Well, If It’s Not Masset…

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As of late, it seems Reds fans have found a new enemy. Not Chris Carpenter. Not Yadier Molina. Not Jim Edmonds. It’s one of their own in reliever Nick Masset.

It’s no secret that Masset has struggled early in each of the last two seasons. I’m going to suggest here, that a rather decent sample of the Reds fanbase would like Masett removed from his role as the setup man. I will offer this up to that section. You have a right to desire such a move. I do have a question. If you take Masset from that role, who ya’ got? Who do you use to replace him?

Sure, Dusty Baker may re-shape the pen. Actually, he has to for the Pirates series, but there are some possibilities. Let’s look at the alternatives among those on the big league roster along with their career splits against righties and lefties).

1. Aroldis Chapman (v. RHB: .178/.288/.200; v. LHB: .167/.286/.167)
I think we know at this point that putting Chapman in the role is completely out the window due to his current bout with shoulder inflammation. He was on his fourth game in five days when he entered the last game of the Padres series. That would have to be an adjustment because a setup guy might very well have to hold up for that type of activity. He obviously has had success against both righties and lefties which is a must in a setup role. It’s the durability at this young point of his career that concerns me.

2. Logan Ondrusek (v. RHB: .243/.320/.380; v. LHB: .202/.239/.333)
A viable option on that Ondrusek showed last season that he can handle the workload. He worked multiple innings in 15 games of his 60 appearances in 2010, meaning he entered the game in one inning and worked a part or all of the following inning. He also worked in three consecutive games 5 times. Ondrusek went on a major roll last season where teams simply could not score on him.

3. Bill Bray (v. RHB: .270/.335/.444; v. LHB: .241/.319/.359)
Also another alternative, but I like Bray in his current role as wherever, whenever. When Dusty needs him, he’s ready. I opined that I thought Bray was potentially better suited as the lefty specialist role upon the departure of Arthur Rhodes. Looking at Bray’s career splits, you could disagree, but check his slits for 2010. They are lethal against lefties while righties are similar to his career numbers. I have no doubt Bray could do it and he’s been phenomenal in 2011 thus far. The downside is if you put Bray in that role, you only have one other lefty in the pen.

4. Matt Maloney (v. RHB: .298/.332/.534; v. LHB: .239/.312/.478)
I can’t see the Reds using Maloney in the setup role. He’s only pitched in 2 of the Reds 12 games to date. He also also hasn’t worked an inning since the series finale against the Diamondbacks where he was hit hard. COuld be only a metter of no work for Maloney at this point. After all, Maloney’s role is more of that as a starter and we all know how big a logjam that is.

5. Jordan Smith (v. RHB: .242/.287/.383; v. LHB: .323/.382/.500)
As with Ondrusek, Smith is a possibility. Outside of Opneing Day, Smith has pitched well. Since then, he’s allowed only 4 hits with no walks and 5 strike outs in his 6 six inngins of work. Up until 2010, Smith was a starter within the organization and he’s shown he can work in back-to-back games. He never did work on three consecutive days though. He did have 11 of his 37 appearances where he worked in multiple innings. Having just takem on a role in a bullpen as early as last season could mean that there is still some arm endurance in his tank.

6. Francisco Cordero…just seeing if you’re still awake. He’s the closer whether you like it or not.

The one thing all of these pitchers (outside of Cordero) have in common is this: no previous experience in the role. Scream all you want for Masset to be pulled from the role permanently, but I highly doubt we see that occur. If it does, it will only be until Masset finds the reason(s) for his struggles. You cannot question what Masset did last season once he got rolling. Look at this stats for August.

Also, let’s factor in his ERA and WHIP for each month:
April/March: 11.32, 2.419
May: 3.75, 1.500
June: 3.18, 1.235
July: 0.64, 1.143
August: 0.53, 0.529
Sept/Oct: 3.75, 1.250

When the weather started to turn warm last season, Masset slowly began to find his stride and get hot. The only concern for 2010 besides the slow start would be the cooling in the last month of the season. That could be due not only due to a change in the weather, but that for the entire 2010 campaign, Masset appeared in 82 games. Most likely the weather as Masset only has 76.2 IP for 2010, only 0.2 IP higher than 2009.

Short version: I cannot foresee a permanent change in taking Masset out of the setup role.