Fay: Jesse Winker needs to be a regular for the Reds in 2018

CINCINNATI -- I think you have to find a spot for Jesse Winker in the Reds outfield for 2018.

All the attention, as it should be, has been on improving pitching. But it’s been apparent over the last few weeks that the offense isn’t exactly clicking.

Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton and Scott Schebler finished the year with .300, .300 and .307 on-base percentages, respectively. Winker finished with a .375 on-base.

That’s not surprising. He’s always been an on-base guy. He ranks second in my mind in giving the club good at-bats -- albeit several miles behind Joey Votto in that regard.

The question on Winker has been power.

Small sample size warning here, but he hit a home run every 19.4 at-bats with the Reds this year. That’s after hitting a home run every 173.5 at-bats this year at Louisville and hitting one every 143.3 at-bats at Louisville last year.

Which numbers are real? I’m not sure.

But I know from watching the numbers over the years that it is easier to hit home runs at Great American Ball Park than it is at Fifth Third in Louisville.

Winker slugged at .529 with the Reds -- and the stat people will tell you is that on-base is 1.8 times more important that slugging.

So who do you move to make room for Winker? I’d say Schebler. Nice player, but he’s the only one other than Hamilton who can play center. Hamilton is superior defensively.

THE BIG 162

Joey Votto played in all 162 games. As one who lived on Twitter in another life, there were huge questions about Votto’s durability a few years ago. First, after emotional problems sidelined him in 2009, then after a knee injury sidelined him in 2014.

The guy seems to have answered all the questions about himself.

“I don’t think anybody thinks about it anymore, which is important,” Votto said. “I think people expect me to perform well. I think that’s what every athlete wants to do. Every athlete wants to come out here and perform well, and if your fans don’t feel like you’ve done a good job, the fans will let you know -- and rightfully so.”

I don’t have an MVP vote -- I’m voting Rookie of the Year in the NL, that’s an easy vote -- but I’d vote for Votto no worse than third.

BURN THE NFL PACKAGE

Saw some bar in Northern Kentucky had a “burn an NFL jersey day” over the national anthem controversy.

I’d be more impressed with the stand if they refused to show NFL games on Sunday.

THE BROWNS SOLUTION

The Bengals crushed the Browns 31-7 on Sunday. Which is really good, if you’re a Bengals fan.

But honestly, do you have any more confidence in the local 11 than you did before they beat up on the hapless team up north?

The Browns are beyond pitiful, so for Sunday’s win to mean anything, the Bengals have to follow it up.

Beat Buffalo at Paul Brown Stadium this Sunday and the season seems salvageable. The Buffalo game is followed by a bye. The bye is followed by a game at Pittsburgh.

New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will get extra time to work with his guys in the bye week. There’s no arguing that Lazor has had a major effect on the offense.

To wit: Lazor figured out that your tight end does not have to be named Tyler Eifert to be effective.

Tyler Kroft caught six passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns. The catch on third-and-16 seemed to turn the game around.

BEARCATTY in CINCINNATI?

The UC loss to Marshall was beyond ugly.

I wondered if the Bearcats were headed for a really long year after they struggled with Austin Peay in the opener. The showing at Michigan and the win over Miami probably gave a lot of fans false hope.

Luke Fickell says all the right things.

He’s never said that there was a huge void of talent when he arrived, but that seems to be the case.

TIPPING THE SCALES

I spent some time watching Indiana’s loss to Penn State. It got ugly. But man is Tegray Scales from Colerain a good football player. The 6-foot, 230-pound Indiana senior has 37 tackles, 5.5 of which for loss, and 3.5 sacks.

He was an All-American last year.

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at johnfayman@aol.com.

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