Let's not point out the many things I haven't been right about so far in 2009. Instead, let's focus on my Spring Training prediction that Laynce Nix, if healthy and in the lineup, would hit 25 home runs. It looks pretty feasible. The shot he hit to dead center in Arizona last night was certainly not a cheapie.
I didn't think Paul Janish or Adam Rosales was ready for Major League pitching last year, but what a difference a year makes. How can anyone not really like Rosales's home run sprint around the bases? He looks and acts like the last guy off the bench on a high school team, which motivates him to play hard all the time. His arm is also very, very powerful.
I recall when Wally Backman got hurt in the late 80's and Keith Miller came up and spelled him at second. Miller hit a few home runs and made some nice plays defensively, and the next thing you knew Backman was clamoring to get off the DL and back in the lineup. A similar situation has unfolded for Dusty Baker's Reds this year. Edwin Encarnacion, Alex Gonzalez and Chris Dickerson could not have picked worse times to get banged up.
Rosales, Janish and Nix are going to make it quite difficult to pull their names from the lineup card. I know a lot of managers adhere to the old-school “a starter does not lose his job because of injury — when he is healthy again he starts” philosophy, which is entirely respectable. But it must be really hard to stick to sometimes.
The more I see it, the more believe that hitting Brandon Phillips cleanup is like to trying to change a starting pitcher into a closer, or vice versa. Sometimes it works, but when it doesn't there are many ways to see it. Phillips is a great player, no doubt. I just don't get why Laynce Nix doesn't hit cleanup. Or Jay Bruce. Or Ramon Hernandez. Obviously there is the "we don't want too many lefties or righties in a row in our lineup" response, but there has got to be a better way to organize the talent on Cincinnati's roster.
Willy Taveras is off to a spectacular start, even though I predicted he wouldn't get on base enough. He's on one of those Tony Womack 49-hits-in-99-at-bats type streaks, though. He also distracts the pitcher a lot.
Bronson Arroyo may be one of the most underappreciated starting pitchers in baseball. While he definitely gets bombed sometimes, he is an innings-eater, which is very important to have regardless of how the rest of the rotation pans out.
Micah Owings is a lot of fun to watch. Pitchers blasting pinch-hit home runs in the bottom of the ninth with two out. Good stuff.
Another Red deserving of more credit than I (and probably many others) give him is Jerry Hairston Jr. He plays a utility player's role but doesn't seem like one for some reason. Perhaps it's because he gets in the lineup so often.
I would love for someone to explain his affinity for Jeff Keppinger to me. I think he is a perfectly solid role player. No knock on him at all. When the Reds traded him to Houston you would have thought Skyline Chili was closing all its locations and moving them to Los Angeles. Walking to GABP the other day I noticed a vendor still had a Keppinger jersey for sale. I would love to know why Keppy is so loved by Cincinnatians and if he ever rescued kittens from atop a telephone pole or something.
Lastly, I was recently thinking about Otis Nixon for some unidentifiable reason and realized he was a harder-edged, less-talented, similarly intimidating force on the basepaths as Jose Reyes.
Image: Otis Nixon: the man, the myth, the legend