Cincinnati Reds: Strong bullpen is an overlooked necessity

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 21: Raisel Iglesias #26 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Bryan Woolston/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 21: Raisel Iglesias #26 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Bryan Woolston/Getty Images) /

Raisel Iglesias needs a bounce-back season for the Reds.

With a little more than two weeks left before the start of the 2020 season, much attention has been focused on the universal DH and talk of a possible four-man pitching rotation. While strong performances by the offense and starting staff will obviously be key for Cincinnati Reds this year, earning a trip to the playoffs could depend on how well the bullpen pitches.

The 2019 Reds bullpen was definitely a tale of two staffs. The first half of the 2019 season was the best of times for the bullpen. On June 20, 2019, Reds relievers had the best ERA in the NL (3.44).

Unfortunately,  the second half of the season turned into the worst of times as the bullpen began to wear down. According to FanGraphs, the Reds bullpen finished the 2019 season with the NL’s seventh-best team-ERA (4.28).

In 2020, the bullpen doesn’t need to be the best in the NL, but they definitely need to be better than seventh-best in the league. In order for the bullpen to have success, closer Raisel Iglesias must have a bounce-back year.

From 2016-2018, Iglesias was a top-notch relief pitcher and closer. During that three year span, he never had an ERA over 2.53, while giving up 22 or less runs a season. Those numbers ballooned in 2019.

Iglesias finished the season with a 4.16 ERA while giving up 31 runs. It’s concerning that he has given up 24 home runs the past two seasons when he only surrendered a total of 12 in 2016 and 2017. Hopefully, a second season under pitching Derek Johnson will help Iglesias get back on track.

In the offseason, the Reds signed veteran relief pitcher Pedro Strop to help stabilize the bullpen. In seven seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Strop had a 2.90 ERA and only gave up 26 total home runs. Considering how strongly the wind blows out in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, that’s an impressive statistic. Stop’s presence should take some pressure off Iglesias.

Amir Garrett and Michael Lorenzen are looking to build off strong 2019 seasons where they struck out 78 and 85 batters respectively. Garrett is looking to have his third season in a row of giving up less than 10 total home runs. According to MLB Insider Mark Sheldon, Lorenzen is gearing up to pitch every game this year.

The rest of the Reds bullpen could be filled out by the likes of Nate Jones, Cody Reed, Sal Romano, Lucas Sims, Robert Stephenson or Tyler Thornburg. As the team’s summer camp winds down, fans will have a much clearer picture of who’s in and who’s out.

The Reds must start fast in 2020. Next

While there are some questions about the remaining relief pitchers, it is crystal clear that in order for the Reds to have a successful year, the entire bullpen must perform at a high level. A bounce-back season from Iglesias, combined with the remainder of the relief corp playing up to their potential should yield positive results in 2020.