Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ludwick Acquisition Needs To Happen

Many Reds' fans may think our offense is fine because of the 378 runs scored, which is third in all of MLB, but this offense could be improved without using critical trade pieces in the minors. My target has been Ryan Ludwick, and has been for a while - I've been tweeting about him for at least a month saying he would fill the inconsistent gap in LF and be an imposing hitter in the 2 hole/4hole in front of or behind Votto.

One rip on Ludwick is that he is doing awful this year with his .254 AVG and his lowest SLG since '04, but I can almost guarantee this decline is due to Petco Park and the Padres weak lineup. Just take a look at his 2011 splits where Ludwick bats .231 with only a .367 SLG% at Petco Park, but away from Petco his average is all the way up to .280 and a .050 point increase in his SLG to .417.

Ludwick has spent much of his career at SD being sandwiched in between guys like Cameron Maybin and Chase Headley, and as a result of that he's only seen 45% of pitches thrown to him in the strike zone. When Ludwick was in STL sandwiched in-between star hitters like Pujols, Holliday and co. he saw over 50% strikes over the 3.5 yrs he was there. In '08, his best year, he saw over 52% of pitches in the strike zone, which can be attributed to the strengths around him - and Ludwick capitalized on those pitches. Check out Ludwick's stats in the 2 hole and the 4 hole which is where he alternated in the lineup with the Cardinals:
  • 2 hole: 421 Plate Appearances w/ .314 AVG, .390 OBP, .564 SLG, 17hr
  • 4 hole: 970 Plate Appearances w/ .260 AVG, .330 OBP, .466 SLG, 44hr
I think he'd be a great addition to the Reds' lineup in the 2 hole, or anywhere else really - just have to make sure he's in the top 5 of the lineup in between bruce/votto/rolen/phillips/stubbs and not down with catchers/shortstops.

Pitchers are no longer forced to pitch to Ludwick because there aren't any threats around him in the lineup, which can be shown through some stats that I've been looking at from FanGraphs. Ludwick's O- Contact % (Contact made with pitches outside of the zone) is at a career high of 66%, which is great (great, but also shows he is reaching for too many pitches - O-zone % being high also leads to a lot of outs because of bad contact w/ ball), but his Z-Contact % (Contact made with pitches inside the zone) is at 80.3%, which is the same % he had in his rookie year with the Rangers and his lowest since '05. His O-Swing % (Swinging % of pitches that are outside of the zone) is at a career high of 30.8 %, which really shows he isn't getting the pitches inside the zone that he is used to seeing and is being forced to chase bad pitches.

A change of scenery would be huge for Ludwick, and any competing team with a decently sized ballpark will get a steal if they can acquire him from the Padres where his team and ballpark are both detriments to the type of player he is. He could be a huge guy to add to the middle of a lineup and because of his current production he could be acquired cheaply. I have no idea what it'd take to get Ludwick and his 6.7m contract (FA after year), but I'd imagine it wouldn't take as much as a SS that would make a similar impact.

I'm starting to get a little redundant now, so I want to hear what you guys think about a move like this! IMO it's a big enough upgrade to make the move to have a day in and day out starter in LF and a solid addition to the middle of the lineup who will improve with small ballpark, chance to win, and better players around him. Let me know what you think in the comments section or @EricLilly7