In 2012, the Reds had six pitchers make starts all season and the sixth starter, Todd Redmond, pitched only once. Four of those hurlers pitched over 200 innings, and the strength of the Reds rotation led them to 97 wins.
Health is always a key component of good teams, but rebuilding teams also need to avoid injury in order to make proper evaluations on players. Coming into this season, many fans, including myself, were most excited about seeing a young, talented pitching staff develop, especially the starting rotation.
Just as we watched Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake develop into effective major leaguers, we expected to see the same from Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, and others.
Instead, the fans have been treated to constant injuries and myriad of questions. In 2016, the Reds have already started ten pitchers with seven spending time on the disabled list. We expected plenty of young players to get opportunities this season, but not at this volume this early. Or for these reasons.
Frankly, the injuries are ridiculous. Most of us thought the Reds would struggle to varying degrees, but the circumstances that have driven our beloved Redlegs to this level of ineptitude is borderline cruel.
Let’s say all of the Reds starting pitchers were healthy to start the season. Who are the ten best? Not the best five and pray for no injuries. The best TEN. My list in no particular order with the number of starts they’ve made this season in parentheses:
- Homer Bailey (0)
- Raisel Iglesias (5)
- Anthony Desclafani (0)
- Robert Stephenson (2)
- Cody Reed (0)
- Brandon Finnegan (10)
- Michael Lorenzen (0)
- John Lamb (5)
- Dan Straily (8)
- Jon Moscot (3)
You can quibble as you like, but that is at least a reasonable representation of the Reds best starters. Four of these guys haven’t made one pitch in the majors this season. Iglesias’ last start was April 25th. The Reds continue to hold back Stephenson and Reed because of service time considerations, and they likely won’t see significant time until at least late June. Straily wasn’t even on a team until April 1st, and he has arguably been their best starter.
Only three are in the current rotation, and you could make a strong argument that none of the Reds best five starting pitchers are currently pitching.
And now the list of pitchers who have started games that weren’t on the previous list:
- Alfredo Simon (8)
- Tim Melville (2)
- Daniel Wright (1)
- Tim Adelman (4)
That’s fifteen starts from the Reds 11th-14th best pitchers. Does any team have that kind of depth? Significantly reduce the roles of a team’s top seven or eight starters, and they just can’t compete. Regardless of what you think of Bryan Price, he can’t work miracles.
These injuries take a toll on the bullpen as well. The Reds bullpen continues to redefine incompetence, but who among them is a sure fire big leaguer? Tony Cingrani maybe? A guy the Reds picked off the scrap heap in Ross Ohlendorf?
Now, imagine what the Reds would look like with their full arsenal. First, the rotation:
- Homer Bailey
- Anthony Desclafani
- Robert Stephenson
- Cody Reed
- Raisel Iglesias
If Iglesias continues to injure himself in the rotation, maybe he ends up in the bullpen, but then the Reds slide Lamb, Lorenzen, or Finnegan in his place. You may prefer a few different names, but that’s not the point. They clearly have enough talent to put together an effective rotation if healthy.
Then, maybe they shift Lorenzen and Finnegan to the bullpen. Between those two and Cingrani and Ohlendorf, the Reds bullpen may be able to get some outs. Sometimes. Lamb and Moscot would be in AAA ready to join the rotation when an injury occurs with Amir Garrett, Rookie Davis, and Nick Travieso waiting in the wings.
That pitching staff has a chance. They might even be pretty good if the Reds could add another reliable reliever to the mix.
Unfortunately, it is what it is and will continue to be ugly for a few more weeks at least. I have no idea whether the Reds training, developmental, and/or coaching staffs have played a role in these injuries or if they are the result of incredibly poor luck. Regardless, we shouldn’t be surprised at the team’s current record.
For now, we must hope that the Reds can figure out how lose the injury bugaboo and get some guys healthy. Not because they will win more games, even though they probably will, but because their pitchers need the time to develop for next season and beyond.
If we look toward 2017, we can see the makings of a solid pitching staff. How good they can be depends partly on whether they can stay on the field enough to develop at the Major League level. So far this season, we have learned very little about the pitchers expected to help make the Reds winners again and that, far more than the record, has been the most disappointing aspect of the season.