I Told You So: Reds Ludwick a Stud

UntitledLast January pro football fans were enjoying the NFL playoffs and gearing up for the Super Bowl. NCAA college hoop junkies in the Tri-state were well into following so many good area teams from Cincinnati, to Ohio State to Xavier to Kentucky to Purdue and more as that season was in full swing.

Despite how much Ohioans love their football and the Buckeye State, the Hoosier State and the Bluegrass State are bonkers about college basketball, there was in my eyes a big sports happening that came and went in January that would prove to be far bigger than anyone could have expected.

Well almost everyone.

Baseball fans may like other sports but long for their true love during the off-season and their only entertainment as they are forced into the long wait for “Play Ball” in the spring  is any off-season activity. And this past off-season had its fair share of big names changing uniforms. But Cincinnati was not among those who hooked big fish, or so it seemed.

I trust I was not alone when on January 17 I brimmed with excitement when I learned the Cincinnati Reds signed free agent Ryan Ludwick. For me it was like a belated Christmas gift and certainly warmed a cold winter day and could not wait to get to the park to see this guy.

The Reds did not ink a super star but how could you not be excited about a nine-year veteran with power, a former All-Star with a long powerful swing heading to Great American Ball Park? In short a tailor-made suit could not have fit any better.

But it seemed to draw little fanfare at the time. Maybe it was timing. Maybe it didn’t seem like a great cause for celebration, a 33-year-old outfielder that had suddenly started taking on the look of a journeyman having been traded to from St. Louis to San Diego and then on to Pittsburgh, the latter, two places that needed help and didn’t stick..

If you were a numbers cruncher you had a hard time getting past the combo stats he came with the year before (.237-13-75) from the aforementioned outposts in SD and Pittsburgh.

This is a case one simply had to look past the numbers when the 6-3, 215-pound outfielder signed a one-year deal. For starters he played hurt and secondly finally went on the DL, not to mention it is hard to put up real big numbers in the Grand Canyon in SD they call Petco Park.

Many felt he would split time in the outfield here, but it seemed a long shot I’m sure to some he would bear any resemblance to the 2008 outfielder that was an NL All-Star and winner of the Silver Slugger as a right fielder with eye-popping numbers.

However, one does not hit .299 with 37 homers and drive in 113 runs by accident. The following season, 2009, he followed it up while still a Cardinal, hitting 22 homers and driving in 97 while hitting .265 despite being slowed by injuries that finally again landed him on the DL and cost him the century mark in RBIs for a second starlight season before his path took him through San Diego, Pittsburgh and eventually on to the Queen City.

So in January of last year the Reds signed a guy who two successive seasons was traded exactly one year to the day apart on July 31, trade deadline day and appeared unwanted in places that seemed to need help in the worst way at the plate.

Big deal right? They got themselves a spot starter and a guy with a little pop off the bench.

Actually they got a whole lot more and considering how he has picked up the slack in the continued absence of super star Joey Votto, they not only proved they knew what they were doing, but even they have to feel they got a lot more than they bargained for.

Maybe.

To students of the game, Ludwick’s success, a bounce back season that may earn him Most Improved Player in the NL at season’s end and into the postseason with his new team, this cannot be a huge surprise. He came to town, not so much touting some nice credentials from a couple of seasons ago, but more so with a fast bat and the bat speed, after a slow start showed once he was given the right opportunity.

It was one of those things that a slow April saw him sharing time, but the brass soon figured out … at least I think they did … that a guy with a long swing and great power who can launch shots to all fields, cannot find his groove playing every third or fourth day.

The results of this observation and his subsequent name in the everyday lineup are clear. This is a case now of letting the numbers do the talking for a guy who moved to left by the way and is a more than adequate outfielder as well and from all reports, a great teammate and clubhouse influence.

But the numbers.

Ludwick, at last look has hit 25 homers, driven in 70 runs and is hitting .270. However one number stands out. That is in 333 at bats when most regular have far more now.

One has to do only a little comparison shopping to see what this guy has done. Ryan Braun of Milwaukee is leading the NL in homers with 34 but has 112 more at bats. Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals has hit 28 homers but has 102 more at bats and Reds teammate Jay Bruce has hit 26 homers and has 97 more at bats.

Why these three? Because these are three guys who have hit more and rank among the leaders in homers.  Give Ludwick 100 more at bats and he would seriously challenge the 100 RBI mark and the home run leaders as well. Braun and Beltran have only 15 more RBI each than Ludwick despite the decided advantage in at bats.

The game is a numbers game and Ludwick’s are there. But it is about winning and the Reds made a winning move way back in January and a few of us were very confident they rolled the dice right and as it turned out, well, they did.

This is not an “I told you so” but more just simple logic based on watching more baseball than any five men should. Ludwick and GABP and in a lineup with Bruce, Votto and company was a match that just couldn’t seem to miss even in frigid January.