Despite not doing much this offseason to improve, in the aggregate, a flawed roster, the Reds are poised to head once more into the breach, dear friends, in 2015. If they are going to succeed in spite of their flaws, then they'll need to maximize the production they receive from each roster spot.
Most sabermetric studies find that the optimal batting order is between 5 and 15 runs better than the average lineup. Given that the Reds will likely have little margin for error, improving their win total by 0.5 to 1.5 wins is not insignificant.
In that spirit, it seems clear that the Reds should fill the top two spots in their batting order with Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto. It's not a stretch to say that Billy and Joey are pivotal players for 2015, with their success ultimately driving the offense. That said, slotting these two together may be a key to maximizing the production of each, as Billy's extreme speed and Joey's extreme plate discipline actually compliment each other extremely well.
The Reds flirted with this idea in 2014, but here's a quick list of reasons why this would be the best alignment going forward:
- With the imposing Votto hitting behind him, Hamilton might arguably see better pitches, including more fastballs, though most pitchers already have plenty of reasons to not walk him.
- With Hamilton on base, Votto might see more fastballs, as pitchers don't want Billy running wild on them, which might help boost Joey's extra base hit total.
- Votto sees a lot of pitches, which will allow Billy ample opportunities to steal bases.
- Votto hits from the left side, which arguably allows him to take advantage of the 3.5 hole created when the first baseman is forced to hold Billy on.
- On average, each higher spot in the batting order will collect 15-20 more plate appearances than the spot that follows it, so hitting Votto in the second spot will get more opportunities to impact the game than if he was hitting one slot lower.
- Votto seems to have resigned himself to the "fact" that he's no longer a power hitter, so batting him 2nd would not only get him more PAs but also pair his new view of himself with a lineup spot that traditionally de-emphasizes the importance of power. Maybe such a move reduces either fan expectations or Joey's own cognitive dissonance.
- The emerging power production from Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco, along with the addition of Marlon Byrd's power, means that the Reds have better depth in the middle of the order and no longer quite need Joey to be that type of hitter.
On a number of levels, it seems like the best alignment for the two, so I'm throwing my support by a Billy and Joey ticket in 2015!