What's happened to Lucas Sims as 2024 downfall with Reds continues?

Lucas Sims drew a lot of criticism after Sunday's loss to the Giants.
Apr 26, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA;  Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell (25) takes the ball from Lucas Sims
Apr 26, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell (25) takes the ball from Lucas Sims / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Lucas Sims' season keeps getting worse. After giving up a walk-off ground rule double to Giants infielder Casey Schmitt on Sunday afternoon, Sims has seen his ERA rise to a miserable 6.00 in 12 innings on the year.

What's worse is that most of his expected stats suggest that he isn't getting unlucky. Sims' poor performance has been deserved. A big part of why is that Sims has been giving up a ton of hard contact, and most of those batted balls have been hit in the air.

Sims is currently running a 61.3% fly ball rate, which is good for second highest among all qualified relief pitchers. In and of itself, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. But he's also allowing an average exit velocity of 91.7 mph, which is in the bottom 7% league-wide.

Add those factors add up and you get a .531 expected slugging percentage, which puts him 376th out of 387 qualified pitchers. That's really bad, and it's also a big part of why he's allowed four home runs already this year, after allowing just five homers in 61 innings in 2023.

Can Reds reliever Lucas Sims turn his season around?

It might not be as bad as it looks. Sims was good in the shortened 2020 season, but last year is arguably the best he's pitched over a full season throughout his career. Sims was a go-to option for Reds manager David Bell in 2023 and continually came through in big spots.

Much of Sims' success last year came from limiting damage on contact and keeping the ball in the park. Yes, he allows too many walks and his K-rate is down from his peak a few years back. However, those rates aren't substantially off from where they were last year, so there is hope he can recreate some of that success.

If you look at Sims' heat maps on Statcast, you can see that the right-hander is leaving his slider up over the middle of the plate a lot more frequently than he did in 2023. Last year, Sims was able to keep it down and just off the outside corner, and that led to batters hitting .147 with a .266 slugging percentage against the pitch.

This year, Sims is either leaving the slider middle-middle or throwing it way off the plate. Batters have recognized the difference and are squaring it up, good for a .294 average with a .529 slugging percentage against it.

Sims has essentially eliminated the curveball from his arsenal, relying primarily on the slider and the four-seamer. If one of those two pitches isn't working, he doesn't have a defense against talented hitters.

If Sims can find a way to spot the slider the way he did last year, he should be able to turn his season around. Better pitch location will lead to more whiffs and better results on contact. If he can't, he and the Reds might be in for a long summer.

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