Two innings

[View this as a companion (like minds!) with Chad’s excellent post about the Reds closer’s role in a historical context. If you’re tired of reading how the Reds are under-utilizing Aroldis Chapman, avert your eyes. Warning: this post does involve the use of the advanced metrics of Innings Pitched and Sarcasm.]

Since Opening Day, the Cincinnati Reds have played 19 games against teams with winning records (Washington, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Washington again, St. Louis again, and Atlanta). In those titanic struggles, one team or the other was leading by two or fewer runs in 112 of those innings — in other words, when the game was close.

How have the Reds’ pitchers been allocated in those crucial innings against playoff contending teams?

Homer Bailey – 24.1 innings

Bronson Arroyo – 21 innings

Mike Leake – 19 innings

Mat Latos – 14 innings

Johnny Cueto – 10.1 innings

J.J. Hoover – 4.2 innings

Jonathan Broxton – 4.2 innings

Sam LeCure – 4 innings

Alfredo Simon – 3 innings

Logan Ondrusek – 2.2 innings

Aroldis Chapman – 2 innings

Tony Cingrani – 1 inning

Sean Marshall – 1 inning

Manny Parra – .1 inning (plus another appearance with no outs recorded)

Out of the 112 innings the Reds have played in close games against teams with winning records, they have assigned Aroldis Chapman to pitch in two of them. That’s a smaller role in those high leverage situations than assigned to Logan Ondrusek or Alfredo Simon. Chapman had the same number of appearances as Manny Parra. Get your head around that. Lately, half of Chapman’s work has been in mop-up games so that he doesn’t get rusty. The best pitcher on the team is often being used in meaningless situations because he doesn’t play enough when it matters.

That’s the usage pattern you might expect if an outside force, bent on ruining the Reds’ chances for catching the Cardinals, was deciding Chapman’s assignments. It’s like when Tony LaRussa used to reorganize his rotation to make sure his best starters pitched in the crucial games against the Reds. Except the exact opposite of that.

The Cincinnati Reds can play Aroldis Chapman whenever they want. They might as well have tied his dazzling left arm behind their collective back.

You could view this situation as an indictment of the restrictive closer role that has developed over time, as Chad describes. You could judge it as the inevitable product of the Reds’ fateful decision to put Chapman in the bullpen in the first place. Or a combination of both. Either way it’s a sickening waste of pitching talent.

GM Walt Jocketty said that assigning Chapman to the bullpen gave the Reds “the best chance to win now.”

Sure, how else could they have ever covered those two innings?

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 30 Comments

  1. Excellent post. I would point out that in the regular season all games have equal value, but I get that the intent is to show how little he pitches vs. ‘elite’ competiton, where in theory the need for him is greater.

  2. The way Chapman is being used is awful. But at least there Dusty has the excuse of “that’s how a closer is used by everyone in baseball.” (I’m not agreeing, just pointing out the ready-made excuse.) What’s more baffling and maybe even more frustrating is the (non) use of Marshall so far this season. There’s no excuse short of injury to explain how he’s being used, and the organization doesn’t have the convenient built-in excuse like they do with Chapman.

  3. I can certainly understand the frustration but what you are seeing is indeed as you said, an indictment of the restrictive closer role. The Reds are going to use Chapman in that role and are going to let that role dictate exactly how he is used. Dusty Baker isn’t exactly an innovator and your frustration is just going to continue to mount. If writing about it helps, then great. The thing is, it would take an innovator to manage Chapman differently once the decision was made to make him the closer. There are precious few innovators managing baseball teams and I don’t see the closer role changing anytime soon.

    • @LWBlogger: I love that “innovation” now means “managing baseball games as it was done from 1876-1988.”

      • @Chris Garber: Unfortunately, that’s the case when it comes to closers, or at least I think it is. Some of it has to do with the money and incentives involved with the “save” statistic as well. It a relief pitcher goes 2-3 innings in one game he may not be available for the big “save” the next game. Those save totals make his salary go up. It’s awful but I think that does play into it to a degree.

    • @LWBlogger: I’m sorry, but I have to call you on this. You are in favor of Chapman in the bullpen, as you’ve always said—and now you’re excusing the fact that he barely pitches? I was assuming you wanted him in the pen pitching more than just a little bit?

  4. on a chapman side note, his average velocity is down about 1 mph so far. watching chapman throwing his fastball all the time and watching it come in at 93 as often as 98, he looks a lot more mortal.

    to me, if he can’t get to those crazy speeds throwing 1 inning, it’s more reason for him to start.

    • @al: Exactly!

      I’ve said this all year: Chapman is miscast as a closer; he can’t pitch too many games in a row, seems to rust with non-use, AND he has trouble getting to top speed right away and sometimes really isn’t throwing that hard. (94-95; yes, that’s hard, but he’s mortal at those speeds)

  5. Excellent post, excellent sarcasm. I agree that, on the face of it, the use of Chapman and Marshall is, at best, counter-intuitive. I would offer this one caution, though, which I’ve offered before: We really don’t know what condition either pitcher is in. As al notes, Chapman’s velocity is down, and he does, indeed, look a lot more mortal. I could take a different lesson from this than the one al took, however: if that’s the best he can do throwing one inning, how ugly would it be if he threw 6 or 7? I’m also not certain that Chapman is the Reds’ best pitcher; in fact, I’m pretty certain that he isn’t. Best thrower, best arm, maybe. Arroyo might be the best pitcher, or Cueto. I do agree about the stupid restrictiveness of the closer role; it’s a hidebound old game, isn’t it? And we love it anyway.

    • @greenmtred: We do not know the state of Chapman’s health. However, we DO know that Chapman’s health has not affected his usage. Chapman has been used in every instance in which “The Book” (by Tony LaRussa) states that it is acceptable to use a Closer.

      As I noted above, the game is not “hidebound.” This is a purely modern phenomenon. As recently as 1999, Jack McKeon was using traditional bullpen management techniques with our very own Cincinnati Reds.

      • @Chris Garber: You are, of course, correct that the closer role is modern and not evidence of hideboundedness, though I would still say that the game is hidebound, and that changing the closer role will run up against that. Chapman’s use can certainly be explained as a result of closer theory orthodoxy, too, and that may be all that it is. But I wonder what was involved in making him closer again after all but confirming that he would be starting? Not enough pitches in his arsenal? Or is the velocity drop involved?

  6. I didn’t want Baker back prior to the beginning of the season for several reasons. This was one of them. Another was the painful losses to SF.

  7. So the Reds have apparently altered their rotation order so that it goes:


    If the catching split holds up, this means that Mesoraco will sit a minimum of 3 days in between starts, assuming there are no off days in between, which is a bad but necessary assumption. I guess he get gets to catch back-to-back games, which makes up for it a tiny bit. What a mess Dusty’s preference for personal catchers creates. This is just a poor way to dole out games.

    At a minimum, I would encourage Dusty to insert Mesoraco against all LHPs. This would at least expose Mesoraco to all the pitchers and get him a few extra reps.

    • @CP: Having a catcher catch specific pitchers is an easy way to manage catcher playing time and it also gets pitchers used to working with a specific catcher. It’s not without it’s faults however, the biggest one being that it doesn’t take into account giving a catcher a break after an extra inning or otherwise tiring game, doesn’t take into account ‘day game after night game’ situations, nor does it take into account a catcher being a bit banged up. I also don’t like that it limits how familiar each catcher can be with all the pitchers and the pitchers with the catchers. I like a much more informal and less strict approach to splitting catching duties. Of course it depends on your catchers and pitchers too. Some guys just don’t work well together. Do you sacrifice some comfort and perhaps productivity to try to build a better working relationship between these guys or do you wait for an injury to force your hand? Keeping in mind the injury that may force your hand may never come, I think it’s a tricky thing to manage.

      I haven’t loved Dusty’s management of the catchers so far this season which is something I think he did well last year. Of course with the early injury to Hanigan it’s hard for me to judge Dusty in this area. I felt that Miller got more time behind the plate that he should have while Hanigan was out but maybe there is some discomfort that Bailey has working with Mesoraco or that Mesoraco has working with Bailey?

  8. Thanks for making me cry.

  9. “You could view this situation as an indictment of the restrictive closer role that has developed over time, as Chad describes.”

    I think that’s it.

    Chapman will eventually be used in many very important situations.

    • @renbutler: You’re absolutely right that Chapman may well draw more innings against the playoff teams. His underuse against teams with winning record isn’t deliberate. It’s a quirk of how the games have gone – which the Reds and other teams allow to dictate their use of the closer. Although as Chad points out, with closers there is never a guarantee they will get in important series. That’s a risk inherent in being in the bullpen instead of the rotation.

      What these numbers also demonstrate is the way that starters dominate the innings pitched compared to any relief pitcher. Even the relievers with the most innings against teams with winning records have just 4.2. So even if Chapman does happen to get more innings against the top teams, it will still pale in comparison to the usage of the starters.

      • @Steve Mancuso: That makes sense considering that starters get a lot more innings and that they come into games at 0-0 every time they take their turn. From a strictly sabermetric perspective, Chapman in rotation makes perfect sense. It’s why many like you argued so strongly for him to be in the rotation and why that was my initial position on Chapman was as well.

  10. It is insane. Just insane. Next to the dictionary definition of the word should be a picture of Chap. Sitting in the dugout.

  11. I’m startled how little comment there is about the usage of Marshall. Am I crazy for thinking it’s scandalous?

    • @Eric the Red: Nope… Dusty seems to be using him as a left-handed specialist and without Parra in the pen (no loss in my opinion), he’s the only lefty down there beside Chapman. It’s crazy to think that quite possibly the best reliever in the pen may end up working less than 50 innings.

    • @Eric the Red: On the good side (for Marshall), he’s making a very good salary on a per-pitch basis.

  12. I must be too talkative today… I have a comment awaiting moderation :mrgreen:

  13. I feel like this is all LaRussa’s fault. He obviously saw into the future, knew he could screw with the Reds beyond his retirement. “I see an electric left hander in the future…MY OH MY he’s going to be a RED?! How can we POSSIBLY screw this up for them? Designate a role…devoted specifically for a one inning pitcher at the end of the game! Then I’ll insert a man I created into a position of decision-making when the time is right. The next Randy Johnson? HA! More like the first Aroldis Chapman.”

    That’s how it had to go down, right? Anyway…Free Devin.

  14. You have to wonder if Baker, Jocketty or any of the other clowns running the Reds even know what advanced metrics are. I mean really, do they even study this stuff?

    • @RedForever: Highly unlikely…Impossible to defend idiot’s moves even with the outdated stats! (Batting a .207 hitter #2?) I seriously think he is so hardheaded he’s trying to prove some sort of point about how he can put the “statheads” in their place and still win. Except, he hasn’t won any championships yet, and has only threatened to once in his career…

    • @RedForever: They have a guy who does analytics and metrics. Heck, they may even have a small team. My question is do they ever listen to him? I know his input has helped in how they pitch to hitters and where they position defenders but as for roster and lineup management, I don’t think they put much stock into stats. I’m only speculating but that’s what it looks like.

  15. Facts:
    1. Chapman should be starting (it can’t be considered a matter of opinion)
    2. Cozart should not be batting 2.
    3. Mez should be getting 3 of 5 starts.
    4. Marshall should be allowed to play baseball.

    The only thing I considered to be debatable is what to do in Left.

    • @bohdi:

      1 – From a statistical point-of-view, most certainly. If baseball was played on a simulator a la Diamond Mind (terrific by the way!), I’d fully agree.

      2 – Yep. I think I’d hit Frazier there honestly.

      3 – We don’t know how the pitchers would feel about that. I’m inclined to agree with you but not if some of my pitchers greatly prefer throwing to Hanigan.

      4 – Yep, yep, yarp, yessir, and absolutely!

  16. This is similar to how I think it was Hoover and Chapman pitched in something like 5-6 of the first 7 games while no one else had a whiff of an appearance from the pen. It goes toward Baker’s lack of ability to manage the pen. He may have influence who is on the roster, but he does say who plays.

    My concern with the record is, so far this season, still a losing record to playoff teams from last season. Good thing, most of those games have been away games. We’ve won 1 of 2 of those home series.

Comments are closed.

About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.


2013 Reds, Aroldis Chapman, Chapmania, Reds - General, Reds By The Numbers


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