Cincinnati Reds: Why Jared Hughes may underperform in 2019

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 02: Jared Hughes #48 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the seventh inning of the game against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on April 2, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 1-0. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 02: Jared Hughes #48 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches in the seventh inning of the game against the Chicago Cubs at Great American Ball Park on April 2, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 1-0. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Jared Hughes had a great season in 2018 as an important piece in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen. It’s possible that Hughes may regress a bit in 2019.

Jared Hughes had a great season in 2018 for the Cincinnati Reds. He compiled a 1.94 ERA with 7 saves in 78.2 innings. His pitching repertoire of throwing sinking fastballs, getting ground balls, and limiting home runs worked to perfection in the hitter friendly Great American Ball Park. He pitched better than many thought he would in 2018. But, can he repeat that success in 2019?

Last offseason, the Cincinnati Reds weren’t very active when it came to making trades and signing free agents, not nearly as active as they’ve been the last few months. However, the team did make two free agent signings in pitchers Jared Hughes and David Hernández which looked very insignificant at the time.

Those moves turned out bigger than originally thought. The additions of Hughes and Hernández had little impact on the final record, but did provide some stability to a Reds bullpen that desperately needed it. Not only did the veteran hurlers help make the bullpen better, but both pitchers instantly became reliable relievers that were often brought on in key situations, late in contests, when the game was on the line.

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Jared Hughes became a go-to reliever out of the bullpen from Opening Day and turned in a dominant season from beginning to end. Can he repeat his fantastic 2018? Many Reds fans would say they hope he can. However, it isn’t fair to Hughes to believe that he will duplicate his 2018 season. This is due to a variety of different reasons.

Relief pitchers are inconsistent season to season. Since Hughes is a ground ball pitcher that generates few strikeouts, the ball gets put into play more often than not, he may be more prone to bad luck or the randomness of the game. Pitches that resulted in a flyable out in 2018 may leave the yard in 2019. Hughes only had 59 strikeouts in 78.2 innings last season.

When majority of hitters put the ball in play, pitchers are more apt to give more hits which could lead to runs. Hughes does get a lot ground balls, but sometimes ground balls find holes into the outfield or ground balls become infield singles. Hughes may turn his fair share of ground balls into outs but even he can get unlucky sometimes which could lead to a different kind of outcome this season.

However, bad luck or the randomness of the game of baseball isn’t the only factor that may lead Jared Hughes to underperform this coming season. His advanced statistics from last season paint a different picture than his ERA may indicate.

In particular, his FIP was at 3.28 while is ERA was at 1.94. Now 3.28 is not bad at all and is actually pretty solid. However, it goes to show that Hughes may have been a little lucky and that in fact, he didn’t have as dominant season that his 1.94 ERA may indicate.

Lastly, his ERA+ showed that he may be due for some regression this season. His ERA+ last season was at 216. An ERA+ of 100 is considered league average for a pitcher. That means that he was 116% better than league average last season. That is one dominant season. Logic would say that any pitcher, Jared Hughes or not, would not be able to repeat that body of work two seasons in a row.

On one hand, though, Hughes has been above league average in regard to ERA+ six out of eight seasons in his career. However, before the 2018 season, the highest his ERA+ had been was 184 in 2014 with the Pirates. Hughes has consistently shown he can be an above average pitcher but his 216 ERA+ from 2018 was so out of this world that it is probably not repeatable in 2019.

What should Reds fans expect from Hughes? It is probably a good bet that Jared Hughes will have a good season as a setup man in the back end of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen in 2019. However, don’t fall in the trap thinking that Hughes will duplicate his fantastic 2018 season.

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It is not fair to expect such a dominant season from Jared Hughes two years in a row. Hughes may underperform in 2019, but this regression shouldn’t be a sizable one. He will still be in a good spot to be a reliable relief pitcher for an exciting and much improved Cincinnati Reds team.