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
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
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
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?
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.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.