Jun 2, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher J.J. Hoover (60) pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the seventh inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-4 in eleven innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Wk 10 Trends: Bullpen Approaching Most L’s in MLB


Judging the Reds without Cueto would be liking assesing the Super Friends without Superman. There’s a pretty impressive cast of characters surrounding the Man of Steel, but when you strip Superman from the equation, you’re really only left with two guys who live by what’s attached to their belts and another who’s useless outside of water. Wonder Woman can only do so much. So the Reds lose their Superman in the middle of one of the season’s more daunting stretch of games and the results so far are pretty unsurprising – they’ve lost their last two series against the National League’s two best offenses en route to losing six of their last ten.

Keeping things in perspective – on May 27, the Reds began a stretch of  13 consecutive games against winning teams. Because of a poor record against teams over .500, a huge portion of the Reds community seemed significantly invested in the outcome of this Draconian stretch – and rightfully so. After losing their ace and another clean-up hitter for the entire Rockies series, the Reds ultimately managed a disappointing 6-7 record.

A common theme woven throughout the mini-gauntlet is the fact that the Reds once exceptional and trusted bullpen blew three saves in that span. The one in Pittsburgh would have meant a sweep. The others would have given the Reds series victories over the Rockies and the Cardinals. Sam LeCure uncharacteristically surrendered the leads against the NL’s two best offenses while Broxton did it again in Pittsburgh.

Those numbers move the Reds into a woeful echelon – the 13 losses by the bullpen is just two shy of the MLB-worst Houston Astros. Just ahead are the last place Dodgers and the last place Marlins. Immediately beneath the Reds are the Mets. But do those teams surrounding the Reds surprise you? Impossible. You’ve witnessed this bullpen surrender more leads than an FBI informant. And eventually, the numbers paint a picture you can’t refute.

One things has become painstakingly clear: the Reds will need to improve its bullpen by the trade deadline. 

We can talk about Cueto and Ludwick being out until we’ve run out of adjectives, but the fact of the matter remains, the bullpen has surrendered a lot of wins the Reds could have amassed without two of its most important players.  Just be honest – who behind the gate, other than Aroldis Chapman, do you trust? I submit to you the numbers for your Cincinnati Reds bullpen in just the last 30 days:

Manny Parra: 9.00

J.J. Hoover: 8.10, 0-2

Logan Ondrusek: 6.10, 6.10

Sean Marshall : 5.40, 0-1

Sam LeCure: 4.15, 0-1

Simon, Broxton and Chapman are the only ones with both an ERA under 4 and/or a win in what has been a callous stretch for the Reds. It’s worth noting that teams only hit this bullpen at an average of .236, which is just outside the top ten in that category. But wins and losses are the only stats accounted for after 162, and at this pace, the Reds are ensuring a tight race for themselves by routinely failing to secure what should be victories.

If you’re Dusty Baker, who do you confidently bring into the game prior to the 9th inning? The situation doesn’t call for Windex because it’s actually very clear: the Reds needs to add-on this All Star Break. Even if the bullpen goes on an impressive stretch, it’s cost the team entirely too much this early in the season not to address. The stakes of losing these games is ultimately low. Seriously, unless you think you the Giants planned on sending in the rest of their 2012 season after a late June series loss to the Reds, there’s plenty reason to believe this team is going be where they need to be when it gets chilly. But you can’t confidently enter October with a bullpen this suspect.

And that’s what it’s about, isn’t it? It isn’t about how quickly the Reds can run away with the Central – hell, it’s hardly about winning the division this time. The only thing people care about is if this team can realistically advance when there are no games remaining on the magnetic schedule hanging on your refrigerator.

When you consider the talent that’s behind the gate, do you see a group of guys that can protect a one-run lead late in the game against baseball’s better offenses?  I don’t. And that’s OK. Still plenty of time to improve this team. And fortunately enough, any holes in this ship may start and end with the bullpen.

Tags: Aroldis Chapman Bullpen Cincinnati Reds Dusty Baker MLB

  • Cincy Boy 34

    Couple of things here…
    1. Manny Parra is a LH LR pitcher that never was, let alone should of been moved to a LH specialist role
    2. Marshall being hurt and no one being brought up in his stead has added more innings to the bullpen
    3. LeCure best reliever in the bullpen, inflated ERA=overuse… Dusty is convinced he is a rubber arm
    4. Hoover is a solid pitcher (reminds me of Justin Smith of a few years ago who never recovered from being over worked by “dead-arm-Dusty”) just over used
    5. Logan Ondrusek is the Hoover of next year (see Justin Smith comment above)
    6. Simon has been solid because he was used sparsely in April/May (we were winning)
    7. Broxton has a couple of nicks and bruises he is playing through and for the most part puts in a solid inning of work
    8. Chapman should be a starter, plain in simple (I hold to the grounds that Arroyo or Leake following up 4 hard throwing pitchers, 92-98mph fastball averages with high 80s and a slew of breaking balls would be debilitating to opposing teams)
    SOOOO, don’t start callig for an overhaul of a solid but over worked bullpen, blame mismanagement and injuries, and hold firm to the DB pitching philosophy that: LR means 2innings, MR means 1 inning, and a setup man must precede a closer who is always the hardest throwing person on the team (look ahead for the DB guide to setting up a lineup)

  • Tyler Grote

    Cincy, I agree with much of what you’ve said; however, this bullpen isn’t overworked. In fact, you’ll notice that it’s actually 23rd in overall innings pitched. I don’t want an entire overhaul, but there needs to be more dependable arms in late-inning situations. Perhaps Marshall is going to change recent behavior, but there are no shut-down set-ups on this team right now.

    As tight as this division race will be, the Reds can’t afford to caught up this many Ls on account of the 8th inning.

    On Chap – couldn’t agree more.