Looking at Tony Cingrani


If you ask some Reds fans, they might tell you that the player from the Louisville Bats that they thought would crack the Reds roster first would be Billy Hamilton. Well, it’s also not tonight’s starter Tony Cingrani, but that doesn’t dampen the anticipation of seeing the lefty in his first MLB start, a point that Cliff mentioned earlier.

Feb 22, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Did you know that in college and the minors, Cingrani’s number was 13? Can’t wear that in Cincy! (Photo: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

But what do we know about the 6′-4″ hurler from Rice? One thing we do know is how dominant he’s been in his short MiLB career. I say short because Cingrani only has 42 games under his belt with 41 of those as a starter. He has made a substantial climb through the Reds organization.

A 3rd round selection (114th overall) in the 2011 June draft, Cingrani has already pitched at four levels (Billings, Bakersfield, Pensacola and Louisville) in a little more than 21 months. He started his college career at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois where he helped the Bulldogs land second place finish in the 2009 Junior College Region IV tournament. He also set the SSC record for strikeouts in a season (104) which had been held by Tim Byrdak.

Tim Byrdak? Why does that name sound so familiar? I think you know why that’s the case…

After two years in Illinois, it was off to Rice where he was used both as a starter and a reliever.

College stats taken from The Baseball Cube.
Not much success as a starter, but was he ever effective as a closer. Practically unhittable.

But when the Reds drafted Cingrani, they saw a starter, not a reliever or a closer. Upon reporting to Billings in the Pioneer League, he was placed into the starter’s role with excellent results. As was the case in Bakersfield…as was the case in Pensacola…and as was the case in Louisville. Here’s how that has fared.

Some noteworthy numbers…

H/9 = 5.8, HR/9 = 0.4, BB/9 = 2.6, SO/9 = 11.8

And those are for all levels, not just this year or any other single season.

We got a glimpse of him last September, but we saw Cingrani only as a reliever. In his three outings (5 IP), he relied heavily on his fastball (91.1%) and seldom threw other pitches such as a changeup (3.0%) or slider (5.0%). With his fastball averaging only 91.8 MPH, his secondary pitches will have to be in the offering for this evening.

There is more. One reason for Cingrani’s minor league success could be attributed to his deceptive delivery. JD Sussman of Fangraphs explains.

"Cingrani’s success can be partially attributed to his deceptive delivery. He relies on his long limbs to attack hitters from a low three-quarter arm slot and hide the ball until the last possible moment. Listed at 6-foot-4, he is a “tall-and-fall” pitcher with a short stride, which causes his release point to be farther from the plate than if he had a longer stride. His early release doesn’t aid his deceptiveness, but it’s essential to his effectiveness. When Cingrani releases the pitch, he’s upright. That causes his release point to be high despite a low arm slot, which creates a downward plane."

I have said that looking at Cingrani’s complete delivery could lull a hitter to sleep. It looks so easy prior to his release.

Imagine if there was a means to add velocity to go along with that deceptive delivery, but, as Sussman points out, it is for effectiveness. There could be, but messing with a kid’s mechanics considering the success Cingrani has had thus far certainly isn’t something to consider.

The addition of an 11-5 curve will greatly aid Cingrani in his development, but as is the case with practically every MLB starter, he cannot live with solely on those two offerings. Continued development of his changeup is a necessity, a pitch seen by some as above average while others believe it isn’t quite on that level and even below average. Like with anything, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

With this info (and more) now at your disposal, what do you expect from Tony Cingrani this evening?