The Incredible Awfulness that is the Reds pitching staff
122: The number of runs allowed by the 2016 Cubs
137: The number of runs allowed by the 2016 Reds rotation
126: The number of runs allowed by the 2016 Reds bullpen
It was a given going into the year that the Reds would have pitching issues. After starting nothing but rookies with mixed results down the stretch last year, the team opted to stay the course rather than to pay for much in the way of stable veteran presence over the winter. Then there was the inevitable Aroldis Chapman trade. Only with the youngsters already banged up in mid-March did the team sign the unwanted Alfredo Simon for $2.5 million.
Fast forward 44 games into the season. Nominal ace Anthony DeSclafini has still yet to pitch because of an oblique strain, and No. 2 starter Raisel Iglesias is on the shelf with a shoulder problem. Homer Bailey, who was expected to return from Tommy John surgery right around now, has dealt with setbacks. Simon has a remarkable 10.16 ERA in his eight starts and one relief appearance. At least Dan Straily and Tim Adleman have been nice surprises, and Brandon Finnegan has managed to hold his own.
Here’s how the rotation rates alongside the rest of the league:
The ERA ranking considerably overestimates the group, considering that the pitchers are working in front of three potential Gold Glovers up the middle in Billy Hamilton, Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart. Granted, the corner outfielders aren’t much to speak of, but it’s a strong defense overall. The rotation has a 5.38 FIP. The only other rotation over 5.00 is Milwaukee’s at 5.07. Fangraphs has the Reds’ rotation under replacement level at -0.3 WAR. The next worst group is Oakland’s at 0.4 WAR.
The rotation, though, shines compared to the bullpen.
The Reds bullpen has given up 40 more runs than that of any other team. 40 runs in 44 games. Like, almost one run more per game than the 29th worst team in baseball.
The Reds bullpen has surrendered 17 more runs than those of the Mets, Nationals and White Sox combined.
The Reds bullpen has allowed 36 homers, nine more than any other team.
The Reds bullpen has walked 95 batters, which leads the league by 20.
The Reds bullpen has been worth -2.5 WAR, according to Fangraphs.
Let’s look at the culprits here:
Tony Cingrani: 3.48 ERA, 1.40 WHIP in 20 2/3 IP
Blake Wood: 4.43 ERA, 1.66 WHIP in 22 1/3 IP
Jose Ramirez: 4.76 ERA, 1.12 WHIP in 17 IP
Ross Ohlendorf: 4.79 ERA, 1.02 WHIP in 20 2/3 IP
Jumbo Diaz: 6.30 ERA, 1.70 WHIP in 10 IP
Caleb Cotham: 7.36 ERA, 1.82 WHIP in 22 IP
J.J. Hoover: 14.34 ERA, 2.34 WHIP in 10 2/3 IP
Hoover was handed the closing gig by manager Bryan Price over the winter and promptly imploded, less because of the pressure of the ninth (he was all of 1-for-2 saving games) than some mechanical troubles and a decline in velocity. Diaz figured to be the Reds’ most reliable reliever, but he’s been demoted to Triple-A twice. Cingrani is the other mainstay from last year, and he’s been decent despite control issues. Wood, Ramirez and Ohlendorf were all plucked off the scrap heap, and only Ohlendorf seems worth remaining patient with. Cotham was part of the Chapman trade and should be a decent sixth- and seventh-inning guy in time, though clearly not right now.
I don’t want to go without noting that the rotation also deserves blame for the bullpen’s issues for forcing it to throw so many innings. The Reds lead the majors in innings thrown by relievers at 162 2/3. The median bullpen is at 137 1/3 innings.
Obviously, the Reds were OK with being bad this year. They finally realized a little too late they weren’t going head-to-head with the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates and figured it made more sense to bottom out than to tread water. Still, I’m guessing they would have taken more preventative measures had they known it would get this ugly. Taking some pressure of the youngsters would have cost them money now, but it probably would have paid off in the long run.