2012 Post-season / 2012 Reds

Roster Questions, Part 4: Last Pitcher In

There are two bullpen battles on the postseason roster. We covered the battle for long-relief a few days ago. Now it’s time to talk about who the last man in should be. Chad Dotson bravely tackles the case for Logan Ondrusek. Chris Garber argues that it should be J.J. Hoover, and I explain why it should be whoever loses the long-relief competition.

Logan Ondrusek

I think it’s safe to say that the general editorial position of Redleg Nation is that Logan Ondrusek probably has no business being on the postseason roster. His walk rate is the highest of anyone on the team who has pitched a substantial number of innings (other than Arredondo; their walk rates are roughly the same), and he compounds the problem by an inability to strike anyone out. (Ondrusek’s K rate is lower than any other reliever in the conversation). Plus, he gives up more homers than the other relief pitchers.

Let it never be said that I run from a challenge. It’s my responsibility to make the case for Ondrusek (and if you want to see a real challenge, wait until tomorrow, when I argue in favor of Wilson Valdez). Here goes…

To begin, let’s acknowledge that Ondrusek towers over the competition. Literally; the guy is 6’8″. That counts for something, right? Plus, I had the opportunity to meet him once, and he’s a really nice guy. Very grateful for the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues.

Ondrusek has been a reliably consistent member of the Reds bullpen for three years now. His 2012 ERA of 3.31 is in the same neighborhood as his rookie ERA of 3.68 or last year’s mark of 3.23. Ondrusek’s ERA+ this year is 128, which is not bad. (Yes, I know ERA and ERA+ are not great ways to judge relievers. Do I get points for the effort?)

The best argument for why Ondrusek will be on the roster is that Dusty Baker has shown signs of great trust in the big guy (although that may have waned lately). Ondrusek has pitched in some tight spots for the Reds, late in games, and he pitched in two of the three playoff games for Cincinnati back in 2010. Dusty hasn’t hesitated to give him the ball. He might want Ondrusek on the roster.

Okay, I give up. Yes, that’s the best I can do.

J.J. Hoover

J.J. Hoover should absolutely be on the post-season roster. His strikeout rate (9.76 per 9 IP) is better than anyone but Chapman and Marshall. His walk rate is comparatively a little weaker, but still better than Ondrusek and Arredondo. In fact, all of his numbers rank him in the second tier of Reds relievers – just behind the two great lefties.

More than just performance, Hoover is currently filling a key role in the Reds bullpen. Since he returned from AAA in late August, Hoover has pitched in 8 games. In seven of them, he’s entered in the 8th, 9th, or extra innings. And in 3 of his last 4 outings, Hoover entered either in a tie game or to protect a 1-run lead. Leaving him off the post-season roster would mean slotting a new guy into Hoover’s current role. I don’t think that’s going to happen – and it certainly shouldn’t.

The Last Long Man

I don’t know who this will be. Really. I see reasons to keep Sam LeCure, Mike Leake, and Alfredo Simon. It will be very interesting to see who loses that battle. But then, I don’t really think anyone should lose that battle. All three of those pitchers are better than Ondrusek or Hoover. I’m not even going to pretend that Ondrusek has a case. He doesn’t; if he makes the roster, it’s through misguided loyalty.

No, it’s Hoover who should be the last man cut. He’s had a good season, but right now, we’re talking about 27 2/3 major league innings. His ERA is good, but the advanced metrics don’t believe it. It’s on thing to disregard the advanced metrics with someone like Arroyo or Cueto who have beat them for several years. It’s another thing to do it based off 27 innings.

LeCure and Simon have both pitched twice the innings Hoover has. They have good ERAs and good peripherals. Both can also easily go multiple innings. Hoover simply doesn’t compare with them.

Leake’s numbers aren’t as pretty, but as I mentioned several days ago, if you can start in the majors, you can almost certainly relieve in the majors. The biggest issue here is the role change, but right now, we’re talking about the last man in the bullpen. I can’t believe the role change matters all that much. Also, Leake strikes me as some who, like Arroyo early in his career, wouldn’t be bothered by shifting roles as needed. And then there is the added value Leake brings as a potential emergency starter. Pitchers are so fragile, it’s hard for me to imagine the Reds carrying only four verifiable starters on the playoff roster.

Certainly, I take my hat off to J.J. Hoover. This was a great debut campaign, and I look forward to seeing him in the bullpen next year. I just don’t want to see him there in the playoffs.

Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of this series when we look at the scrum for bench spots.

19 thoughts on “Roster Questions, Part 4: Last Pitcher In

  1. The options:
    Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Arroyo, Leake
    Chapman, Marshall, Broxton, Hoover, LeCure, Simon, Ondrusek, Arredondo, Cingrani

    Redmond and Villareal are also on the 40 man roster, but they’re not in this 11 man conversation (and we are all assuming it’s 11, right?). I’m predicting that Cingrani, Ondrusek, and Hoover will be left off, but I’m hoping it’s Cingrani, Ondrusek, and Simon. My preference is that Hoover has been used, and performed pretty well, under higher pressure so I’d rather see him on this team. But my take is that Simon has been on the main 25 man roster all year, and performed better than we all expected, so he gets the Reds nod.

  2. @CFD3000: Yeah, I’ve stayed away from mention of Cingrani on purpose. I think there’s a chance he could contribute, but he’s thrown a bunch of innings this year, and I assume the Reds won’t want him throwing many more. I think the call-up was more a reward for a great season. Sort of letting him know he’s in the plans for the future.

  3. It would be …awkward to have a September callup in the bullpen for the postseason while guys that have been contributing well all season are left at home. I don’t understand some “player’s manager” concepts, but I think that is one that will be followed somewhat.

    I don’t see what you are getting out of Ondrusek or Arredondo that we aren’t getting out of Leake, especially at the plate. I think leaving any of the first six bullpen guys CFD3000 mentioned would be a crime.

    However if the “player’s manager” follows it to the letter, the guy who was demoted to AAA midseason will likely be left out and Ondru the Giant will be in.

  4. If Dotson were a historian and Ondrusek were a Roman emperor, Dotson would be dead for damning him with faint praise. I hope that he offers an equally weak argument for Valdez tomorrow. It’s pretty exciting for such strong pitchers to be so obviously inferior for this roster. I am hoping to see Leake on the team in the postseason. Maybe only for the emotional reason that he’s been an important member of this team, maybe because he can do so many different things, maybe for his stirrups. Hard to say.

    • If Dotson were a historian and Ondrusek were a Roman emperor, Dotson would be dead for damning him with faint praise.I hope that he offers an equally weak argument for Valdez tomorrow.It’s pretty exciting for such strong pitchers to be so obviously inferior for this roster.I am hoping to see Leake on the team in the postseason.Maybe only for the emotional reason that he’s been an important member of this team, maybe because he can do so many different things, maybe for his stirrups.Hard to say.

      How about: All of the above?

    • @mchapman:

      If Dotson were a historian and Ondrusek were a Roman emperor, Dotson would be dead for damning him with faint praise.

      Ha! I agree that it will and should be Hoover over Ondrusek. That said, Ondrusek has been a consistent contributer to the team for several years now. In a world where there was no Hoover. I’d be extremely happy with Ondrusek as the last member of the bullpen going into the playoffs.

  5. I think we are underestimating dusty bakers ability and propensity to overstuff the team with veteranyness. With that in mind, I think the team will be:

    Cueto
    Latos
    Arroyo
    Bailey

    Leake
    Ondrusek
    LeCure
    Simon
    Broxton
    Marshall
    Chapman

    Hanigan
    Votto
    Phillips
    Rolen
    Cozart
    Ludwick
    Stubbs
    Bruce

    Navarro
    Frazier
    Cairo
    Valdez
    Paul
    Heisey

  6. @cliff: I’d find that roster pretty surprising. Especially for its omission of Arredondo who, if we’re talking about ML experience, has more than Simon, Ondrusek, and LeCure.

  7. @Jason Linden: @cliff: Cliff, with the inclusion of Arredondo and the exclusion of Simon, I believe you may be absolutely correct regarding the actually lineup selected for the NLDS playoff.

    If this is the actual lineup, we will root wholeheartedly for a Reds’ victory in the playoffs, but I truly don’t believe this lineup provides the Reds with the best options or opportunities.

  8. @BloodyHo: One of the things I think is important to remember is that, fun as these discussions about the roster have been, we’re talking about really marginal players here. Given the off days and the playoff-tendency to play starters 9 innings, every day, it’s highly unlikely the 23rd-25th men on the team have any meaningful impact regardless of who they are.

    We fans may not agree with what the Reds do here (we almost certainly won’t agree with all of it), but it’s probably almost completely irrelevant anyway.

    • @Jason Linden:

      Given the off days and the playoff-tendency to play starters 9 innings, every day, it’s highly unlikely the 23rd-25th men on the team have any meaningful impact regardless of who they are. We fans may not agree with what the Reds do here (we almost certainly won’t agree with all of it), but it’s probably almost completely irrelevant anyway.

      Jason, I absolutely agree with you on this point.

  9. I think everyone knows why Valdez will be on the roster. Not to start but for a fill in situation. A bunt or double switch or injury. He won’t be asked to hit.

  10. @musicjoker319: I agree with this. No one loves the idea of Valdez batting, but Didi doesn’t have enough of a track record that we should feel any more comfortable with him. Either one of them will be limitted to the situations you list.

  11. I know its foolish…and disloyal…and a possible risk…but just watching Gregorius play…if Cozart went down or Phillips…I would not feel worried in the slightest to see him come in and play D. After watching that grounder go through Valdez’ wickets to end that game a few weeks back, I couldn’t bear to let that happen again. He’s perhaps the best looking defensive shortstop I’ve seen play in Cincinnati since Barry Larkin’s prime.

  12. Hoover, I think he’s earned it by pitching well. I don’t think Leake or Cingrani have pitched out of the bullpen enough to earn a bullpen spot and I think Arredondo and Ondrusek have both pitched themselves out of playoff spots just by pitching so badly. Why carry guys like Arredondo or Ondrusek if the team can’t trust them to throw strikes or get batters out? What role would they serve? I think they’d be pretty useless.

    Chapman, Broxton, Marshall, Hoover, LeCure, Simon… plus Devin Mesoraco and everyone else Cliff listed above.

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