Should Reds fans be concerned about Graham Ashcraft's late-season regression?

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft. / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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Graham Ashcraft was not part of the 2022 Cincinnati Reds Opening Day roster, but it didn't take long for the right-hander to prove that he belonged.

After fellow rookie pitcher Connor Overton suffered a back injury that would sidelined the starter for almost three months, Ashcraft got the call and begin his major league career on the road in Toronto.

Ashcraft's first taste of the big leagues saw the rookie hurler go 4.1 innings while allowing two runs on four hits. Not too shabby for a first-year starter in his debut on the road. In fact, Ashcraft's first seven starts were very impressive. But after that, the right-hander appeared to hit a wall.

Should Reds fans be concerned about Graham Ashcraft's 2nd-half regression?

Through the first seven games of his rookie season, Graham Ashcraft went 4-1 with a 3.27 ERA. Ashcraft is more of a contact pitcher, so fans should not expect his strikeout numbers to be through the roof. Ashcraft had a 27 punch outs through his first 41.1 innings pitched in the major leagues.

Most impressive, perhaps, was Ashcraft's minuscule 4.1% walk-rate. While many rookie struggle to keep runners off the bases, that didn't seem to be of any concern for Ashcraft.

But once opposing batters started to recognize how Ashcraft worked on the mound, there was a change in their approach. Ashcraft's batting average against through the first seven games was just .235. But over his final 12 starts, opposing batters were crushing Ashcraft's stuff to the the tune of a .307 batting average against.

Over his final 12 appearances in 2022, Graham Ashcraft walked batters at nearly double the rate he had during the previous seven games and saw his ERA jump to nearly 6.00. While Ashcraft would consistently give manager David Bell everything he had in the tank, the numbers don't lie.

Ashcraft's performance down the stretch was even worse. After a stint on the IL due to a biceps injury, Ashcraft posted an ERA of 12.00 over his final three starts. The 24-year-old had as many walks (7) as strikeouts.

So should Reds fans be concerned over Graham Ashcraft's second-half woes? The 35 innings that Ashcraft pitched at Triple-A before making his big league debut cannot be ignored.

Ashcraft threw 111 innings in 2021, and between stops at Chattanooga, Louisville, and Cincinnati this past season, the right-hander logged 143.1 innings. Let's hope that Ashcraft's struggles down the stretch were due to fatigue and not something mechanical. If that's the case, however, Ashcraft has some work do to over the offseason.

Next. Way-too-early Reds 2023 Opening Day roster predictions. dark