Cincinnati Reds: Reliability is lacking in the bullpen

The Cincinnati Reds lost a very winnable game last night. While David Bell’s decision can be questioned, the bullpen is severely lacking reliability.

Well, that was not a good outing for David Hernandez. While a lot of fans correctly criticize David Bell‘s decision to turn to Hernandez with other available arms in the bullpen, the loss revealed a deeper problem. If the Cincinnati Reds are serious about making a postseason run, the bullpen needs a makeover.

Now, that may sound harsh considering how well the relief corps has performed this season. After all, Cincinnati’s relievers have allowed just 3.91 runs per game this season. That’s second only to the Los Angeles Dodgers and well above the league average of 4.70.

However, the Reds’ best reliever, Amir Garrett, is currently on the shelf with a lat injury and outside of Michael Lorenzen, it doesn’t appear that David Bell has a reliable arm to turn to in high-leverage situations, late in games.

Hernandez had a decent start to the season and has shown flashes at certain points throughout the season, but of late, the right-hander has struggled. Hernandez had a 6.28 ERA entering last night and over his last 7 games, his ERA is 19.80. That’s the pitcher you’re going to turn to with the game on the line against the heart of the Rockies order? Yikes!

While a lot of fans, myself included, advocated for Lorenzen to replace Sonny Gray, his numbers of late have not been much better. Over his last 7 outings, Mikey Biceps has allowed 9 hits and 6 runs with a 7.71 ERA.

We all know what happens when Raisel Iglesias enters the game before the ninth inning without having the opportunity for a save. Moreover, Iglesias’ performance of late has not been good. In his last 7 appearances, though he’s recorded 3 saves, Iglesias owns an 8.59 ERA with 3 walks and just 7 strikeouts in 7.1 innings of work.

Wandy Peralta is fresh off the IL and hadn’t been the most reliable reliever all season. Jimmy Herget is definitely not the option in a high-leverage situation. The rookie got fed to the wolves last week, allowing 5 hits and 3 earned runs in 0.2 innings of work. Even Matt Bowman, one of the more consistent relievers all season, has more walks (7) than strikeouts (5) over his last 7 games.

The Cincinnati Reds’ best reliever of late has been Jared Hughes. Oddly enough, Bell refuses to turn to Hughes in clutch situations, which is a stark contrast to how the right-hander was used last season. Hughes has a 2.60 ERA over his last 15 games with a WHIP of 0.686 and 13 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched.

The Reds starting pitching has been great all season, but winnable games that the bullpen has let slip away have occurred on more than one occasion. While Garrett’s return will help, one player cannot salvage the struggles of an entire unit. I’d look for Cody Reed, once healthy, to get a call as well and the front office should look to acquire some relievers via trades in the coming weeks.

With today’s game dictated so much by relief pitching, you have to have reliable hurlers in the bullpen. While the Cincinnati pen has been better than average, the team’s margin for error is so slim that better than average might not be good enough. The Reds relief corps has to be excellent going forward. That may call for some re-tooling.