Position Review: Starters Struggles

The one position that had unmentionable preseason love from the media was the Cincinnati Reds and its starting position. If we heard heard it once, we heard it a gazillion times. I mean, the starting staff was at least six deep with the likes of Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Travis Wood. The road to a repeat in the NL Central seemed paved.

But in spring training the skid marks on that road were just beginning for the starting staff. Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey were on the disabled list before the regular season even started. Bronson Arroyo contracted some funky virus (Valley Fever or mono or both depending on what was published). At times Arroyo appeared to be no better than a batting practice arm. Volquez rarely made it to the sixth inning due in part to poor first inning performances. Wood struggled in his sophomore season. Maybe the old “sophomore slump” got him. Bailey made a second trip to the DL and struggled to find consistency after his second return.

It might be painful, but you got to look at these numbers…

Name GS W L ERA IP K/9 BB/9 BABIP FIP xFIP WAR
Johnny Cueto 24 9 5 2.31 156 6.00 2.71 .249 3.45 3.90 2.8
Mike Leake 26 12 8 3.86 165.2 6.36 1.96 .267 4.21 3.65 1.5
Homer Bailey 22 9 7 4.43 132 7.23 2.25 .296 4.06 3.77 1.5
Travis Wood 18 5 6 5.08 101 6.15 3.39 .329 4.13 4.64 1.0
Dontrelle Willis 13 1 6 5 75.2 6.78 4.4 .310 4.10 4.08 0.8
Sam LeCure 4 0 1 4.79 20.2 8.27 2.18 .268 4.57 3.39 0.1
Matt Maloney 2 0 2 22.09 3.2 2.45 2.45 .600 10.39 6.72 -0.2
Chad Reineke 1 0 1 7.11 6.1 2.84 7.11 .167 9.34 7.22 -0.2
Edinson Volquez 20 5 7 5.71 108.2 8.61 5.38 .293 5.29 4.08 -0.3
Bronson Arroyo 32 9 12 5.07 199 4.88 2.04 .278 5.71 4.54 -1.3

The two bright spots: Cueto and Leake.

Even though Cueto would miss the last couple of weeks of the season, he showed extreme promise and had many associating the word “ace” with him. Yes, I bought into it as well. He did contend for the ERA title until the late season injury. He exhibited a maturity to the extent that I didn’t think we’d witness this season. I did expect some improvement from Cueto in 2011, but not as much as he did.

Image: dbking/Flickr

And then to Leake. He’s really the only other positive you can take away from the starters 2011 performance. It didn’t start out that way either. Struggles, demotion to the bullpen, an issue at Macy’s, and then, demotion to Louisville. Once Leake returned, he was a changed man, so to speak.

Truth be told, I don’t think there’s a whole lot that needs to be said about the starting staff. Honestly, I don’t think I need to use many words. The above table explains almost everything you need to know.

Except for 2012, that is. We all know these guys must perform at a level even above their 2010 seasons in order for the Reds to seriously contend. It’s been suggested that GM Walt Jocketty go out shopping for another top of the rotation starter to compliment Cueto. My fear is that one may not be enough, but I also realize that may be all the Reds will be able to pursue.

You have the 2011 improvement with Leake and Cueto. You hope that Arroyo can recover from his giving ways. Maybe Bailey does find his consistency that Reds fans have longed to see. Maybe Volquez can regain his 2008 form. Maybe Aroldis Chapman emerges as the top arm.

Too many “maybes”, I know.

Grade: C-. Do I really need to explain it? Leake led that staff in almost every pertinent category. While it’s nice he improved as much as he did, did you honestly think that would be the case for 2011? Didn’t think so.

Position Grade
First Base A-
Second Base A-
Third Base C+
Shortstop D
Left Field D+
Center Field C-
Right Field C
Catcher B
Starters C-

To read any of the prior reviews, click on the position within the grade card.

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Tags: Aroldis Chapman Baseball Bronson Arroyo Cincinnati Reds Edinson Volquez Homer Bailey Johnny Cueto Mike Leake MLB Pitching Travis Wood

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