Good question:

Last season at the All-Star break, Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky made the season’s biggest trade in order to “fix” the Reds’ ailing bullpen – sending former All-Star shortstop Felipe Lopez and former first-round draft picks Austin Kearns and Ryan Wagner to Washington for relievers Gary Majewski and Bill Bray among others.

Through 22 games this season, the Reds’ bullpen is still ill and oozing runs, including two more in each of its two innings in Thursday’s 7-5 loss to the Cardinals in the final game of the series in St. Louis.

I’m not anti-Krivsky like many, but goodness, let’s hope he doesn’t get antsy to “fix” the problem again. Another trade, and the Reds may never score again.

Of the seven pitchers currently comprising the Reds’ bullpen, all seven have given up at least a run in one of their last two outings. The team has gone from having the best bullpen ERA in the National League (1.72 on April 15) to having the worst (4.96 after Thursday’s game).

“Our bullpen, the first week was the first week was the best in baseball? We’re very capable of doing it again,” Narron said, noting that the bullpen started the season without giving up a run in its first 14 2/3 innings of work this season.

That seems like a long time ago. In the series against the Cardinals, every inning started by a Reds reliever ended with a Cardinals run.

Wow. That’s a damning fact.

The rest of the article linked above (from the Post; you should definitely go read the entire piece) is devoted to what the Reds can do to improve the bullpen. The consensus is: not much, at least from inside the organization. Bill Bray may help if he ever gets healthy, and there is another arm or two that could probably be plugged in from AAA…but it’s basically re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

I’ll give credit to Narron for saying something that, while it’s a cliche, is absolutely true, and we would all do good to keep this in mind:

“In this game, you’re never as good as you think you are when things are going right,” Narron said. “And you’re never as bad when things are going against you.”


14 Responses

  1. GregD

    And there’s no depth at AAA. Sorry for beating a dead horse here, but given that Coutlangus has been one to actually do well in the majors, it is a damn shame that Medlock and Guevara (his AA teammates last year) are still stuck in AA. And stuck there at least 3-4 months too long, IMHO.

  2. Bill

    I just mentioned these two on DOTF…they’d be worth bringing up and trying if they don’t have any confidence in the AAA guys being any help. I’d like to see Salmon get a shot…

  3. Chris

    Here’s part of a comment I posted over at Fay’s last night – it’s something I’ve been thinking since last May:

    The biggest problem with this bullpen – and it’s been this way for the past two years (other than the 8 days Guardado was here and healthy) is the utter lack of even one guy that Narron can (or at least does rely on, which has led to a TOTAL lack of roles down there.

    There was a short stretch last spring where Weathers was the closer and Coffey the setup man. After that went away, it was utterly impossible to predict which reliever would be called on in any given situation. I blame Narron very little for that, but also wonder if the “role uncertainty” is a cause of the problem, and not just an effect.

    I’m pretty skeptical of “chemistry,” “intangibles,” and such – but I do buy in to the psychological (and thus on-field) benefit to a player “knowing his role.”

  4. Kerm

    I agree completely Chris. I think almost everyone can agree also that Weather’s is not the answer to being our closer this year. So where do we turn? Do we look to trade and get a closer, or hope someone can step up? I personally don’t see a good solution to this problem.

  5. al

    it’s a good thought chris, i just don’t know how much it’s really borne out by reality. weathers is the closer, he has a role, and he’s done pretty well.

    league average for people with a save right now is a 3.12 ERA, 3.57 saves, and a .842 save rate. weathers has a 3 era, 5 saves, and a .833 rate.

    then there’s coffey, who was the righty set up man, until he fell apart. cormier was the lefty middle man until he fell apart.

    i guess i’m just thinking, how long do you stick with roles when they aren’t working?

  6. Chris

    First, I’m not sure those metrics are of much use with Weathers (I’m not saying they’re wrong – I just don’t know), but the sample size is too small.

    And I understand the double-edged nature of the whole thing. How long do you stick with a guy in a certain role? Long enough for him (and the other guys) to maintain their confidence, but not so long that they botch up the whole season. And yeah, that line’s pretty much impossible to walk, but I think it’s probably fair to say that Narron has failed at that part of his job for two years now. (And I’m not a huge Narron basher).

    Guys like Bochy and Cox seem to craft bullpens out of similar raw materials – the likes of Hammond, Seanez, etc. – so we know it’s possible. Meanwhile every guy who steps foot in the Reds’ pen turns to garbage. Krivsky bears responsibility for not bringing in the best talent, but Narron and Hume (Mr. Teflon, apparently) haven’t done much to help matters.

  7. Mr. Redlegs

    Yeah, bullpens are usually built from the closer back. Since the Reds don’t have a true closer–with Weathers basically renting the space–the construction is skewed on matchups, righty vs. righty, lefty vs. lefty, and so on.

    So you can’t blame Weathers because, since the first week or so, the bullpen hasn’t gotten him to a save situation very much, if at all. Where the Reds are getting killed is by people like Coffey and Saarloos, who gave them different looks–strikeout guy and a groundball guy, and they have been nothing but BP pitchers.

    So, as pointed out by Chris and Al, you slot roles in the best-made plans, but if one or two guys don’t perform and you have to start making changes, it really doesn’t work as square slot into square slot, etc. They’re not bringing up someone from AA and AAA without MLB experience and slotting them a set-up guy. Thus, you have to shift people around to replace roles of others, and there it gets dicey.

    It’s not an exact science and most teams’ bullpens are constantly evolving. It’s lowsy job security, fer sure.

    And everyone always wants more pitching. Everyone.

  8. al

    you won’t get much argument out of me on this one, i just think, like you said, it’s hard to draw the line, so it’s hard to assign the blame.

    narron put coffey in the role he was last year when he was successful and he gave up like 30 ER in three appearances. that’s where most of this bullpen ERA explosion came from.

    the biggest problem in management of the pen that i’ve seen has been the use of cormier, who has never been good with the reds and never really had a role, and the use of sarloos.

    with sarloos my theory is that they figured he’d be the 5th starter, and that when they picked belisle they wanted to get more than swing man/mop up innings out of him, since he was a guy they went out and paid a price for.

    so they tried to use him as set up, when really he’s a guy who will give you average innings over the long haul, but can’t be counted on to be lights out in any one inning, ie not a good set up man.

    which is pretty much what he said in the papers the other day about being a sinkerball pitcher, and how it doesn’t work everytime, but over 6 innings you’ll get more guys than you lose.

  9. Glenn

    Chemistry is a word that means very little to me, when pithers can’t get batters out or close out games. We jump on Narron from time to time about some bonehead call he made, but he can’t come out of the dugout and pitch. Someone, in that pen is got to step up and be the man.

  10. Chris

    Take a look at my latest post on Cormier. Other than the one time he gave up runs, I think he was used very well. Of course, that usage amounted to 4 outings and 2 IP over 2 weeks, but that’s probably all he’s good for. Whether that’s worth having is another story altogether, but there apparently is a way to get some contributions from Cormier.

  11. preach

    Maybe you just have to use what you have, but Saarloos is an inning eater long thrower. He cannot be counted on to enter a game and be effective for an inning here and there. It’s not his style. I like Kirk a lot and I thought he was a good acquisition, still do. But he’s a guy that you use from about the 4th to the 8th inning and when your starter ‘feels a twinge’ and you have to scratch him at the last minute. I think the point about Cormier and his use is valid, and I don’t like him, for the record. Coffey must step up since he is our hard thrower, or get us a reliable guy with some gas who can be lights out for an inning.

  12. Chris

    I think the gathering consensus about different “types” of reliever might be right, but for reasons other than the ones given. I think Narron is the one who needs help differentiating his relievers. He sees these guys as pretty fungible, and uses them in what appears to be a random pattern. I just looked back at the week of games since Cormier went into the doghouse – just in that time, Narron’s used Coutlangus, Stanton, and Coffey to face key left-handed batters – and his usage of RHP has been even harder to decipher. I think he needs fewer, or at least more distinct options to choose from.

  13. Y-City Jim

    I tend to agree with the thoughts that a major part of the bullpen problem is psychological, both in terms of confidence and in how they approach hitters. A little meanness would go a long way.

    On another note, can the sports writers please stop with the talk of THE TRADE? It’s not like Washington was reaped a wonderful benefits from it and if not for THE TRADE we wouldn’t being seeing Josh Hamilton in a Reds uniform, maybe not even a MLB uniform.

    I don’t hold out much hope for the Majic man, who acts more and more like a destroyed arm but Bray will make the trade worth it in the long run.

  14. GregD

    How does Washington’s place in the standings impact at all whether it was a good trade for Cincinnati or not?

    As for Hamilton, Kearns existence on the roster would not have impacted Narron and Narron’s brother’s past relationship with Hamilton…and Krivsky did pull a pretty good deal moving an extra OFer during ST last year.