Cincinnati Reds: A bounce-back season from Raisel Iglesias is essential

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 15: Raisel Iglesias #26 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 15: Raisel Iglesias #26 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Raisel Iglesias must return to form if the Reds hope to be contenders.

Raisel Iglesias was atrocious last season. One of the most reliable closers in the game turned into a liability in 2019. After locking down 57 saves between 2017-2018 and owning a 2.43 ERA, the Cincinnati Reds closer lost 12 games and put up a career-worst 4.16 ERA. Iglesias is one of the highest-paid players ($9M in 2020) on the team, and needs to perform like it.

Now, I will fully admit that 100% of the blame cannot lie with Iglesias. Reds skipper David Bell employed a new tactic in 2019, using Iglesias in an unfamiliar role. Bell chose not to use Iggy exclusively as the team’s closer, but rather as Cincinnati’s ace out of the bullpen. This is not a new concept, but it was new to Iglesias.

Iglesias, who was used to coming on late in games with the lead, came in 19 times when the game was tied and on eight different occasions when the Reds trailed. The numbers are astounding. In the 19 games in which Iggy entered the ballgame with the score tied, opposing batters owned a .901 OPS against him.

While that stat is sure to raise some eyebrows, when Iglesias entered those eight contests in which Cincinnati trailed, the right-hander was lit up to the tune of .333 batting average against and opponents put up a whopping 1.059 OPS. In the 48 games in which the Reds had a lead when Iglesias toed the rubber, he allowed just a .205 batting average against.

So, one of two things has to happen heading into 2020; Raisel Iglesias adapts to the role of Reds bullpen ace, or David Bell changes his philosophy. I lean toward the former rather than the latter. This isn’t basketball, where games are won or lost in the final minutes. If Iglesias is truly the best reliever Cincinnati has, he needs to show up when he’s called upon to help the team.

The good news for David Bell is that the front office brought in an additional arm in Pedro Strop to help take some pressure off Iglesias. Strop has experience in late-game situations, so don’t be surprised to see the former Chicago Cubs closer earn a few opportunities in the ninth inning.

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Iglesias had a career-best 31.9% strikeout-rate according to FanGraphs. He also put up a 7.5% walk-rate, his best since 2015. But, the home run ball sunk him. Iggy surrendered 12 home runs in 2019, the same number as 2018, except in five fewer innings. That has to change in 2020, or Bell will have to turn to someone else late in games.