It might be premature to bring this up, but what do you all think would be the positive and negative ramifications of making one simple switch in the batting order to redefine the offense. The switch: Batting Stubbs clean-up and moving Phillips to lead-off?
The redefined order:
Looks about right to me, except Phillips/Cabrera don't boast the high OBP of traditional 1-2 batters. But they both have chops -- speed, power and veteran presence so you can hope they don't get rattled to the point where they can't deliver in the clutch.
At 3-4, we have our most patient, studied hitters, working the count, able to demonstrate power and clutch performance, as well as plus speed, particularly for Stubbs.
5 is Rolen, another patient, studied, clutch hitter -- slower than Votto or Stubbs, but he's been around the game a long time so we can depend on him to deliver offense when it counts to the best of his abilities.
6-7 Here's where Gomes/Bruce come into play. You can switch them up or down depending on who's hot and in a groove, or whether we're facing a LH or RH ace. Should Stubbs stumble handling clean-up, then Gomes/Bruce can usurp him as the Kingpin if they're swinging the lumber and he's as cold as cod. Would set up a dynamic, hopefully productive competition among the outfielders -- something they could understand and intuitively grasp, and probably would raise the bar for how well each of them performs.
8 The catching tandem of Hernandez/Hanigan. Hernandez has SLG going for him, Hanigan OBP. Either way, we're either clearing the decks or setting the table, and both are preferable to the 8th spot being a sinkhole.
I'm not one who believes in miracle cures and I'm also not by any means ready to throw up my hands in despair over this season, but I already have a sense that while we have improved our defense and pitching, the offense remains spotty and problematic, and probably will relegate us to just missing the Playoff hunt. At the same time, I'd like to see us in the hunt, and I am convinced we won't get there if we don't think outside the box. We have to stretch the envelope, but we don't want to bend, fold, spindle or mutilate it beyond recognition.
What are the risks in making this simple batting order switch? Here's the ones that come to mind:
* Phillips won't be an ideal lead-off man.
* Stubbs won't be an ideal cleanup man.
* We could damage Phillips' trade value.
* We could heap too many expectations on Stubbs too soon.
* We could be introducing chaos into a formula that is flawed, but might be the best temporary fix we have.
Here's the rejoinder.
* Phillips isn't an ideal lead-off man, but he isn't an ideal cleanup batter either, and his skillset suggests he could be as successful in either post, and probably happier in either post than hitting 6th or 7th.
* Stubbs isn't a proven cleanup batter, but he's hot, he's skilled, he's young and fungible, so if he fails at one assignment, he should be able to adjust to another role.
* If Phillips succeeds at lead-off, then his trade value is enhanced. He already is widely known as a plus-defender and an acceptable cleanup batter. If he's also adept leading off, then that should widen the pool of teams who perceive a genuine value in acquiring him.
* Finally, I'm not so worried about introducing chaos. With chaos comes opportunity. We need both Bruce and Gomes to step up to the plate, and so if Stubbs stumbles, then you have to hope one of them realizes they have the chance of a lifetime to step forward. If Stubbs, Gomes and Bruce all choke, then we're back to square one in the outfield -- but better to know that this season than next. With our pitching going from being a question mark to a strength, it's time to really see what other assets we have and what we lack or need to acquire.
Is Gomes a platoon player or everyday guy? Is Bruce on the verge of phenom status or the unluckiest spray hitter on the planet? Can Stubbs parlay his hot streak for another month, a full season or for a long career? We don't know any of the answers to these riddles, but better to sort them out this year, and put us that much closer to re-establishing a winning tradition in Cincinnati. I am actually hopeful we can restore a dynasty. We just might or we might not. My hunch: If we get too crazy or play it too safe, we won't.