Cincinnati Reds in Review: SP Tony Cingrani

The Cincinnati Reds currently possess a starting pitcher that may be the left-hander the club hasn’t seen since the days of Johnny Vander Meer. While Aroldis Chapman is more than likely the first name many will jump to when that statement is made, the ship has sailed on Chapman ever joining the rotation in Cincinnati. That comparison is left for Tony Cingrani.

Tony Cingrani – Starting Pitcher

For a club that hasn’t had all that much pitching in the past few decades up until recently, the thought of having a dominant starting pitcher, let alone a left-handed one was a fantasy far beyond reality. (Eric Milton and Jimmy Haynes are forever burned in my cerebellum.)

Now, they have an ace in Johnny Cueto. They may even have a second one in Mat Latos. Barring a windfall of cash to the organization, one of the two will be departing for lusher pastures plentiful with cash on one of the nation’s coasts. Luckily, Tony Cingrani may be the answer to these issues.

Currently, Cingrani is the wild card. The Reds have the luxury of letting him develop in Triple-A while they “go for it” in 2015 with a staff of Cueto, Latos, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey and Alfredo Simon (Bailey is the only one guaranteed to return in 2016). It’s no secret that Cingrani needs work on his secondary pitches—all of them. Completely dependent on his fastball has proven effective for Cingrani early in his career, but when combined with some shoulder fatigue in 2014, it proved problematic.

If I gave you a pop quiz on who the pitcher with the most consecutive starts in big league history having allowed five or less hits in a start was, you’d guess a laundry list of Hall of Famers before your jaw dropped at the answer being Cingrani. Sure, it’s an entirely subjective stat that doesn’t mean a whole lot, considering Cingrani’s primary concern is throwing strikes, not having people hit them, but it was an impressive stretch nonetheless.

Cingrani was put in an impossible to succeed scenario in 2014. He was riding high as the potential new face of the Reds rotation based on his highly successful 2013 season. What got him those numbers was pumping his fastball by batter after batter, so logically, that is what he would continue to do in 2014, even though those in the organization knew he needed to work on both his changeup and his slider/curveball combo.

Unfortunately, the Major Leagues isn’t exactly the place to work on gaining control of your secondary pitches; mistakes are not as easily forgiven when you cost the big league club a loss, opposed to the farm. So, Cingrani reared back and threw fastballs. This had two effects: one, his arm got tired. Cingrani doesn’t throw especially hard, but he relies on a deceptive motion to confuse big league hitters, making his 92 MPH heat look like 98+. The second effect was that batters got used to seeing his fastball. You can know a curveball is coming and still not hit it; but tell 90 percent of Major League hitters a fastball is coming and get ready to watch it soar into the stands.

Once Cingrani fatigued after April, the front office knew it was time for him to go develop his secondary pitches down in the minor leagues. He would make only 11 starts in 2014, a year removed from making 18 in 2013 and setting the world ablaze.

Cingrani’s Stat Line:

2-8, 4.55 ERA, 63.1 IP, 35 BB, 61 K, 12 HR allowed, 5.37 FIP, 1.53 WHIP, .258 OAV

Top Tony Cingrani Moment:

Cingrani came out guns blazing in 2014. Due to injuries to both Bailey and Latos at the season’s inception, Cingrani was tabbed with the opening night start in the Reds’ second game of the season against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 2.

With precision, Cingrani annihilated the Redbirds. He would toss seven innings of scoreless, two-hit, two-walk, nine-strikeout baseball. The final batter he would face would be Matt Adams, who went down flailing hopelessly at a slider in the dirt as Cingrani skipped off the mound visibly pumped up.

That would be his only start on the season in which he wouldn’t allow a run. It was also only one of three quality starts he would have out of 11.

Low-Point of the Season for Tony Cingrani:

After the month of April, nothing went well for Cingrani. He would appear in just seven ballgames the remainder of the season and get the loss in six of them.

There was June 9 at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers where he gave up a season-high six runs at home in what was his final start of 2014 with the Reds. There was also 10 days later in Pittsburgh where Cingrani came on as the long man and picked up the loss against the Pirates, giving him eight losses in just over 63 innings pitched—had he stayed on the roster all season long, he may have challenged J.J. Hoover for the team lead.

Battling shoulder injuries all season long, 2014 was virtually a wash for Cingrani.

Final Grade: C-

Still on the fringe of being either a starter or a reliever, Cingrani will need to use 2015 as a major proving ground. It does not appear as if he’ll be in the starting rotation come Opening Day, but there is still more than four months to go until that time.

There is no question the talent is there, it’s now just a matter of how dominant Cingrani can be.