Should the Reds be concerned with the control of Tony Cingrani? Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Cincinnati Reds be worried about Tony Cingrani?

Last season Tony Cingrani came out firing bullets and never stopped as he posted a 2.92 ERA in 104.2 innings pitched with 43 walks and 120 strikeouts. When he took the mound he was dominant. His walk rate was a little higher than you would like it at 3.7 walks per nine innings pitched, but he made up for it with the highest strikeout rate per nine innings in the National League (10.32).

So far this spring the left hander has an ERA of 6.23 over 17.1 innings pitched. He has walked 10 batters and has 17 strikeouts. The strikeouts are on target, but his walk rate has gone from 3.7 per nine innings pitched in 2013 to 5.2 walks per nine innings this spring. That is an increase of 1.5 walks, or a 41% increase from the 2013 regular season.

There may not be a reason for a concern as perhaps he has been working on things during the games. Last season he used his fastball more than any other National League starting pitcher, so perhaps he has been using his breaking balls and change up more often and it has resulted in some extra walks that we may not see in the regular season as he goes back to relying on his fastball more.

However if Cingrani is simply having struggles with control then the Reds need to be concerned. There were times last season when he struggled to get through five innings pitched because of his high pitch counts. Taking over for Bronson Arroyo in the rotation could leave the Cincinnati Reds in a tough spot if the left hander is consistently struggling with his control and running up high pitch counts before he is reaching six or seven innings.

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  • Michael Pruser

    Too funny Doug Gray. 17 spring innings, and you’ve watched zero of them; yet you write an article suggesting the Reds should be worried.

    Clayton Kershaw had a 9.2 ERA in spring; where was your article if the Dodgers regret his $200M contract. David Ortiz has a .057 BA in spring; where is your article that he is on the trade block because of poor production?

    Before you embarass yourself or this site anymore, perhaps you should watch the innings you speak of to realize that Cingrani is throwing sliders and change-ups regardless of count to work on them. 10 walks … you’re going to suggest he has control problems for 10 spring walks?

    Gimme a break.

    • Doug Gray

      Michael, I simply asked a question.

      It is a big difference to ask something about Clayton Kershaw, who has 1200 career MLB innings and Tony Cingrani who has 109. Clayton Kershaw has a walk rate of 2.2 walks per 9 innings over the last three seasons. Tony Cingrani had the 16th highest walk rate in baseball out of 145 pitchers that threw 100+ innings in 2013. I guess we can just pretend he didn’t struggle to throw strikes at times last year and had one of the worst walk rates in baseball, but that seems dishonest to ourselves doesn’t it?

      As for watching the innings, that would make for an incredibly boring site since there are only nine games to watch during the spring. I clearly mentioned that perhaps he is working on other pitches as a reason his walk rate is up.

      I didn’t suggest he had control problems because of the walks in the spring. He had control problems last year, ranking towards the bottom in all of baseball in walk rate during 2013. He was still able to overcome it because he struck out a ton of hitters.

      My actual take? Cingrani is going to miss enough bats to overcome his walk issues. He will walk 3.5 guys per 9 innings again. He will strike out 10 guys per 9 innings again. And his ERA will be around 3.00-3.30. But we shouldn’t pretend that it is just an impossible idea that he couldn’t turn into Tim Lincecum or Edinson Volquez, who both profiled pretty similarly with an iffy walk rate and a strong strikeout rate but a small fluctuation caused big drop offs in production.

      Again though, it was a simple question. If we didn’t look at what is going on in spring training and talk about it, things would be incredibly boring.

      • Michael Pruser

        The whole premise of your article is based on Spring Training. Would you write such an article if Cingrani had 4 walks in 17 innings in the spring? No.

        Now, Tony Cingrani does not have control problems, he has putting hitters away problems. Yes, there is a difference. Cingrani has excellent command of the fastball; we know this because if he didn’t, his hits per 9 for someone who threw just one pitch last season would not have been top 5 in baseball. What he has a problem with, is finding an out pitch closer to the strike zone. His slider was extremely effective in 0-2 counts; but beyond that, Tony would routinely have 8, 9 and 10 pitch AB’s with hitters because strikes would be fouled off, and fastballs, close or otherwise out of the zone would be laid off. That’s not to say Cingrani has poor command, or control … simply that when he was not ahead in the count (which no pitcher consistently is) he can lose batters in long counts.

        This spring, he’s been throwing many man 2-0 sliders, 3-1 change-ups and trying to work his secondary pitches. The HR he gave up to Posey … behind in the count change-up. The double to Rizzo on Sunday … a pretty good slider on a 3-2 pitch (excellent hitting by Rizzo). Basing Spring Training on anything other than health and practice is a losing proposition. Otherwise, I expect to see a “Is Mike Leake in trouble?” thread after his terrible outing today and a “Joey Votto to K 200 times in a season?” article because he’s been taking them looking all spring long.

        You want to write this article after two months, and a 3.8 walk rate from Cingrani to start the season … fine. To ask it now sounds more like you had nothing worthwhile to right about and just pulled a random idea out of thin air.

        • Doug Gray

          There isn’t a Mike Leake in trouble article because he has 1 walk and 9 strikeouts in 13 innings. There isn’t a Joey Votto article because every spring he goes out and simply watches a whole bunch of pitches to get into pitch recognition mode.

          There is a Tony Cingrani article because he had a poor walk rate last year and this spring it has gotten quite a bit worse. Is it because of his approach? Could be. And I noted that in the article.

          You seem to be taking offense to someone asking a question about a guy walking a bunch of batters in the spring and I really don’t know why. Walks are bad. When pitchers walk a bunch of batters people wonder if it is going to continue.

          There are very few things that matter in spring training. A change in skillset is one (a guy picking up velocity or losing velocity is worth paying attention to. Injuries are another.

          I wrote about Jay Bruce last week and how he has more than twice as many walks this spring as any other spring he has ever had despite less playing time. Those are the kinds of things people talk about in spring training. If everything was simply “The Reds lost 9-1 to the Brewers today and it didn’t count, so let’s not talk about anything that happened in the game”, it would be awfully boring. Instead we can talk about how Trevor Bell still hasn’t allowed a run this spring and the former Major Leaguer is making a push for the roster after being out of baseball for part of the 2013 season because he was released on no one picked him up. Or we could talk about how Nick Christiani is building on a rebound 2013 season here in spring training and also making a run at the big league roster as he lowered his ERA under 1.00.

          • Michael Pruser

            I’m sorry but I’m not buying in. You say this is what people talk about during spring training, and I say this is what people who have nothing to talk about talk about in spring training.

            I mean seriously … Nick Christiani. This is exactly why creating any relevant story based on Spring training is a fool’s game. When Christiani can pitch 10 innings against guys that aren’t in AA and A ball, then we’ll talk about his rebound year.

            If you need “real” topics to write about, I’d be happy to assist. Perhaps you can discuss what Aroldis Chapman faces on his first trip back to the mound. Feel free to discuss the incredible fear the very first batter who steps in the box will feel because there’s no telling what Chapman will throw, and where.

            Feel free to write about the lack of front office moves, and how all of the spring training injuries has left an otherwise “shallow” team, even more-so.

            Devin Mesoraco’s “no big deal” oblique injury. How about a nice article on how these things linger over time, and what it means for 5 starting pitchers who will be working with a catcher they’ve never thrown to before. Instead, you pose a question based on 17 spring training innings about a guy who could care less if he walked 2 or 20 hitters and cares more for how the increased frequency of sliders and changes are feeling.

            Listen to your own advice “There are very few things that matter in spring training. A change in skillset is one (a guy picking up velocity or losing velocity is worth paying attention to. Injuries are another”.

            Write about those …

          • Doug Gray

            Well, Christiani did pitch in Triple-A all of last year, so I will talk about it (there is an article coming up this afternoon about it actually).

            Devin Mesoraco has caught all of the starters. He doesn’t have much experience with Cueto though, with almost all of it coming in either spring training or in Triple-A when Cueto has been on rehab in 2011 (three starts were caught by Mesoraco that season with one by Corky Miller).

            There are three writers who provide weekly content on the site. One of them just wrote about Chapman and coming back. There have been several articles about the injuries. Mesoraco’s injury isn’t believed to be serious, and I guess we will see how that turns out, but for the time being it doesn’t seem that he is going to miss any regular season time. And as I noted he has caught all of the guys in the rotation before and all but Cueto he has a decent chunk of time with. He has caught all of the bullpen as well.

          • Steffan

            Nice response Mr. Pruser. Nice response. Now let’s see if any of those ideas get stolen from you in the coming days, especially the Chapman one. You really seem to know your stuff. This guy blogs for a living and you just taught him how to do it. Ha! Cheers, this Bud’s for you.