Cincinnati Reds: New rule could boost Jesse Biddle’s chances

With MLB’s newest rule requiring a pitcher to face at least three batters, non-roster invitee Jesse Biddle could find a home in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen.

Jesse Biddle was a first-round selection of the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2010 and pitched very well for the Atlanta Braves in 2018. A terrible start to last season saw Biddle designated for assignment and play for three teams in 2019. With a new rule requiring pitchers to face at least three batters, Biddle’s chances of making the Cincinnati Reds out of camp may have improved.

In case you missed it, Major League Baseball has instituted a new rule for the 2020 season. Each pitcher must face a minimum of three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning. The rule is designed to speed up the game, with less interruptions due to pitching changes.

While I understand the idea behind the rule change, I’m personally not a fan. The rule will likely mean the end of the LOOGY, a pitcher who was brought in specifically to face a left-handed batter. We saw the Cincinnati Reds sign a LOOGY last winter when Zach Duke was brought on board.

As of right now, the only left-hander virtually assured of a spot in the Cincinnati bullpen is Amir Garrett. The Reds have a few other left-handed relievers on the roster, but Josh Smith and Cody Reed are far from a sure-thing. Reed, however, is out of minor-league options and would be subject to waivers if he didn’t make the team out of spring training.

The Reds also signed two lefties to minor-league contracts with invites to spring training. One is Brooks Raley, who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2014. The other is Jesse Biddle who had success two years ago, but put up an 8.36 ERA in 30 games last season. Biddle’s WHIP in 2019 was 2.286 and he only struck out 26 batters in 28 innings of work.

The 2019 version of Jesse Biddle would have a hard time latching on with a Triple-A team. But, the version of Jesse Biddle who was on the Braves squad in 2018 would be a welcome addition to the Reds bullpen. That year, Biddle went 6-1 with a 3.11 ERA in 60 games. The lefty struck out 67 batters in 63.2 innings.

Perhaps most impressive, however, regarding Biddle’s 2018 campaign was his success against right-handed batters. Believe it or not, Biddle had reverse-spilts, meaning his performance against right-handed hitters was actually better than it was against lefties.

In 2018, Biddle faced 107 left-handed hitters. Lefties hit .253 off Biddle with four doubles, four home runs and a .751 OPS. However, when right-handed hitters stepped into the box against Jesse Biddle, they hit just .194 with an OPS of just .586. For comparison’s sake, Garrett allowed a .202 batting average against lefties last season.

Biddle’s struggles last season went well beyond left-handed and right-handed splits, but he still fared better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. These reverse-splits could play into Biddle’s favor if he’s able to harness the level of success he had in 2018.

Next: 5 questions the Reds must answer during spring training

Jesse Biddle will be in a battle. The Cincinnati Reds bullpen already has five, and maybe even six players assured of a spot. The fight for the final two spots in the pen will be intense, but given that Garrett is the only southpaw likely to be guaranteed a spot, Biddle is likely to get an extended look during spring training.

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