*All stats through games played on September 8th
If the playoffs started today, the Reds would have to travel to Pittsburgh for a one-game, do or die elimination playoff game. While there is still time for the Reds to make a run at the division title and avoid playing in the wild card game, there still has to be preparation for who would pitch in the wild card game. This single decision will be the biggest one of the season, and arguably one of the biggest decisions in Dusty Baker’s career.
Here is the case for each of the Reds starters:
14-5, 3.02 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 175 K, 51 BB, 4.1 WAR
Mat Latos is having a great season for the Reds. He has simply been the ace-type pitcher that the Reds traded for in December of 2011. His 3.02 ERA is tied for 10th best in the NL, and his 4.1 WAR ranks 9th best.
The best thing Latos has done this season is avoiding giving up big run totals. He has only allowed more than 4 ER in 2 of his 29 starts. In 18 of Latos 29 starts, he has allowed 2 ER or less. His consistency has been the cornerstone of his 2013 success.
2013 vs. Cardinals: 5 GS, 3-1, 2.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 20 K, 5 BB
2013 vs. Pirates: 4 GS, 1-1, 3.57 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 27 K, 10 BB
Latos has been very good down the stretch. Since August 1st, Latos has a 2.04 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, with 33 K and 8 BB.
The one thing that would scare you about pitching Latos in a do or die game was Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. Latos had a chance to pitch in a do or die playoff game last year, and failed. After a few questionable strike/ball calls, Latos let his emotions get the best of him, and ended up giving a grand slam to the NL MVP. You would hope that a year later would equal a more mature Latos, who would deal with that adversity better, but that was only 11 months ago.
10-10, 3.39 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 190 K, 42 BB, 3.7 WAR
Homer Bailey is having the best season of his career. His 10-10 record is not nearly indicative of just how good he has been, but more indicative of his team worst 3.93 run support in his starts. Bailey’s 1.10 WHIP ranks 10th best in the NL, his 190 strikeouts are tied for 4th best, and his 4.52 K/BB ranks 5th best.
Bailey has been one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball at times. That is obvious from his two no-hitters in the last 12 months, but it goes further than that.
Homer is one of only six pitchers in all of the MLB this season to have seven or more starts with a Game Score of 75 or higher: Clayton Kershaw (10), Justin Masterson (8), Matt Harvey (8), Jose Fernandez (8), Adam Wainwright (7), Homer Bailey (7). Bailey has blown out the rest of the Reds starters in starts with a Game Score higher than 75: Bailey (7), Arroyo (3), Leake (2), Cingrani (2), Latos (1), Cueto (1).
Bailey is also one of just five MLB starters who have seven or more starts going 7.0 innings or more, while not allowing an earned run: Clayton Kershaw (8), Hiroki Kuroda (8), Francisco Liriano (7), Jose Fernandez (7) Homer Bailey (7). Among Reds starters with 7.0+ IP and 0 ER: Bailey (7), Arroyo (4), Leake (3), Latos (3), Cingrani (1).
The issue with Bailey has been consistency. As mentioned above, Latos has only allowed more than 4 ER in two starts this year. Bailey has allowed more than 4 ER in four starts this year.
Like Latos, Bailey has been exceptional down the stretch. Since July 1st, he has a 2.83 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, with 88 K and 17 BB in 13 starts. Over his last three starts, Bailey has really impressed, dominating the Cardinals and Dodgers: 21.1 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 24 K (0.85 ERA)
August 28 at St. Louis: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K
September 3 vs. St. Louis: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K
September 9 vs. LA Dodgers: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 9 K
If the Reds were to play the Pirates in the wild card game, I think Homer Bailey might intimidate them. He did throw a no-hitter against them just 12 months ago.
13-10, 3.62 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 112 K, 27 BB, 3.1 WAR
I don’t believe in giving someone a start in a do or die game out of sentiment. With that said, if there was anyone who deserved to pitch in this game because of what he has done for this franchise, it would be Bronson Arroyo. He has been Mr. Reliable for the Reds, and is having the best year of his career since his first with the Reds in 2006. Arroyo’s 1.13 WHIP ranks 13th best in the NL, his 27 BB are the second fewest among NL pitcher who qualify for the ERA title, and 71% of his starts have been quality starts (most on the Reds, and 9th best in the NL).
In the playoffs last season, Bronson Arroyo was incredible. Even his start in the disappointing 2010 NLDS vs. the Phillies was pretty good:
Game 2 NLDS vs. Giants 2012: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K
Game 2 NLDS vs. Phillies 2010: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
Arroyo’s start in the 2012 NLDS was one of the greatest ever by a Reds pitcher in the postseason. He was the first Reds pitcher ever to pitch seven or more scoreless innings in the postseason allowing 1 hit or less. Arroyo was just the 5th pitcher in MLB postseason history to pitch 7.0+ scoreless innings, not allowing a run, allowed 1 hit or less, and allowed 1 walk or less. He joined this incredible list:
Bronson Arroyo (Reds): 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K (Game 2 of the 2012 NLDS)
Roy Halladay (Phillies): 9.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K (Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS)
Jim Long (Red Sox): 9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K (Game 2 of the 1967 World Series)
Don Larsen (Yankees): 9.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K (Game 5 of the 1956 World Series)
Claude Passeau (Cubs): 9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K (Game 3 of the 1945 World Series)
12-6, 3.46 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 108 K, 42 BB, 2.8 WAR
Mike Leake is having the best year of his career. He has his lowest ERA and WHIP of any season, and has already tied a career high in wins. Between May and July, Leake was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. In May-July, Leake posted a 2.12 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in 21 starts. Once the calendar switched to August though, Leake went south in a hurry. Since August 1st, Leake has a 6.12 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 7 starts.
Mike Leake has made major strides in 2013, but there is absolutely no way he should get consideration for the wild card game. Don’t forget, Leake posted this line in Game 4 of the NLDS last season: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 2 HR, 2 BB, 1 K.
7-3, 2.80 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 1.09 WHIP, 119 K, 42 BB, 2.6 WAR
Cingrani has been absolutely incredible in 2013. After the Reds lost Johnny Cueto for nearly the entire season, Cingrani has stepped in and been one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball.
Cingrani’s NL ranks among pitchers with 100+ IP: 2.80 ERA (7th), 1.08 WHIP (t-9th), 10.40 K/9 (1st), 60.0 Average Game Score (t-6th). He has been incredible, but the major knock on him is his inability to pitch deep into games. In 9 of his 17 starts, he has failed to go farther than 5.2 innings. He simply uses too many pitches.
Based on Leake’s struggles down the stretch, and Cingrani’s struggles to pitch deep into game, both of those guys should be removed from the conversation (I do think that Cingrani would be a great weapon out of the bullpen for this game). That leaves us with Arroyo, Bailey, and Latos. When you look at the cases listed above, any of those three pitchers are worthy of this game, and they would all be good candidates.
If it were my decision, I would go with David Dewitt “Homer” Bailey Jr. This man was born to pitch in a game like this. We have seen over recent years that the big game does not intimidate Bailey. He thrives on the big stage. He absolutely dominated the Cardinals in his last two starts, and he no-hit the Pirates just 12 months ago. He was stellar in the postseason last year. Bailey flat out gives you the best chance of taking the mound and throwing seven shutout innings.