One month is down and while the Reds record wasn’t very good, that really can’t be blamed too much on the pitching staff. How long has it been since the Reds could say that?
There is a lot to like here. Only two of our starting pitchers show up, Edinson Volquez and Aaron Harang, but there are a lot of relievers on this list.
Harang is his usual reliable self. He’s pitching deep into games (leading the league in innings), is dominating while showing good control (leading the league in Ks with only 11 walks) and has that good ERA. Basically, he’s doing everything he normally does. I really hope the Reds don’t waste this excellent career he’s building.
Volquez is pitching better than most optimists could have hoped. He leads the league in ERA and is second in wins. He’s striking out more than a batter an inning. The caution with Volquez is, obviously, the walks. That is part of the package with Volquez until he learns some better control. He’s done a good job of balancing that though by striking out so many hitters and getting a lot of groundballs (2.38 GB/FB). He’s still going to have his bumps but he couldn’t have had a much better first month with the Reds.
The pleasant surprise among the “Good” is that 5 are relievers. The team is paying plenty for Francisco Cordero to do what he is doing but Jeremy Affeldt, Mike Lincoln, Jared Burton and Kent Mercker have combined for a 2.84 ERA in over 47 innings while striking out 50 and only walking 15. They’ve only allowed 7 of 26 inherited runners to score. They’ve done this for less than $5 MIL combined (Affeldt makes $3 MIL of that). Complain about Wayne Krivsky (and I have) but it looks like he learned how to throw a good chunk of a bullpen together on the cheap.
It’s tough to put Johnny Cueto in here but it’s due to the ERA and the home runs allowed. Most of his peripherals are great. 33:6 K:BB ratio. 1.086 WHIP. 33 Ks in 35 IP. But the longball is doing him in. Unlike Volquez, Cueto has been a flyball pitcher (.90 GB/FB ratio). There is a lot to like here…a lot – but Cueto has struggled some. The future still looks very bright, though.
Bronson Arroyo certainly belongs here and but the reasons he doesn’t go on the “Ugly” list were best covered by Joe Sheehan over at Baseball Prospectus:
Arroyo’s real problem has been that old bugaboo, BABIP. The Reds aren’t a good defensive team by any stretch—16th in Defensive Efficiency at .706—but when Arroyo has been on the mound, balls have found more holes than usual. Arroyo has allowed 43 hits despite striking out nearly a man an inning, largely thanks to a BABIP of .375. Even if that reverts to his career high of .313, set last year, it will bring his ERA down, and the rest of his numbers make him a good mid-rotation starter, an asset for a Reds team that can be a factor in the wild-card chase.
Arroyo put up a 29:12 K:BB ratio in April while not hitting 90 MPH with his fastball until his last start. I’m hopeful he keeps his fastball because I think he’ll settle in to being a good, mid-rotation starter again.
Remember when almost the entire staff looked like this? The good news here is David Weathers is working his way back on a minor league rehab assignment and isn’t killing the big league team right now. I appreciate what Weathers has done the past few years in a pen with hardly any other good relievers. I’m hoping he can settle back into a decent middle reliever, which is what he really is. He was just pressed into more.
Todd Coffey is also in the minors. There really isn’t a single thing to like about his performance this year. There’s no silver lining. Well, he hasn’t allegedly had an affair with an underaged country singer. There’s that. Of course, if he put up a Hall of Fame career, I could probably overlook that.
Josh Fogg has been demoted to the pen and long relief. His K:BB ratio and strikeout rate aren’t bad, but he doesn’t really have any past history to fall back on. Long relief and spot starting is a good place for him.
Unfortunately, the same can be said of Matt Belisle who has been brutally reminded of the difference between minor league and major league hitters. Dusty Baker might want to entertain the idea of an occasional bullpen day like Tony LaRussa likes to do.
There are a lot of good things going on with this pitching staff. I’m not tempted to change the channel so I don’t have to watch the self-destruction after a reliever is brought in. There are some good, young arms on the staff to watch (Volquez, Cueto, Burton, Bray was just called up). The worst of the pitchers have had their contributions minimized through demotion or DL stints. I also like the chances of the pitchers on the “Good” list continuing to pitch well. Maybe not quite a well as they have so far but still making a positive contribution. And I like Cueto and Arroyo’s chances of moving up to that “Good” list.
Can any of these guys hit?