pop" seems to have improved and that combined with his already solid discipline makes for solid improvement. But even if it hasn't and it's all just small sample sizes, he still has great plate discipline and makes very consistent contact. He also has some attributes this club is sorely lacking from Cabrera. A player who works the count, who doesn't strike out much, who can draw some walks AND who plays EXTREMELY good defense at such a critical position.
I know some will say that if Janish gets regular playing time his numbers will plummet. Well, I see an opposite outcome. If he sits, his bat slumps. As I'm sure most players' would. But since the spring of 2009, I think we're seeing an improved hitting shortstop in Paul Janish. But the question remains, will the Reds continue to see an "all glove, noodle bat" or give Paul the opportunity he's worked for?
Anyway, I'd love for someone to show me why he's not a good enough hitter for the Reds at a "defense first" position.