Dominant Reds’ Starting Rotation: Surprise in 2012, Anchor in 2013


Sep 12, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan (29) talks to starting pitcher Homer Bailey (34) during the second inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

I admit, I became a baseball hermit following Thursday around 5 PM. Checked the live updates of the game on my phone as I was ending my workday, breaking my normal pledge of awaiting the DVRed game avoiding score updates to watch ‘live’ after work. I was walking out of the office holding my phone as “Rolen strikes out to end game’ flitted across my screen. I muttered a dejected grumble under my breath and kicked at the ground and then put it out of my head.

Avoiding any knee jerk reactions and taking to Facebook immediately after the game I have let my vitriol dissipate so I can coherently speak on the  2012 season for the Reds looking forward to next season. For 2013, there is a lot to be excited about. A surprisingly dominant starting staff highlight a successful regular season that Reds’ fan would probably admit that they didn’t totally foresee. What we saw and what to expect…

The strength of the team was a starting staff that used the same 5 starters for the entire season. The combination of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake worked to give the Reds the 4th best ERA in the NL in 2012 at 3.64. I have got to admit, I did not ever expect the narrative of this season to play out with this pitching dominated theme. By my barometer, there were two starters who easily outplay the perceived assumption for their season. Bronson Arroyo bounced back from a 2011 that had him highlighted for little more than his affinity for allowing dingers to have his best season since 2010 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.21 WHIP with a 12-10 record (though a record is pretty much meaningless as a measure of pitcher performance). No-Hit Homer Bailey is the other pitcher to go beyond his normal expectation for the season for me. Bailey easily outpitched what most expected, throwing  208 innings (76 more than his previous high) and logging a career-best 3.68 ERA. This type of season is exactly what has been expected of Bailey for some time. In addition, pretty much the entire staff, save for Mike Leake, pitched beyond their ZIPS projections for the season and hopefully is the start of a multi-year span of dominant pitching rather than a one year anomaly. All of the staff is expected back which will easily give the Reds the most consistent staff in the NL Central.

Some regression has to be expected though, even if due to just normal injury luck. I can with some confidence expect a similar or even better season from Homer Bailey as he grows with more confidence and learns how to better use his stuff. I do not however see a similar year from Arroyo. Unfortunately, as a sports pessimist, I have to say that the Reds are playing with house money on Arroyo. Already having gotten the most value out of him, the main expectation for Arroyo year-to-year at this point should be 200 innings. Expecting anything in the area of a 3.75 ERA is setting up for disappointment. A full season of the post-ASG Mat Latos could be expected and possibly even more of the 2012 Johnny Cueto could also be expected in 2013. Also, if anyone in the front office believes in extracting the most value from a player, Aroldis Chapman will be an addition to the starting rotation. The math is pretty simple. 150 innings of Chapman > 71.2 innings of Chapman. All that should come together to give the Reds another Top 10 starting staff.

I fully expect the front office’s number one goal to be pursuing a starting piece for the top of the lineup in the offseason (Michael Bourn much?) and possibly even going after another bullpen arm to hopefully replace the Chapman rotation move (roll the dice on Ryan Madson maybe?) But the key will be relying on the fact that the starting rotation will be the foundation of the 2013 Reds campaign.