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.



26 Responses

  1. enfuego

    If that’s an accurate ranking then the reds are in trouble. Even before his injury Bailey was merely a decent starter with a couple nights of excellence. If he is in the top four going forward after this injury then that likely says very bad things about the others. If the reds are going to compete then at least a couple of the younger pitchers need to be legit top of the rotation guys — and reed, stephenson, iglesias seem to have that potential and maybe even a couple of others as well. Some of the others have legit shots at being very good middle to back of rotation guys.

    BTW — good article, I just disagree with implied value on Bailey.

    • Patrick Jeter

      The numbers show Bailey was a solid #2 starter before he started with the injuries. Maybe that’s what you meant by “merely a decent starter with a couple nights of excellence.” If so, we agree. If not, I think you’re undervaluing Bailey’s performance.

      • enfuego

        We may differ on how we view a #2. 58-51 record, 4.19 era, over 200 innings twice with the last time in 2013. I fully appreciate the shortcomings of W-L and ERA as measures but these are not career numbers for a solid #2 on a contending NL team in the current pitching rich era. Nice pitcher, happy to have him at the right price but tell me what #2 from last year’s playoff teams he is better than? And his two best years were for 90 win Reds teams where he was never better than the third best starter and could easily be considered the 4th.

      • lwblogger2

        He was probably talking about 2012 and 2013 (his two 200+ IP years) where he put up 3.48 and 3.69 ERA numbers. In 2014, he was also pitching well up until the point he was hurt. I think he was looking like a #2 in a lot of rotations and a #3 in a very good rotation. He was paid accordingly as far as AAV. My issue was the years but that isn’t a Homer Bailey thing, that’s a I don’t like long deals for any pitcher thing.

  2. Jack

    I believe Todd Redmond pitched the second game of a doubleheader. If it wasn’t for the doubleheader the starting 5 would have made every start. That was a great year that seems a long long time ago.

  3. Patrick Jeter

    Can anyone remember a time when the Reds staff gave an estimate about how long a person would be out and they were actually correct or even under? Seems like with almost 100% frequency, they will say “2 weeks” and it ends up being “3 months.”

    Perhaps they should hire some restaurant hostesses. They are very good at fudging numbers to manage expectations.

  4. Noël

    Can someone smarter than me figure out the number of injuries there were under former strength & conditioning trainer Matt Krause versus how many there are under current trainer Sean Mahrone. Seems to me the injuries started rising after Matt left, but I’d like to know the data.

  5. jimmaloney46

    “They clearly have enough talent to put together an effective rotation if healthy.”

    That’s not clear at all to me, and not sure why it is to you, unless you’re defining effective as below .500. There’s so little major league experience to evaluate these guys with that we have zero idea what they’ll do. They look good on paper. But it takes years to learn how to pitch up top. Assuming major league success will follow minor league success is folly.

    So many people say “as soon as we get the starters back, we’ll take off”. My crystal ball is quivering at that notion. It’s cloudy as hellman’s mayo in there, and will be for a while. Judging by the effectiveness of the pitching call-ups so far, the Reds lack serious mound depth throughout the minors. The big guns may turn out to be more overhyped than expected. That happens frequently in baseball.

    • Patrick Jeter

      Guys being overhyped certainly happens, and it’s very, very likely that some of the young Reds will be busts. I think everyone agrees on that.

      However, what we KNOW is that (while healthy) all of Bailey, DeSclafani, and Iglesias will be at least average and more than likely above average. None of them will likely be aces, but you don’t need aces to win.

      The minors guys (Stephenson, Reed, Garrett, Travieso, Davis, Wright, Romano, etc) will likely only see maybe 2 decent/good starters from the entire group, and maybe 2 more bullpen arms. That’s just the attrition rate of baseball. I think everyone gets that.

      The “iffy” guys (Lorenzen, Moscot, Straily, Finnegan, Lamb) I think will mostly become bullpen arms or complete busts. Of this group, Straily and Finnegan probably have the best chance to be starters, but I still think they ultimately don’t end up being more than #5 starters at best. I’ve never been impressed with Lorenzen, Moscot, or Lamb as anything other than filler.

      With all that said, I think your statement that the Reds lack pitching depth in the minors is 100% incorrect. They have more pitching depth than just about any other team. That means your expectations might be a tad bit over the top. In my opinion, there are probably 2 decent/good starters in the minors, and perhaps 2 more “borderline #5 type starters.” Toss that together with the above-average Bailey, DeSclafani, and Igelsias and you have yourself a rotation that can compete, as well as arms that can fill out your bullpen. All without the need for FA signings or trades.

      Just my two-cents.

      • IndyRedMan

        You’re rushing to judgement on Lorenzen? He was rushed right thru the system and did very well in Lville….throwing 94-95 regularly and a great athlete? Give him a chance? Most great pitchers didn’t immediately dominate in the bigs…..esp with as little experience in the minors as Lorenzen has.

      • greenmtred

        Fair enough, concerning Lorenzen, though Patrick didn’t write him off, just said he’s “iffy,” which seems reasonable so far, and an assessment with which you might agree, given that nobody with Lorenzen’s lack of experience would be a lead-pipe cinch. He throws hard–harder than the current version of King Felix, which should tell us something about the value of pitch speed–but seems to lack movement and control. Time will tell.

    • Dewey Roberts

      I agree. Pitchers are the hardest to judge on potential. Some are great in the minors but never can make it in the majors. I have seen lots of potential hurlers in the Reds farm system over the last 55 years. Most never made it. I am not counting on Reed, Stephenson, or Travieso until they actually do it in the majors. I once thought Bailey would be a sure fire #1 starter. He has never lived up to his draft position and likely never will. In fact, it is not guaranteed that he will ever be a good major league pitcher again. Arm troubles always worry me. I remember Wayne Simpson, Jim Merritt, and Gary Nolan.

  6. Mike Eddy

    I agree with most all of this very interesting article. However, I’ve stated many times that Cueto &/or Leake should have been who the Reds targeted for the long term. Bailey’s highs are very good, however, Leake was, and will be far more consistent throughout his career. And now look at what Cueto is doing.

    • docmike

      Cueto cost more than Bailey. Apples to oranges.

  7. james garrett

    Doesn’t concern me at all about our rotation once they get healthy.Matter of fact our pen gets better as well.What will keep us from getting much much better in terms of wins really quickly is our hitting,That’s where the front office must improve on and fast.

    • Patrick Jeter

      Agreed. If Suarez turns out to not be that good of a hitter (jury is still out) and if Mesoraco’s injuries end up dooming his career, the Reds are in dire straits once Bruce and Phillips leave.

      The only way to avoid the aforementioned “dire straits” is probably to have at least 2/3 of the minors guys become good players. Winker probably will hit, and Peraza will be a guy providing most of his value from defense and base running, but they really need a few of the Blandino/Ervin/Y-Rod/Mejias-Brean type of guys to pan out.

      Either that, or they have to be able to sign some mid-level free agents to plug the gaps in the offense if they are to compete in 2018/2019.

  8. Matt WI

    I’ll be sad if Iglesias ends up in the ‘pen. That would be another very disappointing thing.
    🙁 🙁 🙁 Sad.

  9. MrRed

    Nice work, Nick. I think you’re headed in the right direction of the real problem with the rash of pitcher injuries this year. Bottom line is that all of the starters that were to be counted on needed to stretch out their innings and continue to develop this year if the Reds were going to stay on track with what was, IMO, an aggressive schedule to be competitive again.

    For all intents and purposes, the team has now lost another year toward being competitive again because these guys are missing too much time this season. They’ll have to recondition and the evaluation process will now have to be extended. And this is to say nothing of the doubts about how they will rebuild their hitting.

    The front office may have started with good intentions to blow up the roster and rebuild but I recall a saying along the lines of how the road to Hell was paved.

    • Nick Carrington

      I think they still have time to get some good innings out of some key guys and have them develop, but you’re right that they won’t pitch as many innings as we would have hoped.

  10. mlcoffey2gmailcom

    All of these injuries couldn’t be coincidence. There is something going on with these pitchers, what it is I don’t know. Its just odd that they are injured and keep getting injured. What are their training procedures?

    • Dan

      It isn’t a coincidence. The Reds strategy on the high risk, high velocity, poor control type of of pitcher is coming back to bite them. With that said, I still think that we need to revamp our training and conditioning for all players.
      Who here thinks that Robert Stephenson won’t have Tommy John within the next 5 years? From the sound of things the Reds are targeting yet another future Tommy John candidate as their first pick in the draft.

      • Carl Sayre

        You make a great point about the strategy of the high risk high velocity and poor control is a team philosophy so it seems. These young pitchers are getting in trouble because they are making way too many pitches to get out of an inning. We see Reds pitchers hitting 100 plus pitches and not be out of the 5th or just barely. The fact they are walking a lot of batters make the pitches high stress because they have runners on. This is very similar to our batters( notice I didn’t say hitters) Duvall has been a very pleasant surprise as have Bruce and Cozart the latter 2 driving up their trade value. This is different from all but JV in previous years. The Reds batters as a team have taken the approach that if the pitcher releases the ball they are swinging. Cozart and Bruce have been much more selective so far this season and they are having some success, JV has changed to if he releases it swing at it and we see how that is working out but Marty has him swinging the bat. I don’t trust this staff or training crew I have noticed you can tell if they are lying. Their lips are moving…………… in plain speak I think Votto is injured again. I would think it is not a run of the mill trying to play through it. I am afraid this is that major end a career type thing that has him this time. This is a feeling nothing I can point out just oh crap he hasn’t aged this quick!

  11. James

    Agreed. But at least we’re learning about Finnegan, Lamb (finally), & Cingrani.

  12. Michael E

    Maybe Dr. Nick from the Simpsons is the doctor in charge of rehabbing? I am waiting on the out a few days with a “paper cut” to turn into 60 day DL stint and a 2 week hospital stay. Nuts.

    They REALLY need to investigate various aspects of health and stamina. Maybe they’re all eating pastries all day and fatigued and getting injured trying to compensate? Maybe the equipment they have is subpar, or the facilities? Maybe someone in the organization has too much power and is old school “walk it off kid” type that influences players to continue to play when already hurting in a pending sign of full injury?