At the quarter pole of the 2016 season the Reds are bad, really bad. One could say they have met and exceeded any expectations of futility; before the season I expected the Reds to lose at least 90 games…and not only are they likely to lose at least 90 games, they are going to do so in a manner rarely before seen. No matter how you analyze this team, it is difficult to find positive pieces on the macro level. I am a realist, and I understand that this rebuild will be difficult and take time, I only wish there was a way to work through this rebuild in a way that wasn’t so toxic to the fans.
There is plenty of blame to go around on why this team has struggled so badly; you can point to the offense and the anemic numbers as compared to other teams in the National League:
11th in team batting average
2nd to last in team OBP
Last in walks drawn
13th in hits
The list of accomplishments or lack thereof as it relates to the Reds prowess at the plate this year are underwhelming…but not historically bad. Especially when you compare that to the “work” done by the pitching staff, specifically the eater of world’s bullpen Price has to work with on a game to game basis. I am fully aware of the laundry list of injuries this team has dealt with this year…but I won’t make any excuses… the Reds simply don’t have Major League talent on their staff at this point in time…and what is coming out of the bullpen is hardly talent at all.
So what to do? How can the Reds front office continue to work on this rebuild in a way that doesn’t want to make Reds fans reminisce of the good old days when the Reds were a 3rd place team in the National League Central? There is an old saying; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…well, today I am recommending a new saying: IF IT’S BROKE…DON’T FIX IT…THROW IT AWAY AND TRY SOMETHING NEW.
For the past 6 weeks I have watched and listened to those in Reds country criticize and critique the use of the bullpen. “the Reds should call up this guy” and “cut this player.” “I can’t believe Price brought this guy in to pitch the 8th!” And so on…all of this is fair…but the bottom line is that the Reds don’t have pros in the bullpen…so why remake it? GET RID OF THE BULLPEN!
That’s right…I said it. The Reds should play without a bullpen. Leading the planet in blown saves is a correctable stat if you are waiting for Mariano Rivera to get off the DL…but this team doesn’t have Mo Rivera…they don’t have his long lost cousin Bo Rivera either…why continue the madness? Get rid of the bullpen.
Here is my solution…one that I hope would make the Reds season more palatable in the second half…and who knows…maybe change the course of baseball history. And at the very least, give the Reds a better idea of who is going to cut it going into 2017 and beyond. Once the Reds reach the second half of the season, and issues of major league service time and pitcher health begin to wash away, the Reds should move forward with a 10-man, alternating rotation. Let me explain: on the Reds 40 man roster, there are 10 pitchers who figure to have a chance at being in the rotation next season. These 10 arms are a mix of young and old…lefty and righty…major league vets and guys who have never reached the show. In an effort to get a look at all of these arms…as well as preserve pitch count as the season goes on, the Reds should initiate a 10 man rotation where pitchers are paired together to make starts on a 5 game rotating basis. The 10 pitchers would be:
Bailey, Iglesias, DeSclafani, Lorenzen, Reed, Stephenson, Finnegan, Lamb, Adleman and Moscot.
Picture a scenario where these 10 pitchers are paired together, each with a pitch count of approximately 75 pitches per game. Your 5 game rotation could be as follows: Bailey and Lamb. Iglesias and Finnegan. DeSclafani and Reed. Stephenson and Adleman. Lorenzen and Moscot.
The Reds could start the game with one starter…let him go 4-5 innings…and replace him with another starter to go another 4-5 innings. Of course, you keep 2-3 bullpen arms, perhaps Cingrani, Straily and Wood so that if you need a guy for one out to end an inning you can make the change.
For the short term and the rest of this season, this idea holds water for several reasons; first, you keep pitch count down…and with guys coming back from injury as well as young arms to protect, the shorter starts help in this way. Additionally, the Reds get to take a look at 10 plausible arms for next year’s rotation. Finally, we eliminate the overwhelmingly worst and most unwatchable part of this team; the bullpen as it is currently constructed. The vast majority of bullpen pitchers are in the bullpen because they aren’t cut out to be starters; they only have one go-to pitch…don’t have strike zone consistency, etc. So why continue to watch the Reds build a lead through 5 or 6 innings to watch the bullpen give it away? Don’t fix it…just eliminate it.
Am I proposing this as a long-term fix? No. But what do the Reds have to lose? There is no way this system makes them less competitive then they are right now. There is no way this doesn’t give the Reds front office the best chance to view talent and protect its young and rehabilitating arms…so why not? Would it really hurt for the Reds to try to be trendsetters and get ahead of the curve? As the Reds complete the month of May, they do so with a pitching staff that is last or second to last in the National League in WHIP, BA against, Walks, Strikeouts, ERA and Runs Allowed…Dear Walt and Dick…don’t fix it. Throw it away and start over with something new!