Cincinnati Reds: Dramatic bullpen upgrades are not necessary

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Michael Lorenzen #21 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 27, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 27: Michael Lorenzen #21 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 27, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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Fans have been clamoring for the Cincinnati Reds front office to get hitting, but a certain contingent views the bullpen as a problem as well. Not so fast.

Aside from the rumors during the Winter Meetings that the Reds were interested in Craig Stammen, we’ve heard little rumblings from the Cincinnati front office about additional relievers being on the the team’s radar. While the Cincinnati Reds could use an additional arm or two, drastic changes to the bullpen seem unnecessary.

While the Cincinnati Reds starting pitching was the strength of last year’s squad, the relief corps wasn’t too shabby. Cincinnati’s bullpen ranked fourth in saves (46), fifth in batting average against (.235), sixth in strikeouts (600), and seventh in ERA (4.28). For those who want to criticize David Bell‘s use of the relievers, the Reds ranked 11th in innings pitched (554.2).

Michael Lorenzen put together a career-year, leading the relievers in ERA (2.92), games played (73), innings pitched (83.1), and was second in strikeouts (85) to Raisel Iglesias, who led the way with 89 punch outs. Robert Stephenson also put together a solid season with career-highs in ERA (3.76), ERA+ (121), and WHIP (1.036).

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All three of the aforementioned relievers will join the highly-skilled left-hander Amir Garrett to form the backend of the Reds bullpen. Garrett put up great numbers during the first half of the 2019 season. In 42 appearances, Garrett pitched 37 innings, struck out 54 batters, and owned a 1.70 ERA.

However, an injury shelved Garrett for a period of time before the All-Star break, and the southpaw never returned to form following his return. Upon his return on July 20th, Amir Garrett pitched just 19 innings over 27 games, walking 15 batters while striking out just 24 and put up a 6.16 ERA.

Aside from the those four, Cincinnati has a stable of young, capable pitchers in its bullpen who are looking to make an impact in 2020. Lucas Sims showed flashes last season, and looks to be a virtual lock to be in the pen heading into next season. The same could be said for Matt Bowman. The former Cardinals reliever will be entering his first year of arbitration this season.

Beyond Sims and Bowman, the Reds relief corps offers a lot of promise, but little production as of yet. Sal Romano, Cody Reed, and Joel Kuhnel are hopeful to show their worth during spring training with an eye towards the 2020 Opening Day roster. The newest addition, José De León could be a nice piece as well. De León was traded from Tampa Bay earlier this offseason.

Now, could Cincinnati use another bullpen arm or two? Absolutely, especially a left-hander. Outside of Amir Garrett, Cody Reed is the only other realistic option from the left side likely to make next year’s roster. With MLB’s new rule changes, whoever that player may be, needs to be able to pitch to more than just one batter.

With the Cincinnati Reds boasting one of the better starting rotations in baseball, the bullpen just has to be good, not great. In fact, provided we see a return to form from Raisel Iglesias, the Reds bullpen has the capability to be one of the best in the National League.

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Michael Lorenzen showed what he was capable of last season. Robert Stephenson excelled once he was removed from the starting rotation. Amir Garrett was dominant during the first half of the season, and we know how good Raisel Iglesias can be. The question is; can those four play their best baseball over the course of an entire season?