Sophomore jinx has contaminated Reds pitcher Graham Ashcraft

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft / David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

First, it was Hunter Greene. Then, Nick Lodolo fell victim. Now, the sophomore slump has officially contaminated Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft.

Ashcraft had, perhaps, his worst outing of the season on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. The right-hander made it five innings and allowed seven runs on 10 hits, including two home runs.

This marks back-to-back starts in which Ashcraft has surrendered 10 hits. Not only are teams making contact, but they're making hard contact.

Sophomore jinx has contaminated Reds pitcher Graham Ashcraft.

Graham Ashcraft, through the first five games of the 2023 season, was arguably the best starting pitcher on the Cincinnati Reds staff. Ashcraft was 2-0 with a 2.10 ERA and allowed just 20 hits while striking out 24 batters over 30 innings of work.

Over his last five games, however, Ashcraft is 0-3 with with a 10.03 ERA and has seen opposing batters record 38 base knocks in less than 24 innings of work.

The biggest difference isn't just that the opposition is making contact, but they're making hard contact. According to FanGraphs, in those first five starts, Ashcraft's hard-hit rate was 31.3-percent. But, over the last five games, Ashcraft posted a 42.7-percent hard-hit rate.

Reds starter Graham Ashcraft has become a "two-pitcher" pitcher.

This is a recipe for disaster for a contact pitcher like Graham Ashcraft. Throughout all of last season, Ashcraft's hard-hit rate (36.3-percent) was right in line with what Reds fans saw earlier this season.

The other issue that raised it's ugly head on Tuesday night was Ashcraft's reliance on just two pitches. If the Cincinnati faithful are going to pick on Hunter Greene for being a so-called "two-pitch" pitcher, then Ashcraft deserves the same level of criticism.

According to Baseball Savant, Ashcraft just twice last night while relying heavily (58-percent of his pitches) on his cutter. Ashcraft did not go to his sinker once during his previous start at Colorado and only twice against the Miami Marlins on May 12th.

It's certainly not time to panic, Reds Country. Sure, it's a bit unnerving to see three of your best players struggling so much in Year 2, but making adjustments are part of the game. If we're still talking about this in August, then it's a problem.

Next. 5 players the Reds gave up on way too soon. dark