The Cincinnati Reds misused their relievers in 2016, whether out of necessity or not.
No pitcher was used more in high leverage situations for the Cincinnati Reds than Raisel Iglesias. Of his 32 relief appearances, he had 24 clean appearances were he neither allowed an inherited runner to score nor allowed an earned run. He completed the season with six saves and seven holds to go along with two blown saves.
The pitcher with the next highest leverage index was the closer, Tony Cingrani. He only entered the game three times over the course of 23 saves attempts with the tying run on base. He blew all three of those saves. Mid-season 2015 there was still debate about where Cingrani belonged, but he is a reliever to stay now.
Blake Wood was the last of the Reds’ relievers that had a leverage index above 1 and he led the team in pitching appearances. Wood also led the team with 45 clean appearances and 15 holds. He, also, collected the second most blown saves behind Cingrani with 5.
The Reds’ most neutrally used pitcher was Michael Lorenzen who blew two saves in the act of collecting 10 holds. He only pitched in 35 games, but allowed none of his six inherited runners to score. Of these four pitchers that the Reds have designated as their core relievers, only Iglesias had a better save/hold success rate than Lorenzen.
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The most controversial reliever in the Reds’ bullpen last year, Ross Ohlendorf, was third in appearances. He had 3 holds and 3 blown saves, but the Reds only lost one of those blown saves. They used him in early situations, in low leverage situations, and to save Cingrani when he couldn’t get the save as the ultimate utility reliever. He is pitching in Japan now.
The Cincinnati Reds may have been forced to change how they used relievers, but the outcome doesn’t show that.
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Early in the season, the Reds used Cingrani, Wood, Ohlendorf and J.J. Hoover in high leverage situations. When Hoover imploded over 18 innings, they just used the other three until Lorenzen and Iglesias returned from injuries. They shortened their bullpen and used others in the front end.
The Reds threw Jumbo Diaz, J.C. Ramirez, and Josh Smith to the wolves. Diaz was supposedly a set-up man, but he entered the game a dozen times before the seventh inning and he only had four holds all season. Twelve of Ramirez’s 27 appearances came as half of a pair of consecutive appearances.
Josh Smith was perhaps the most extreme example of complete disregard for a player. He started 2 games, came in early 17 times, and finished 8. Nineteen of those appearances were long.
There are also all of those pitchers who only had a cup of coffee with the Reds. Caleb Cotham, Steve Delabar, and AJ Morris all pitched for the Reds and are no longer on the forty man roster. The Reds found lots of frogs during the season last year covering innings for Hoover.
When you don’t know your role as a reliever, it is difficult to be in the right mindset when you’re on the mound. Instead of resetting the bullpen from the difficulties of Hoover, they just tightened the use of the back end pitchers. That left the rest of bullpen scrambling to cover more innings and more situations.