Since the Cincinnati Reds offense during the 2013 season had more than its share of surges and sputters, the pitching staff provided a much-needed boost, even compared to a robust prior 2012 campaign. There were injuries (Johnny Cueto, in particular) and welcomed surprises (Tony Cingrani, anyone), but it would be hard to argue that the starting rotation on the whole was a bright spot.
The collective at the start of the season looked like: Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake. Bumps happened along the way, but Latos emerged as a staff ace (unsurprisingly) while Cueto went sidelined after injuries bit the former ace of the staff. Arroyo put together a solid if unremarkable season, possibly his last as a Red, anchoring the middle. Bailey emerged as the “hard luck” (Nolan Ryan-type) with numbers better than his win-loss results would indicate … and threw another no-hitter along the way. Then Mike Leake went and totally exceeded expectations with impressive numbers … for the league as a whole (beyond just being a #5 starter). The major positive was unknown Tony Cingrani, putting up remarkable strikeout numbers in the minors but unclear if he could repeat the success at the major league level, coming in to fill the void of Cueto for a large chunk of the season. There’s the additional, but brief, factor of Greg Reynolds having to step in after Cingrani himself was shutdown by season’s end, leading to a starting rotation by the end that didn’t exactly look like how it started.
The best way to measure this pitching rotation might be the sum of its parts, assessing individual grades into a form of the collective – even as hard as that may be.
Johnny Cueto – 5-2, 2.82 ERA in 11 starts [60 2/3 IP, 51K, 1.055 WHIP]
There are plenty of positives to say about Cueto, but 2013 will hardly be one to look at fondly. His numbers were generally positive, but he notched a mere 11 starts in the entire year. For the guy who had the most innings (217) just one year earlier, maybe the load caught up to him. It’s truly hard to say what many maladies may have plagued the hard-throwing righty. While 2012 was a Cy Young-worthy effort, 2013 is very nearly an “incomplete” grade. The data set is so small that it’s hard to judge him for much than what he did. (Limited) Grade: C+ (for just being so insufficient … the results themselves were “A” worthy)
Mat Latos – 14-7, 3.16 ERA in 32 starts [210 2/3 IP, 187K, 1.21 WHIP]
The W-L record doesn’t tell the whole story, as it should have been far better. Too many bullpen lost results in no-decisions and there may have been legitimate talk of Cy Young for the tall hard-thrower. The fact that he battled a bone chip in his throwing elbow down the stretch is even more telling as to why the results faded from their exceptional nature in the early going. His ERA was still the “staff best” (of the four regulars who logged the most innings, Cingrani and Cueto notwithstanding). Factoring the injury hurt the ultimate later August and September results, but Latos battled through them anyway because he felt he had to do it. Grade: A (did everything that could have been hoped)
Homer Bailey – 11-13, 3.49 ERA in 32 starts [209 IP, 199K, 1.124 WHIP]
No pitcher showed more maturity and development between 2012 and 2013 than David Dewitt Bailey, but Homer was far more maligned by facing far too many tough opponents. Ignore the wins and losses (sub-.500) – it simply doesn’t tell the story. The strikeouts, the WHIP, the ability to change a game – Bailey has those intangibles. He was every bit as valuable to the team as Latos in 2013 and struggled to get run support to make his flashy numbers better. Grade: A- (solid all-around, expect to simply get better with time)
Bronson Arroyo – 14-12, 3.79 ERA in 32 starts [202 IP, 124K, 1.153 WHIP]
The Reds “Ironman” for innings eater will likely be sorely missed, even he was never flashy AND 2013 wasn’t totally his best. The results were solid but far from spectacular. He truly does represent the “typical” start of any Reds pitcher during the campaign, and there’s not much more to say about him. The control was generally exceptional, not overpowering anybody but using slot angles to confuse batters with varying velocity. For the most part, it worked. Grade: B
Mike Leake – 14-7, 3.37 ERA in 31 starts [192 1/3 IP, 122K, 1.253 WHIP]
If you had shown me Leake’s stat line BEFORE the 2013 season, I would have leaped with joy. The record is solid (if possibly a *little* undeserved), the ERA quite impressive (among the league leaders for a long chunk of the season), and he logged innings. For a guy who started as a fifth starter, the results are nothing short of remarkable. It’s hard to not rip him for some of his shortcomings, but, in this case, he did EXACTLY, what anyone could have hoped from him and more. Grade: A-
Tony Cingrani – 7-4, 2.92 ERA in 18 starts [104 2/3 IP, 120K, 1.099 WHIP]
For an unexpected call-up, what Cingrani did in a short time is nothing short of remarkable. The strikeout numbers of overpowering pitching were simply awesome. Yes, it’s limited data. Yes, he’ll probably regress without other “out” pitches to utilize”. But, let’s just admire Cingrani for what he DID do in 2013: Bridge the Cueto gap with Cueto-like numbers. That part is simply remarkable. He delivered, period. Grade: A (also limited, but his hard-throwing lefty presence MATTERED for a large chunk of the season in racking up those 18 starts AND multiple relief appearances)
Greg Reynolds – limited results in a “pinch hitting” role [1-3, 5.52 ERA in 5 starts], there’s not much positive to honestly say … other than he filled some rotational holes when needed. Thankfully, they could avoid him multiple times, because the results just weren’t all that good. (Limited) Grade: C- (should probably be lower, thankfully the impact was minimized)
Overall Grade: B+ … There were more positives than negatives, the general results were superior to many, many other starting rotations across baseball, and, for the most part, they stayed healthy and delivered.
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