2012 Post-season / 2012 Reds

Roster Questions, Part 3: Who Goes Long?

The battle for the role of long man is a complicated one. There are at least three pitchers vying for the role, and each has his strengths and weaknesses. For today’s post, I’ll be writing a short paragraph in favor of two of the candidates with other RN writers handling the rest of the load (special thanks to Greg Dafler for the double duty in this post).

Alfredo Simon (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Alfredo Simon

I actually had Simon as a sure thing back in the initial post, but there was a bit of a revolt, and I’m bowing to pressure. I still don’t see how the Reds leave him off. He has a 2.38 ERA and a 3.01 FIP. He’s been relied on to go more than two innings often this year with 16 appearances in which he threw at least two frames. He’s not the greatest reliever in the world, but he is a good option for a long man.

But there’s a case to be made against him, of course, and for that we turn to Greg Dafler:

Simon has appeared in 33 games this season. He does have an impressively low 2.38 ERA. However, he rarely appears in any close games, the types of game situations you would expect, or at least hope for, every night in the playoffs. Simon has only been called to action in 5 games where the Reds had a lead, typically a lead of 5 or more runs. He entered the game 24 times when the Reds are down, usually by 4 or more runs. He’s the last man into the game in extra innings, having made 4 extra inning appearances. Simon has a 1-2 record in those extra inning games with the 1 win in the recent Reds-Pirates game, where he escaped a 14th inning bases-loaded jam. In fact, most of his outings lead to some sort of scoring threat. Of his 33 appearances, Simon has pitched 5 perfect outings.

Sam LeCure (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Sam LeCure

Again,we turn to Mr. Dafler on why Sam LeCure should be on the team. This is a contrast of LeCure and Simon, but it does make the case for Sam very nicely:

Comparing the two relievers, LeCure:

- Has the higher K/9 rate (9.3 vs. 7.6)
– allows fewer baserunners per 9 (10.9 vs. 13.3)
– has a lower OPS against (.636 vs .710)
– is having a much stronger second half of the season, and
– makes appearances in higher leverage situations.

I believe LeCure clearly has a role on the playoff roster, and could be used in long relief. His numbers merit a spot, and he has pitched to as many as 10 batters in a single appearance this year. His longest outing in terms of official innings pitched is 2.1 innings. Is that enough “long relief” in a short series with plenty of off days and 7 relievers on the roster?

Now, here’s Chris Garber with LeCase against LeCure:

While LeCure is an excellent right-handed reliever who strikes batters out, the Reds already have Jose Arredondo in that role. This is the long man’s spot, and Sam isn’t stretched out. He hasn’t had a single outing of over 2.1 IP all season. In contrast, Simon has had five outings at least that long in the second half of the season. Mike Leake, of course, would be able to pitch as many innings as needed.

Another relative weakness is that LeCure has a reverse platoon split this season. Right-handers hit .245/.306/.363 against him, compared to .209/.291/.308. As a situational reliever, that can be useful. But when you’re pitching the 5th and 6th innings (or earlier), opposing teams are unlikely to burn their best LH pinch hitter. So LeCure is likely to see more RH hitters, against whom he’s relatively less effective.

Mike Leake (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Mike Leake

I think, frankly, the case for Mike Leake is an easy one to make. First, starters nearly always see an extreme drop in ERA when they move to the bullpen (which is why an average starter is more valuable than a very good reliever). So you can take his already solid stats and make them very, very pretty. True talent-wise, as a reliever, Leake’s ERA should figure to hang right around 3.00 or a bit under. Second, and I think most importantly, you don’t want to be left without a backup true starter in the playoffs. What if something does go wrong? I guess LeCure could step in, but it’s been a while since he was a starter, and he was never as good as Leake. Mike Leake provides an excellent option if another starter pulls up lame or if the Reds end up in one of those absurd million-inning games that happen from time to time.

And now, for the case against Mike Leake, we turn to Richard Fitch:

With a consensus that Homer Bailey belongs as the #4 starter, the only thing left to consider for Mike Leake is should he a long man in the bullpen at the expense of LeCure or Simon.

The answer is a resounding NO. When it comes to the subject of roles, particularly where lineup construction is concerned, I find it an overrated concern. Professional ballplayers are not china dolls. However, when it comes to pitchers, that’s another story althogether.

I’m unconvinced that Leake can make the physical and mental transition necessary to come out of the bullpen on the fly. There is simply too much at stake. If this bullpen had significant weaknesses, one could argue for Mike on the grounds that he’s a bulldog—fearless and game for anything. However, this bullpen has been nails all year. The insertion of Leake adds uncertainty where there was none before. He’s also the type of pitcher that relies on great control to succeed. When he doesn’t hit his spots, he can lose it quickly. LeCure throws strikes—on demand. Why would we want to trade a known for an unknown at the most crucial point in the season?

We wouldn’t.

Looking at all three options, I think this might be the toughest call the Reds have to make. One of these guys (at least) is going to be left out in the cold, which is a shame because all three have pitched really well and would make many playoff squads.

17 thoughts on “Roster Questions, Part 3: Who Goes Long?

  1. I have no statistical analysis, i just wanted to say LeCure gets my vote simply because i dont think there is a situation that can rattle him. We’re hoping for and expecting close games and high leverage situations, based on the eye test alone He’s well suited to relieve effectively without the situation going to his head. He’s kinda has this Ricky Vaughn feel to him(Without the eye problem).

  2. LeCure shouldn’t even be in this discussion. He is on the post season roster and his roll will be a high leverage position after the 6th inning. When we discuss a long reliever in the playoffs, this is exactly what we want, someone who comes into the game early, due to and injury or implosion by the starter, and eats up innings and finishes the roll of the starter. During the regular season, this role is seldom used or necessary and is filled with a seldom used innings eater. Such a players doesn’t make the post season roster. This is a no-brainer for Leake. There will be a couple of additional positions available in the bullpen and open to competition, but Leake should be the designated long man in the bullpen. In addition, Leake can provide additional offensive utility and flexibility to augment the bench after the 5th inning when his pitching roll would not be impacted.

  3. If you can only take 2 of these 3, I would go with LeCure and Leake. Personally, I would leave Ondrusek and Arredondo off the post-season roster and include Simon on the roster. Bringing Arredondo into a game is similar to 2011 when the Reds brought in CoCo Cordero. You just never know what you are going to get.

    • If you can only take 2 of these 3,I would go with LeCure and Leake.Personally, I would leave Ondrusek and Arredondo off the post-season roster and include Simon on the roster.Bringing Arredondo into a game is similar to 2011 when the Reds brought in CoCo Cordero.You just never know what you are going to get.

      I pretty much agree with this. If Arredondo was kept strictly to pitch to left-handed hitters, I maybe could see that. But we know that’s not how he’s going to be used. I’d take all three of these ahead of Arredondo used against RH and Ondrusek.

  4. I don’t know why LeCure is in the mix for long man. I think he has exceeded that role, and can be relied on for later innings, more pressured situations. In my mind he’s no worse than 5th in the pecking order of relievers after Chapman, Broxton, Marshall, and Hoover.

    I like Simon and feel he has done a pretty good job for us, especially considering he was a waiver wire pick-up. It was a great move by Walt to snag him. I feel he’s been in this role all year, and the playoffs aren’t the time to begin trying others at new roles, and that’s what I feel would be done if Leake is on the roster. If I recall correctly Leake didn’t throw very well out of the pen in 2010 when he was moved there. I would stick with Simon for this role.

    Personally, I would like to see the argument between Arredondo and Cingrani. I think that could be an interesting debate as Arredondo is often used for lefties anyway.

  5. The great thing about LeCure is that if Arredondo has, ahem, control problems, Sam is right there to come in and throw strikes. I can’t emphasize the importance of having somebody who you know will find the strike zone in a pinch in a playoff game.

  6. I think LeCure is developing into the role that Ondrusek and Arrendondo had early in the year. With that being said, all three here should make the roster and either Ondrusek or Arrendondo should not be on the roster.

  7. Put me in the camp of not wanting Leake in the long role, unless they do it right now and he gets a chance to adapt to it before the playoffs.

    Simon has done the role all season, and done fairly well at it.

    LeCure is more useful later in the game.

  8. I agree with BloodyHo in that with a limited roster in the playoffs, felxibility is key and leake can do a lot that Simon could not. I think LeCure should be on without a doubt. If LeCure gets hit, he gets hit, but he will not give up free bases which drive me crazy while watching games in the later innings. Leake can hit for himself if you need to bring him in to close out an inning without having to pinch hit. You do not have to leave someone out there for an extra batter to see if they can close out an inning because they are do up in the next inning. It provides Dusty with a little more flexibility on offense and he can be used to pinch run on days he is unavailable to pitch thus increasing his value to the team.

    Side bar question: If we win game 1 of the series on the road, does anyone think we should start Bailey in game 2 given his large home and road splits? Is that too unconventional for the reds and Dusty? Is it even a good idea? Just throwing it out there.

  9. I think Dafler made the most telling point of all, and something I’ve been thinking for a while, too, which is: There’s nothing in the way the team has utilized Alfredo Simon that indicates to me that they consider him an integral part of this bullpen. He’s done fairly well, better than anyone expected, in fact. But he’s the odd man out.

  10. 11 pitchers – 4 starters is 7 bullpen. Chapman, Broxton, LeCure, and Marshall are the four best options. Arrendondo and Leake are also good options. I’d leave Ondrusek off the roster. That leaves one spot between Hoover and Simon. That’s a difficult one for me to decide. I like them both.

  11. I’d take Leake over Simon. I already outlined a lot of Simon’s negatives above. He also seems to have a limit of about 2-3 innings. I’d expect in a playoff situation that either guy could pitch to about the same results. If you want a long-reliever, I’d take the guy who could go 5+, if necessary. Plus, Leake is part of this team long-term. Unless you expect Simon would be a solid bet to outperform Leake, then I’d give Leake the playoff experience.

  12. I like Leake, LeCure, and Hoover. Drop Ondrusek, and keep Simon out. Simon’s good, but Leake can do far more for longer, and can hit. Anybody catch that fake bunt for a single a week ago? And Ondrusek just scares me. A lot.

  13. Despite my typically-persuasive argument against his inclusion, I think LeCure should be, and is a lock for the roster.

    Leake is the guy who should be out, IMO. Mostly because he’s the only one they’re asking to fill a different role. If Simon had been mediocre, I’d be willing to talk, but he’s been great. Best case scenario, Leake pitches as well as Simon has.

    Leake’s made 5 relief appearances in his career (spread over late 2010 and early 2011). He has a 17.36 ERA. Opponents hit .519/.581/.889 against him. Eighteen baserunners in 4.2 IP. Yeah, it’s old, and it’s a miniscule sample size. But it’s not a reason TO keep him.

    And the “Leake can hit” argument sure better not be relevant in the playoffs. If your long man is hitting, it means the game is hopelessly out of reach. Whether you have Mike Leake (career .306 OBP) hitting, or Sam LeCure (.278 in the minors), or even Alfredo Simon (.222 minor league OBP), it’s not going to make a whit of difference.

  14. Again, I don’t think we can go wrong here. Each brings something to the table. While I would have to say Lecure and Simon would probably be the better pitchers with experience coming out of the pen, Leake could also provide another pinch hitter and pinch runner. So, as far as Leake goes or not, I believe that would come with if we believe we have enough batting off the bench or not. I believe we will, so I believe Leake will be left off. As far as Simon and Lecure, again, it’s either/or. I believe Lecure would be more of an unknown in a WS against the AL than Simon would. But, I believe Simon has better stuff than Lecure has, that could get us to the WS. I tend to go with that in times of question. Vote: Simon

  15. I think Alfredo Simon and Sam LeCure have both earned a spot on the postseason roster, no question about it. Discussion about leaving one off is just a tribute to how much the team’s bullpen has improved in recent years.

    Leake, he’s pitched out of the rotation all season and we don’t know what to expect coming out of the bullpen, but I doubt we’d see any better than we’ve seen from Simon and LeCure. Leake was important to helping the Reds reach the playoffs but I don’t think he can help them once they’re in the playoffs. Part of being a young guy and 5th starter.

    I think Ondrusek and Arredondo’s roster spots are pretty questionable while Hoover has done a good job of earning a spot. We still don’t know how many position players (particularly Mesoraco) the team will carry, let alone how many pitchers. I think we’ll see Simon, LeCure and Hoover all on the postseason roster with Leake left off.

    The Reds starters haven’t been knocked out early often at all in 2012. Rarely have they needed a mopup man or long reliever to throw 3, 4, 5 innings. I don’t think that’s going to change, but the remote possibility of a 1 or 2 inning start seems like the main case for giving Leake a roster spot. That doesn’t make sense.

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