The Reds bullpen had a lot of expectations to live up to following the 2012 season. In 2012, Cincinnati’s bullpen finished first in the MLB in ERA and led the NL in batting-average-against (BAA) and strikeout percentage and were second in WHIP and home runs allowed per nine innings (HR/9).
The 2013 bullpen was dealt several blows early on that continued throughout the season. Lefty Sean Marshall missed most of the season due to injury and setup man Jonathan Broxton fell victim to the injury bug as well in early June.
Despite the injuries, Cincinnati’s bullpen had several guys step up to the challenge and fill in critical roles and innings.
Sam LeCure stood out in particular posting a 2.66 ERA in 61 innings. LeCure has improved his ERA in each of his first four major league seasons and proved this season through several gutsy performances that he is capable of coming in and inducing much needed strikeouts and can even serve as a closer when necessary. Lefties hit just .167 while right-handers hit .264 against LeCure.
Manny Parra, who was a surprise addition to the Reds roster and seemingly came out of nowhere, filled in remarkably as a lefty specialist in the absence of Marshall. Parra posted a career-best 3.33 ERA in 46 innings for the Reds despite having an 8.44 ERA as late as June 7th. After settling in, Parra was very tough on lefties. Left-handed hitters hit just .167 off Parra in 84 at-bats.
J.J. Hoover had some rough patches throughout the season, even starting the season 0-5 with a 5.40 ERA. Hoover followed that up with 26.1 scoreless innings over 23 appearances during the middle of the season. Of course, it’s also hard to forget the three grand slams Hoover allowed including one big blow by Allen Craig in August. Despite his inconsistencies, Hoover did a relatively good job stepping up when the Reds needed him.
Meanwhile, Alfredo Simon had a sub-3.00 ERA for the second straight season. Simon threw a career-high 87.2 innings with a .214 batting average-against. He showed no ill-effects of his high innings total throwing a season-high 18.1 innings in 11 games during September with a 0.98 ERA.
Reds relievers as a whole combined to post very respectable numbers. Reds starters helped the bullpen limit its innings with Reds relievers throwing just 470.1 innings, which was fifth least in the majors.
The bullpen finished with a major league leading .216 batting average-against. In addition, Reds relievers allowed just 371 hits, which was second best in the MLB. The pen also posted the third best WHIP (1.17) and K/9 (9.36). Pitchers out of the bullpen finished the 2013 season with a 24-24 record and the fourth best ERA (3.29) in the National League. The team was second in the NL and eighth overall in strikeouts out of the pen.
On the downside, the bullpen did allow the seventh most home runs (55) and the third most hit by pitches with 26. The Reds save percentage dipped down from 76% to 73% despite closer Aroldis Chapman making his second consecutive All-Star appearance.
Chapman finished the 2013 campaign with the same number of saves (38) as 2012. Chapman threw just 63.2 innings last year and finished with a 2.54 ERA. Chapman had a 3.86 strikeout to walk ratio as opposed to 5.30 in 2012. The Cuban Missle’s walks per nine innings (BB/9) rose to 4.1 as opposed to 2.9 in 2012 and his WHIP increased from 0.809 to 1.037.
Overall, the Reds bullpen did a phenomenal job given the circumstances. A healthy Marshall and Broxton would have obviously been key additions. However, the healthy relievers picked up the slack and and held their own in their various new roles.