Cincinnati Reds in Review: SP Alfredo Simon

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One of the oddest baseball stories of the 2014 season was the curious case of Alfredo Simon and his rapid ascension amidst the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation.

No longer a Red after his trade to the Detroit Tigers this off-season, Simon looks to have continued success in a new league—one in which the designated hitter is included.

Alfredo Simon – Starting Pitcher

Originally, it wasn’t anticipated Alfredo Simon would need to make more than one start—two, max—in 2014, before being slotted back in his long relief role where he became so effective for the Reds during 2012 and 2013.

One good start turned into two, which turned into four, then a few more, and then by the time anyone knew it, Simon was 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA at the All-Star break and folks around the country were up in arms about Simon being snubbed from the mid-summer classic. (He would eventually make it as an injury replacement.)

Simon would make 18 first-half starts, 16 of which were quality, which is astounding considering he hadn’t started a major league game since 2011 with Baltimore when he admittedly wasn’t very good. (He would go 4-9 with a 4.90 ERA with the Orioles in 2011.)

Things got significantly worse for Alfredo come the second half. He’d win only three games in his final 14 starts, losing seven of them, and keeping an ERA of 4.52 over the season’s final two and a half months. In 37 less innings of work, he walked the same number of batters (28), and allowed five more earned runs than in the first half.

His rocky second half diminished much of Simon’s success, but it seems as if it was to be expected. The prior two seasons saw him toss 148.2 innings combined, followed by tossing 196.1 in 2014. Was it simply Simon running out of gas, or was the jig up?

The numbers indicate that Simon was quite fortunate to have a defense as splendid as the Redlegs’ behind him. His FIP in 2011 with Baltimore was an unsatisfying 4.42, which about a half run lower than his ERA, meaning he pitched better than what his defense helped him out with. In 2014, his FIP sat at 4.33, nearly an entire run higher than his ERA, which finished at 3.44.

It will be interesting to see how Simon fares in the American League next season where he will have a whole new defense behind him, an extra batter in the DH, and not to mention expectations, as he was acquired to come in and be a major cog in their rotation.

Simon’s Stat Line:

15-10, 3.44 ERA, 196.1 IP, 127 K, 4.33 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, .245 OAV, .268 BAbip (30 points below league average)

Top Alfredo Simon Moment:

In the age of the modern starting pitcher, complete games aren’t valued as highly as they once were. (Then again, with Aroldis Chapman at the backend, it’s understandable why.) Simon would toss only eight innings twice all season, yet neither of those occasions will be shining moment. Neither will be appearing in the All-Star Game, as great as I’m sure that was for him.

Simon’s top moment of the season was his first moment. He faced a less-than-intimidating New York Mets lineup, but on that afternoon at Citi Field, he earned himself another start. From there, it snowballed, allowing Simon to become not only an All-Star, but a big trade chip that the Reds dealt to the Tigers. Now, with a good season in Detroit in 2015, he sets himself up for a major payday in free agency.

Low Point of the Season for Alfredo Simon:

The All-Star break seemed to have cursed Simon. It would take him all the way until August 24 against Atlanta to pick up his first win of the second half. In 14 starts, he’d toss just six quality ones, a percentage much lower than that of the first half. He would have a stretch of four straight non-quality, and would also end his season with an un-inspiring performance against Pittsburgh.

Despite his disappointing finish, Simon has to be satisfied with what he accomplished in not only 2014, but the past three years in Cincinnati. He went from being plucked off the waiver wire days before Opening Day be the Reds in 2012, to a major off-season acquisition.

Final Grade: B+

Factoring in the expectation level many had for Simon in 2014, he’s certainly deserving of the high grade.

Even though digging a bit deeper into his metrics may indicate he wasn’t nearly as dominant as we perceived, he was a steadying force for the rotation all season long. Making 16 quality starts in the first half alone was impressive, and kept this club in it much longer than they should have been.

With that, we bid Mr. Simon adieu. Who knows, we may see him when the Reds lock up with Detroit June 15-18.