2011 Cincinnati Reds Season Preview: Starting Pitchers


Almost all of the “news” for the Reds this offseason centered around one aspect: the starters. There has been much intrigue attached to this group in that each team now employs five starters. The issue will be that the Reds have six guys that will be vying for those five slots. Opinions are varied on who will make “the cut”. And that discussion centers around three guys: Homer Bailey, Travis Wood and Mike Leake.

With the exception of Bronson Arroyo, the staff is still quite young. Plus, the Reds did dole out a bit of coin for Johnny Cueto and an offer still presumably sits on the table for Edinson Volquez. When was the last time the Reds were being touted as a pitching rich team? Been a while, hasn’t it?

To start things off, we’ll go to the guy that has already been tabbed as the Opening Day starter, Edinson Volquez.

Edinson Volquez

Having already been named as the Opening Day starter, Volquez has experienced a rough spring and he hasn’t even pitched in an exhibition game. He’s caught up in a visa issue which could stem from his 50 game suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy. He can’t play in front of paying customers as he holds a travel visa. He must have a work visa and it will take a few days in order to get the situation resolved.

Being named the Reds #1 has raidsed some eyebrows much like when he was named the Game 1 starter in last year’s NLDS. Some will contend that if the Reds have one pitcher who currently has “ace stuff”, it’s Volquez. Not quite sure I’m willing to buy into that, but we must remember that is is still rehabbing in some form from Tommy John surgery. It’s also a popular belief that the season after the procedure is where pitchers tend to flourish. If that’s the case, we may witness a season similar to 2008 when Volquez was 18-7 with a 3.21 ERA.

Bronson Arroyo

To say that Arroyo is a workhorse would be a correct statement. You know what you’re getting when Bronson takes the hill. He’s extremely competitive and is always willing to take one for the team. If he needs to toss a few more innings to save the bullpen, he’s usually not one to complain about that. His personal stats do not seem to matter to him which always makes for a good teammate.

Every season since Arroyo has joined the Reds, he’s been pretty darn consistent. You’ll get 200+ innings, around 15 wins but the ERA may not be the prettiest. It usually approaches a 4.00 although the last two seasons in has been slightly under that. In other words, Arroyo’s 2011 should be similar to what we have all witnessed over the last five seasons. Double digit wins, double digit losses, all those innings and at least one a quote that will leave you wondering.

Johnny Cueto

For Cueto, 2010 was noted more for what happened during the brawl at GABP that his arm. That’s unfortunate because the 25 year old Dominican put together his best season since coming up in 2008. His 12-7 record does not due him justice as Cueto had six potential wins that were negated by the bullpen. It’s also worth mentioning this. In each of Cueto’s first three seasons, he has increased his win total, increased his innings, decreased his home runs allowed, decreased his ERA and decreased his WHIP.

Baseball is a game that leans on trends. If that’s the case, why are some projecting Cueto’s 2011 to not be as good as his 2010? Shouldn’t that be the other way around? If that were the case, Cueto should be looking at about 14 wins, a 3.40 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP. Or are “they” thinking that Cueto has already reached his ceiling?

I don’t believe he has. As I said, he’s only 25.

Homer Bailey

There is a faction of Reds fans that want Bailey out of town. Those that would like Bailey to stick around have even “offered up” Bailey as a closer. Make no mistake about it, he’s a starter and I realize that will infuriate some, but you must consider:

1. During the previous “regime”, Bailey was on the fast track through the system. That track was too fast and he was not afforded the time to properly mature as both a person and player.
2. Fans couldn’t wait to see the first round selection from 2004 (7th overall) and the brass fell into the trap.
3. Bailey has no options left for the Reds to utilize due to #’s 1 and 2. That may be to his advantage entering 2011 because he knows that he’s either on the big league roster in Cincinnati or he will be on one elsewhere.

2011 is a “nothing to lose” campaign for Bailey if he wishes to remain a Red. No one has ever doubted his “stuff”. What is in doubt is his past performance. Having a full year with Bryan Price should only help Bailey improve. If there is something you can knock about Bailey it’s that he’s so competitive that he’s afraid to admit when there is a pending issue health-wise. We saw it on more than one occasion last season. (Remember the rubbing of the stiff neck?)

Travis Wood

Wood began 2010 in Louisvile after narrowly be edged by Mike Leake for the #5 starter’s spot. Wood has undergone a bit of a transformation since then. He’s become even more accurate with his pitch placement. Wood was also extremely valuable in 2010 when both Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey took residence on the DL.

Most people will remember Wood’s 2010 for tow things: the almost perfect game in Philly and his home run in St. Louis with a national crowd viewing the events. And the fact the homer came with his parent in attendance was a plus.

And Wood has a pretty good offseason workout partner in Philly’s ace #1b Cliff Lee. Just that education could aid the 24 year old.

Mike Leake

Heads were turned when the Reds left Goodyear last spring and Leake was the #5 starter. After all, he’d never pitched in the minors. I suppose being a first round draft pick (#8 overall in 2009) has its merits. But Leake didn’t rest on that. He went out and posted good numbers early on. He would tire in August, relegated to the bullpen in an attempt to limit his innings and pitches, and finally, shut down in September with shoulder fatigue. Yes, the whispers were starting about Dusty and his handling of young pitchers. Some forget that he’d never pitched the number of innings while at Arizona State that he amassed as a starter for the Reds.

But Leake is more than just a pitcher. He carries a nice bat, too. That has led to conjecture that Leake might start the season with the Reds, but in the bullpen. Dusty would have a another bat in his arsenal if the situation warrants such.

As I pointed out above in regards to Bailey, the opposite holds true for Leake. There are options in which the Reds can use regarding the righty. It’s a metter of building up the endurance with Leake and the fact that we all know this kid can pitch in the bigs now doesn’t make the decision of starter/bullpen/Triple-A any easier.

The overwhelming majority have spots 1-3 with Volquez (for now), Arroyo and Cueto. It’s the other two that are up for grabs. Any way Dusty and Reds GM Walt Jocketty look at it, the Reds have six quality starters and only five spots to fill. Volquez does have time to settle his visa, but what about time lost on the field? He has been in simulated games, but that’s not quite the same.

And don’t forget that even if a hurler needs to be placed on the DL, the Reds have the capable arms of Matt Maloney and Sam LeCure at the ready. Both stepped up with good performances last season. No reason to think they won’t be ready to do the same in 2011. Yes, Louisville have its fair share of quality arms as well.

This decision will be by far the most dissected choice the Reds make going into 2011.