I wrote a piece for Cincinnati Magazine that addresses something I’ve been seeing lately that concerns me: some Reds fans are already losing patience with this team’s young pitchers. I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay the course with these young guys. There are a number of good reasons for that.

For example: Dallas Keuchel. Jake Arrieta. Greg Maddux. Tom Glavine. Johnny Cueto.

Young pitchers struggle:

What I can tell you, however, is that baseball history is littered with the names of All-Star pitchers—and even Hall of Famers—who were wildly inconsistent in their first exposure to big league pitching. That’s because pitching at the major league level is difficult! MLB hitters are the best in the world, you know. Learning to get those hitters out is a process, one that takes time for almost every young pitcher.

Go read my piece at Cincinnati Magazine and let me know what you think.

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

Join the conversation! 46 Comments

  1. My only problem is I remember Brandon Clausen, the supposed savior of the pitching staff in the 90’s and most of these pitchers resemble him. What happened to him?!

    • Ron, you may be right; there is no guarantee that any of these young arms will reach their ceiling. But I think you may be remembering Clausen with fanatic recollection. Clausen was a 34th round draft pick, with a lifetime AAA ERA of 4.39. The Reds acquired him (in 2003) by trading a 30-year-old, very average Aaron Boone. And Boone returned another player besides Clausen from the Yanks. And cash. I live in the Northwest, so I can’t say that the local Cincinnati media and fan base didn’t pin their hopes on Clausen as you describe. But if they did, it wasn’t based on anything realistic.

    • The whole “what happened to him?” sort of rhetoric is pretty useless.

      No player is going to pan out with 100% certainty. I think everyone knows that, and no one is saying all these young Reds pitchers are going to be good. I tend to think only 2 of the entire current crop will end up as above-average starters.

      The point of Chad’s article is that giving up on young pitchers so quickly is a fool’s errand.

      • Yeah, and I tried to specifically make the point that I don’t have any idea which of these guys (if any) are going to pan out. But we just won’t know for a while.

  2. Thanks for the article. Not that long ago John Lamb just started watching video tapes of the opposing team’s lineup before his turn in the rotation. I hope after that became public the Reds front office make sure their pitchers are better prepared. But these young guys have got to learn, grow, and figure out what it means to be a pitcher in the big leagues. I’m not convinced that this team will have it all sorted out by next year. However, I believe the Reds can have the makings of something special by 2018. The pieces are there they just need to develop.

    • It was kinda hard to believe that Lamb was just now looking at video of the opposing line up before the game. I would think all the pitchers especially being young and unfamiliar yet with opposing hitters would be made to go over videos with their catcher and coach to talk strategy. Of course, there is still the issue of having the talent and mental toughness to implement or adjust the game plan.

  3. I agree that it takes time for a pitcher to develop. The sad thing is that right about the time they develop to their full potential that the ever shrinking market of Cincinnati Reds baseball will not be able to afford them in their prime years. Goodness, we may not be able to afford them after first arbitration.

    • Who’s the last star player that this franchise developed that they couldn’t afford during their prime years? I can’t remember one.

      • Cueto, Chapman

        • I wouldn’t say the Reds developed Chapman.

          Cueto is arguably just leaving his prime. Yes, he’s having a good season, but the Reds probably got his best. Also, with any free agent, you have to buy their bad years to get their good years.

        • I would submit that the Reds paid Cueto for his prime years.

  4. What if the Dodgers had given up on Sandy Koufax?

  5. Greg Maddux is probably as good of an example that we can find. His ERA in his first 2 years were 5.5 and 5.6. While we certainly can hope for that kind of story, it’s unlikely. But it shows that a little patience might be in order.

    • I wonder if his success coincided with him learning how to throw his famous circle change. Or did he always have it? I have no idea.

    • Yeah, none of these guys are going to be Maddux…almost no pitcher in big league history is as good as Maddux.

      But it’s an interesting parallel, I thought. If one of the greatest pitchers ever struggled in his first two seasons, why should we be disappointed when Cody Reed struggles initially?

      • Chad, are correct about Maddux. I understand there are problems with using wins as a metric to evaluate pitchers. Nevertheless, I believe Warren Spahn is the only pitcher post 1930 with more wins that Maddux.

  6. A couple things you didn’t point out that are pertinent:
    – Like Reed, Arrieta’s best pitch is a slider. The Orioles made him throw less of them. The Cubs said “throw it as often as you want.” That’s probably a large reason for the difference.
    – The reason Reed is struggling with the reds is leaving his fastball up in the zone. He can easily work on that in AAA and save the reds service clock time. As a small market club, the reds should not be wasting valuable resources “figuring it out” at the major league level.

    • The only way for him to get exposure to the world’s best hitters is at the major league level. It makes sense for them to keep him there. I mean he’s has only like four starts!

    • I think where he figures it out depends on what our coaches and scouts deem is his problem. If it’s mechanics or immaturity, then sure, go back to AAA and clean it up. But if mechanics are sound, and he was controlling the fastball great at AAA, then this is likely just his acclimation to The Show.

      You can fix mechanics and mature at AAA, but you can’t learn how to get big league hitters out at AAA.

    • While I understand your point, these young pitchers have to figure out how to get big league hitters out. They have already proved they can get AAA hitters out.. There is no need to send them back there only to throw the same pitches and get AAA hitters out. They need to learn to make better pitches at the ML level. Right now they are throwing the same pitches that got them where they are, only the ML hitters are hitting them instead of missing them. In time, they will likely figure it out.

    • Well, I respectfully disagree with the second point you made. Reed has nothing left to prove in AAA, and he’s not going to learn how to get big league hitters out while pitching to minor leaguers.

      • No need to give up on the young guns too soon. But, I respectfully disagree on one point. There obviously are things for Reed to learn at AAA, as he does not have the command of a variety of pitches and location necessary for MLB success. He may not be far away. This is a skill that can be learned in AAA, while continued drubbings and an endless record of losses in Cincy can have an adverse impact on his confidence.

        Lorenzon and Iglesias are definitely ready for the bullpen. What an improvement.

        Finnegan merits his position in rotation.

        But for Code Red… he just may be a few weeks or months away. We may be seeing too much of him too soon. We ant his talent int he rotation when it makes sense.

      • I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think this is an inflated BABIP situation where he’s doing everything right and the results should even out. He’s leaving his fastball up and getting killed.

        I said the same thing about Lorenzen: sparkling ERA at AAA doesn’t necessarily mean he can start for the reds. I really think they should have kept Lorenzen starting in AAA working on his breaking pitches.

        Cheap, quality starting pitching is one of the most precious resources in baseball. The reds have the opportunity to have a lot of it. I know they’ve already wasted a year or two of Lorenzen from poor planning. It does look like theyre learning (keeping stephenson down after spot starts, waiting for bring up reed), but they have a ways to go IMO.

    • Unless you’re going to leave Reed in AAA until next June, there is no reason not to keep him up now. He won’t be a super 2 guy, so he’ll still only have 1 full major league season after NEXT year.

    • I have Arrieta on my fantasy team and even he has gotten knocked around the past 3 or 4 starts. He did so well early on and last year that everyone thinks he is the best. He is a very good pitcher but people forget he too is very young and still will develop further.

      Reed is like a year behind the rest of the new pitchers that are on the Reds. We all need to be patient. I am impressed that Lamb went on his own to make some changes. His last outing was good. Stephenson will go through growing pains too when he gets called up.

  7. Thanks, Chad. It is always good to take a step back and not overreact. As you said, there is no reason the organization should overreact because they really don’t have anything to lose.

    The only thing I would be curious about as the prospects start to get MLB experience is trade value. I think most people would agree that the Reds have the ability to trade pitching for some hitting, and it will be interesting to see who emerges as our best and most logical trade chip.

    • Yep, the best case scenario is that a bunch of these pitchers pan out, and they have lots of assets to fill in other gaps on the roster.

  8. The Reds fans are losing patience…..all 4,000 of us! Let these guys learn on the job already! Let Price find out how coachable these guys are as well. How well do they listen? Isn’t Ted Power with the Reds now too? This is as low pressure as its going to get. Its not Baltimore or Boston where the pitching is struggling under the spotlight of huge crowds and a pennant chase.

    • Good point there, Indy. The environment in Cincy (rebuild, low expectations, etc) is probably about as friendly as you’re going to get for struggling first-year starters.

  9. Great. Article and I loved the historical references of past SP’s who struggled. Lots of Reds fans are over-reacting.

    Also, remember some SP’s who started out with a bang who flopped after a couple of years. Dontrel Willis, the South Korea player who pitched for the Dodgers…

    Perspective is everything. I’m wondering if Marty is starting to lose perspective between his criticism of Votto and of the current young SP’s.

  10. Staying the course, and receiving complimentary tickets for the remainder of the season works for me. Spending a penny to attend “1” game is out of the question. I can attend 3 soccer games at Nippert with my family in lieu of supporting a team that doesn’t even qualify for life support. The end is not near, it was here before the season ended last year !

  11. Great article, thanks for sharing. I’m happy with letting them learn at the major league level……sure beats watching Marquis, Simon, etc. The sooner they learn/adjust (or not), the sooner we get back to winning baseball.

    • This is the truth. The reds have to find pitchers for 162 games, and what is our alternative? Are we going to sign crappy free agents, or run some lower-ceiling AAA guys out there, and hoard all of our potential in the minors? I have a feeling if the front office had chosen that route, our fans would be crying about it just as loudly.

      The team sucks but I think in a month they will have traded literally all moveable assets they have, besides swapping our unproven-but-potential-studs for somebody else’s. At that point what can you do besides hope for the best?

  12. Johnny Cueto had a 4.81 ERA his rookie year. He wasn’t a sub 3 ERA pitcher until year 4. Not everyone walks the same path to stardom.

    • Seeing how he has pitched this year makes me a little sad. I know we are rebuilding but I sure miss watching him every 5th game. It was just fun. He might be tied for my favorite Reds Pitcher in my lifetime.. Jose Rijo was my other Favorite.

  13. I mentioned this in a previous post, but I think the impatience is impacted when people see Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard arrive and not miss a beat. It fits in overall with a very “right now” obsessed culture. Are we “trending” up or down? What can I say that would evoke a response RIGHT NOW. NOW. NOW. NOW.

    Even at the college basketball and football level, we look for the “stud” freshmen and “pro ready” guys. Those kinda of players are great, but the reality is that they are few and far between. Once was a day when a freshmen would never see the floor, now we expect them to be a team leader or they might be marginalized.

    One of the reasons I love baseball so much, one of the things I can say that it has given to me as a person, is an appreciation of time and patience. I know when not to buy into a hot week or month, to stay a little more even keel. Maybe it just reinforces parts of my natural personality, but I like the long game. Sometimes that patience isn’t rewarded, but as Chad has said, there aren’t guarantees.

    I feel like patience is a better process with these pitchers than knee jerk reactions. Heaven knows that I’d want the same if I were one of them. Wouldn’t any of us? This is how the sausage gets made, there aren’t a lot of there ways to make it happen.

  14. Need more than patience.

  15. If John Lamb doesn’t make it in the big leagues he’s got a good career in music! 🙂 John Lamb IS Tommy Shaw…. LOL

  16. Patience with the young pitching is needed for this season.

    Not much patience with the Reds continuing to trot Phillips out there each game.

  17. I agree totally, be patient. No they may not all pan out, but the percentages are good that at least 2 or 3 of them will. Lamb has already shown he can mix speeds. He just needs to be consistent and locate. Reed has fantastic stuff, just needs to improve his secondary pitches and location. Finnegan has to learn to be able to control his pitches and stay down in the zone. But all three are capable, they just need time.

  18. Patience,patience and more patience will be needed for this young staff but they will get better and better.I have no patience however when we continue to do things that block young position players from getting a shot to see what they can do.Wins and losses don’t matter and what happens the rest of this year is critical as to how soon we can compete for a playoff spot.Sadly I don’t believe the front office even has a plan but I really really hope I am wrong.

  19. Loved the article, Chad!

  20. Good article – yes, patience is needed. After watching the Reds this past weekend, I’d agree with Coach Bochy – there’s some power in that line-up. A decent line-up that needs a few rising stars, has some solid veterans and shows signs of promising young pitching… I believe we will compete in the NL Central as early as next year – especially if we can taste some winning the 2nd half of this year. It’s easy to get too high or too low… but the path is set, we just need some pieces to fall into place. Keep surrounding these young guys with winners – Lou P, Ted P, etc.

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About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.


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