Cincinnati Reds: Hoover is the closer no more, sort of…


Many Cincinnati Reds fans will proclaim to you that their bullpen is the worst in the league. Whether this is true is debatable, but nonetheless, the bullpen is among the the worst in the league. Bryan Price’s first step in rectifying the issue is removing first-year closer J.J. Hoover from the ninth-inning role. As C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted out earlier today, the Reds will be using a closer-by-committee for the time being.

While this probably the best move for the time being, the problem with the Reds’ bullpen still remains.

After the first two weeks of the season, the Reds trail only the Braves and Pirates for walks per nine innings (5.08) by relief pitchers. Again third worst in the league, the Reds trail just the Rangers and Phillies for home runs allowed per nine (2.10). To make matters more depressing, the bullpen hasn’t even been ‘unlucky’ as their eighth-best BABIP of .243 suggests things could potentially get worse.

And the end of games is already pretty sketchy in Cincinnati.

The relievers FIP (fielding independent pitching) — essentially ERA with defense (good and bad) factored out — is bottom of the league at 6.38. They are one of nine teams whose bullpen has provided a negative WAR (second worst at -0.8) and they are stranding base runners — a necessity of a respectable bullpen — at the third worst rate in the league (69.6 percent).

More from Blog Red Machine

If that isn’t enough to curb your appetite, the Reds’ starting rotation has struggled to go deep into games, so much so that the bullpen’s 51 1/3 innings is tied for second for most pitched in the league thus far. Despite the innings, they have managed just one save, tied with the Mariners for least in the league … but Seattle’s bullpen has allowed just 13 earned runs to Cincinnati’s 33.

Regardless, the removal of Hoover from the sacred — although metrics suggest it shouldn’t be — closer role is a step in the right direction. Could he still be closing out games from time to time in the newfound committee? Of course. But mixing in a plethora of other options outlined in my post earlier this week where I advocated for Tony Cingrani will give the Reds advantages in certain situations. Will this demotion cure all ills for Cincinnati at the end of games? Doubtful, but a Hoover-less ninth inning — or five-out save opportunity — figures to be no worse than a slight improvement moving forward.

The Reds have stockpiled myriad of young, encouraging arms, all with fall-back options as relievers, but if they keep pitching this week as starters the Reds will need to find answers for the group arms they’re referring to as a bullpen.