With word on Tuesday that Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton may be headed to the DL with two sprained knuckles, the Reds' outfield may have reached a tipping point that leads to the team's season capsizing before it truly has a chance to begin.
The injury occurred on a diving catch against the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers and is just the latest in a long line of injuries that have totally decimated what was already a struggling unit.. Even before losing its best hitter -- slugger Jay Bruce -- for four-to-six weeks and now its most gifted athlete in the speed demon Hamilton, the team ranked near the bottom of the league in OPS and at the bottom of the league in slugging percentage from their outfield as of Monday night's games.
However, even with almost no production from their outfield, the Reds have managed to keep the Brewers -- presuming they eventually stop being a world-beating juggernaut sometime soon -- within striking distance, just six games behind with 130 games to go.
So it's not outside the realm of possibility that they would be able to withstand these injuries. But considering the other options are Roger Bernadina -- a player they just outrighted to Triple-A for hitting .143 -- and Skip Schumaker with his -1.4 Wins Above Replacement last season, the Reds may soon learn that there is actually something worse than nothing when it comes to outfield play.
Even if Ryan Ludwick bounces back from his disastrous 2013 season and Chris Heisey turns into something above replacement level, it's hard to see them being able to compensate for the drag that Bernadina and Schumaker will put in the sails of their seriously struggling offense. The team is 24th in runs scored so far this season, nestled right alongside teams like the Cubs, Astros and Phillies, all of whom occupy the basement in their respective divisions.
All this is even more remarkable when you consider that they play in the Great American Band Box, with a ridiculous park factor of +121 making it an "extreme hitters park". The only thing keeping the Reds afloat at this point has been their dominant pitching, ranked in the top ten in ERA and WHIP and in the top five for opponents' batting average and quality starts.
Which might mean if they can just figure out a way to sequester the staff so they can avoid whatever curse the outfield has on them, they may have a chance after all.