The Reds have now cycled through their rotation ten times in 2013. Seems like a good opportunity to bask in the radiance. Key caveat: lots of games against the Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Cubs and Nationals, the bottom five offenses in the NL. But Reds’ starters haven’t lost a game since the Braves beat Mike Leake on May 8.
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As a whole, the Reds starting rotation has been the second best in the National League, behind only the Cardinals. All ERAs (and more importantly, all FIPs) are below league average. Despite pitching in Great American Small Park in half their games, they have kept their home runs surrendered in check. [Reminder: FIP better predicts the future than ERA. Helpful explanatory cartoon.]
Johnny Cueto has made only five starts, one of which was cut short due to injury. He’s been lucky so far on balls in play compared to his own career number (.284) so expect some regression. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine his walk rate staying that high. [*Does not include game pulled for injury.]
Mat Latos has pitched much better at the start of the season than in previous years. Relative to his career numbers, expect more strikeouts, a few more walks, and a lower BABIP. He’s been the victim of several blown saves by the bullpen, otherwise he could be 7-0.
Homer Bailey has been the best pitcher on the Reds staff so far. As I wrote in February, if Homer could sustain his numbers from the second half of 2012, he would become a “plausible top-of-the-rotation ace.” And so far he’s done just that. His underlying numbers for 2013 are right in line with those from the last three months of 2012. Best of all, neither his 2013 start nor 2012 finish has been fueled by lucky BABIP. Homer has pitched four games this year where he’s given up two runs or fewer and didn’t get a win due to lack of run support.
Bronson Arroyo continues to put up solid numbers that are consistent with his 2012 performance. His low strikeout rate is balanced by his low walk rate. His low home run rate is mostly believable because it’s not that much lower than what he accomplished in 2012 (1.2).
Mike Leake has shown the greatest improvement from 2012. With his strikeouts and ground balls up, it’s not surprising to see the decline in home runs. Don’t expect his ERA to remain this low, but all of his improvement hasn’t been luck. His FIP is better than his career number (4.35) by about a half run.
Tony Cingrani was both good (K/9, BB/9) and lucky (BABIP) in his six starts, all of which were against the bottom five.