Position Review: The Pen

We’re finally at the end. This will be the last “report card” for the Reds 2011 season.

For all the finger pointing that the starters received, a few fingers could be aimed at the bullpen. Not as many, mind you, but almost. If you’ve recently read a couple of John’s posts in relation to his creation known as QRO, or Quality Relief Outing, we will use that as a part of our overall analysis. If you’re unfamiliar with QRO and QAR, check out this post for the definitions. John spends a significant amount of time on this and its continued development.

I will borrow something from that post, too. Before that, here’s a general stat table for the Reds bullpen from 2011.

A couple of things to point out here. One was the high BB/9 rate. Also, if you take the SO/9 and BB/9, you get a SO/BB ratio of 1.87. Overall, the Reds bullpen issued 227 walks, tied for the most (along with the Chicago Cubs) in the National League. But let’s look into these numbers a little more…

On occasion the league rankings can be a bit misleading. Not so much in the case of the Reds pen. The 29 wins ranked third, the 28 losses were 5th most, that 3.55 ERA was 9th. The other numbers aren’t as pretty. In SO/9 (7.67), BB/9 (4.09) and SO/BB (1.87) ratio, the Reds were last in all three. In fact, the Reds pen was the only pen to have a SO/BB under 2.00. The Padres was right at 2.00, ranking them 15th. And their relievers don’t have to rely on strikeouts as much due to pitching in 81 games at PETCO. At GABP, it is truly a different story as we well know.

The bullpen was also involved in the third most decisions in the NL (57 for 35.2%). Only the Florida Marlins (37.0%) and St. Louis Cardinals (35.8%) owned pens that registered more bullpen decisions. It is a drop from the 61 in 2010 when the pen posted a W-L of 34-27.

The light? It’s that Reds relievers did not permit as many hits as you might think. Reds relievers registered a H/9 of 7.76, sixth in the NL. Considering the walk numbers, it is a relief in ever sense of the word. The pen also lowered the ERA from 2010 (3.97).

Before going on, here’s what we can take away from these numbers. The Reds bullpen walked too many opponents and was involved in too many decisions. Although it seemed like they allowed too many hits, that was not as bad as feared.

So far, it is a little on the bleak side, isn’t it? Yes…and no. Here’s where I will refer to John and his table of the Reds relievers and the QRO.

The totals line represents all relief appearances. The other is that this table is an abbreviated version of what John has in his post. I have listed the seven major contributors.

On to the individuals…

As many anxiety attacks as Francisco Cordero induced, he was the most effective in looking at the QAR (78%). You could say that 2011 was Coco’s most successful since donning a Reds uniform. His 2.45 ERA was his second lowest (I know, not always that telling) and his WHIP of 1.019 was substantially lower than his career WHIP of 1.333.

The next on this table is Aroldis Chapman. If you refer to our first table, the ratio numbers literally jump out and bite you (SO/9 of 12.78, BB/9 of 7.38, SO/BB of 1.73).Cold you bring that BB/9 down a bit…please? Chapman did have time to think things over iwhile in Louisville. I hope that season of winter ball is to his liking, too. If the Reds brass is truly expecting the Cuban Missile to take a spot within the starting rotation, that number must decrease…significantly.

To me you can’t have any discussion of the Reds bullpen and not mention Sam LeCure. Call it a mancrush if you want, but LeCure endured a season of ups and downs and that’s not from necessarily a performance standpoint. You name the role, he did it. Starter…check. Long relief…check. One hitter…check (he actually did, too). LeCure did take a slight step back toward the end of the season, but his 2011 was better than a lot of people suspected.

Name one reliever that sent Reds fans into full panic mode? If you said Nick Masset, I applaud you. If you were on Twitter whenever Masset was summoned, you ran for cover. Well, thing is, Masset wasn’t as bad as you thought. Grnated, not as good either. In using the QAR, Masset (64%) registered a better season than Bill Bray (63%), and Jose Arredondo (62%). But when Masset went south, he went well below.

Logan Ondrusek began the 2011 campaign on a major roll. Then, a DL stint and struggles hit him. There was even talk of him acquiring the 8th inning role. He was also bitten by the BB bug. His BB/9 rose from 3.1 in 2010 to 4.1 in 2011. To say that will lead to your demise is, well, an understatement.

For 2012 all matters concerning the bullpen are up in the air. If Chapman can successfully transition to the rotation and no deal with Cordero is reached, the pen could be faced with rebuilding. In potentially losing 2011’s two most effective hurlers, that could be the case. There are arms, but are they adequate enough to contend? If Masset cannot rebound, who’s up for that 8th inning gig? You have your situational lefty in Bray. You have your long man in LeCure. The true “X” factor could be…Jose Arredondo (right). With having a full season under his belt after Tommy John surgery, it will be something if he can return to the heights he obtained while with the Angels. If he does, he can be thrust into any role…and the 8th inning guy he can be.

Grade: C. In all honesty, only Masset performed at a level significantly lower than I had expected. I seriously hadn’t envisioned Cordero having the season he did. Same for LeCure. Both were nice surprises, but not enough to garner a higher grade. The drop in ERA was nice, but that can also be misleading. What was a knock was the increase in walks doubled with the decrease in whiffs. Not all encompassing, but it is a legit concern moving into 2012.

To read any of the prior reviews, click on the position within the grade card.

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