Cincinnati Reds Need to End the Jason Marquis Experiment

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Saying this seems like beating a dead horse at this point, but allowing Jason Marquis take the mound every fifth day is not working out for the Cincinnati Reds. His start in yesterday’s 7-1 loss to the Royals further evidenced that, as Marquis couldn’t make it through the fourth inning for a second consecutive start. With so many other options at the Reds’ disposal, why is Marquis still in the starting rotation?

After last night’s start, manager Bryan Price admitted to MLB.com’s Robert Falkoff that it’s reasonable to question Marquis’ rotation spot, but he also gave his starter a vote of confidence:

"“What Jason provides us is important,” Price said. “But it is important also that he performs the way I know he can and the way he did early in the year. We always have to try and put the best team on the field. When he’s throwing the way he’s capable of throwing, he can be a part of a real good starting rotation.”"

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At some point, however, it has to be about what Marquis is actually doing on the field rather than what he’s “capable” of doing. His 6.91 earned run average ranks dead last among 109 qualified starters in baseball and he is one of only four starters with an ERA over six. Opponents are batting .321 off of him, second worst in baseball, and his WHIP (1.58) is fifth worst.

His best start (eight innings, two runs, seven hits, two walks, three strikeouts) came against a woeful Brewers squad on April 27. Aside from that start, his longest outing was 6 1/3 innings, which came in the following start against the Braves. Since then, he’s only pitched 12 1/3 innings over his last three starts — an average of just over four innings a game — and given up 15 runs on 21 hits, while striking out just five batters.

Perhaps the most puzzling thing about the Reds keeping Marquis in the rotation is that he hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013 and hasn’t really been that great throughout his career anyway. It’s not as if he’s a great pitcher who’s just working through struggles at the moment.

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Over his 15-year career, his ERA is 4.61 and he’s amassed an fWAR of 9.4. He’s had an ERA below four in only two seasons, the last coming way back in 2004 with the Cardinals. Looking at his fWAR in perspective, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Aroldis Chapman have higher career fWARs than Marquis. To put it simply: Marquis is just not a great pitcher. Yet, for some reason, the Reds keep sending him out there every fifth day, as if hoping he’ll somehow return to his spring training form. Based on his career numbers and his age, that seems unlikely to happen.

Marquis’ rotation spot also raises another question: are the Reds serious about contending? Leaving Marquis in the rotation indicates they really aren’t, and if that’s the case, why not go ahead and start the inevitable rebuilding process? Why not trade Cueto and Mike Leake now?

If Walt Jocketty and the Reds truly do want to contend (even if that seems unlikely to happen, as they currently sit 8 1/2 games back from first place), there’s no discernible reason that Marquis should remain in the starting rotation, especially when it’s clear that Michael Lorenzen, Raisel Iglesias, and Jon Moscot would all better options at this point. And even if the Reds aren’t serious about contending, what good does leaving Marquis in the rotation do? He’s not going to be a part of the future and these young guys are. And it’s time to see what they can do.

Next: Jay Bruce: an enigma at the plate