When it comes to overall value, a starting pitcher is worth far more than a reliever.

In 2015, the Indians’ Cody Allen had the highest fWAR of any relief pitcher in baseball at 2.6. Among the 77 qualified starting pitchers in the league, 44 reached that number. This year, the most valuable reliever has been the Yankees’ Dellin Betances with 2.5 fWAR — 22 starters have already been worth at least that.

Of course, starters pitch far more innings than relievers, which is why they’re more valuable. At the end of the day, a starter will have more to do with his team winning and losing than a reliever will.

For that reason, many relievers are simply failed starters — good enough to pitch at the big-league level, but not to pitch more than a few innings at a time, for whatever reason. Then, there are pitchers whose arms simply couldn’t take the rigors of throwing 100 or more pitches every five days. The latter category is where the Reds’ Raisel Iglesias fits in, at least for now.

The 26-year-old was a reliever in Cuba before signing with the Reds in 2014 and converting to a starting role. He spent the majority of the 2015 season as a starter, dominating major-league hitters in a seven-game stretch from August to September. Many fans were wondering if they were watching the team’s future ace develop right before their eyes.

But then the first sign of trouble emerged: the right-hander was shut down in early September due to shoulder fatigue. Iglesias got a late start in spring training this year in order to build up strength in his right shoulder, in an effort to keep him healthy the entire 2016 season. He was named the Reds’ Opening Day starter and made five solid starts before more issues struck. This time, it was an impingement of his throwing shoulder.

Iglesias missed nearly two months before making his return. He didn’t come back as a starter, however. To protect the health of his talented arm, the Reds decided to move him to the bullpen, where his workload would be far less strenuous.

While the team did leave the door open for using him in the starting rotation again down the road, there was, understandably, much disappointment for Reds fans when this announcement was made. Iglesias had showed so much promise in his 21 career starts, posting a 3.88 ERA, 3.60 FIP, and 3.32 xFIP, while striking out more than a batter per inning. The move wasn’t to fill a need in the bullpen, as it was with Aroldis Chapman in 2010; it was simply because Iglesias couldn’t stay healthy.

Even though the side-winding hurler isn’t in an ideal role where he can bring the most value, the Reds may have found the best alternative. Since returning from the disabled list, Iglesias has made 10 relief appearances and has been a truly dangerous weapon. Typically being used in late, high-leverage situations, he has allowed only one run and seven hits in 20 1/3 innings, while striking out a whopping 29.1 percent of the hitters he’s faced — more than 10 per nine innings.

What’s made his dominance even better for the Reds is that in nine of his outings, he has pitched at least two innings, breaking the mold of the traditional one-frame reliever. Iglesias, along with Michael Lorenzen, has not only brought a degree of stability to the bullpen; he has also brought versatility. Bryan Price can deploy him in crucial late-game situations, but doesn’t need to go to another arm the next inning, maximizing Iglesias’ innings and overall value to the club.

In just over 20 innings, Iglesias is already second among Reds relievers in with a 0.4 fWAR (factoring in his five starts, he’s at 0.9 for the season, tied with Anthony DeSclafani for second on the team). At 0.6, only Blake Wood has been more valuable — and he’s pitched more than double the amount of innings Iglesias has.

The ideal role for Iglesias would obviously be in the starting rotation. He certainly showed he belonged there when healthy and could very well do so again in the future. But is serving as a multi-inning, shutdown reliever the next-best thing right now? Thus far, it’s certainly proving to be.

14 Responses

  1. Daytonian

    YES. DEFINITELY! Keep Iglesias where he is, in the pen. Bring him in to pitch key situations and even to pitching multiple innings when needed. He’s effective in relief, and he avoids the fragility that has plagued him as a starter. This is a no-brainer.

  2. VaRedsFan

    Without a doubt, he is helping the team win more games as a reliever. Obviously, Iggy’s body is saying no to a heavy starting pitcher workload. I like him as a 2+ inning guy when the game is close. How refreshing is it to watch the team actually hold leads that they have achieved in the early innings. Nearly every great team has a great bullpen. Let Iggy and Lorenzen be the duo to lead the bullpen for the next Reds winning team.

  3. cfd3000

    If (a big if) the Reds have a healthy rotation of solid starters then I do like Iglesias and/or Lorenzen in this stretched leverage relief role. They should, soon – Bailey, Disco, Straily, Finnegan, Reed, Stephenson, Garrett and even Sampson all are in line to fill the rotation. Will at least five of those guys be solid and dependable? I hope so. Then the nucleus of a strong bullpen can include Iggy, Lorenzen, Cingrani, Wood and perhaps Jumbo. With the offense starting to gel a little, and Winker, Senzel, and maybe a healthy Mesoroco on the way, this rebuild thing could be solid even in 2017. But so much will depend on what happens before the trade deadline and how that starting corps develops. For now, leave Iggy right where he is. He’s adding real value without increasing his risk of injury. It’s not worth an extra win or two this year to move him to the rotation.

  4. UpstateNY Reds Fan

    I’d love to see the Reds go with an Iggy/Lorenzen/Cingrani centric bullpen, with some combination of the 3 of them pitching 2+ innings a game. Ideally, it would be indiscriminate of whatever inning it is. JUST GET OUTS.

    • cfd3000

      I think your spell check is turned off. That’s not how you spell Charlton / Myers / Dibble. But I like that idea. Just need a starting corps to turn over a lead to the new Nasty Boys.

      • Jonathan

        Didn’t most of the Nasty Boys all see time as SP’s early in their careers? It’s hard to imagine that the Reds let John Fannco leave for the Mets and allowed the Marlins to claim Hoffman in their draft.

  5. WVRedlegs

    The Reds will get Iglesias on a strength and conditioning program similar to what they had for Homer Bailey between the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Iglesias will show up next spring noticeably bigger and stronger, just like Homer did in 2012.
    I’d flip-flop Finnegan and Iglesias about mid-way through August when Finnegan gets close to his innings limit. Finnegan is more suited for the bullpen and Iglesias is a solid #3 starter. The Reds have a lot riding on Iglesias’s shoulder.
    On paper at least, the Reds theory of drafting/signing relievers and making them into starters had some merit. But in actuality, the Reds implementation of it has been a colossal failure. A Hindenburg-type of disaster. Using first round picks on Lorenzen and Howard proved very costly. Lorenzen will be a nice reliever. But using a first round pick for a bullpen piece was absurd.

  6. The Duke

    I’d like to see the Reds use Iglesias as a more effective modern day Scott Sullivan. The reliever who can go 2-3 IP and log 100 IP in a season in 40-50 appearances.

    • reaganspad

      I loved Scott Sullivan and the frisbee pitch

      I am closer to WV on this as I would like to see Iglesias start. But health is the most important thing.

      If he can pitch 2+ innings every 3 games and give you 120-150 innings out of the pen, that would be Mike Marshall type stuff.

      But to only get 80 innings out of him is a waste. NOT a fan of him becoming a closer. I would rather have him as a PITCHER!

      Chapman, Shmapman

  7. Matt WI

    Something tells me that the Reds are only using Iggy like this because A) they want to build up some innings in case he starts again B) It’s a lost season, so it’s ok to try “new things.”

    I have a strong fear that if the Reds were back to winning, competitive baseball, it would suddenly be “wrong” to allow him to pitch 2 innings at a time and they’d go back to a traditional one inning role, or heaven forbid, a closer role. And, the radio team mentioned Iggy has expressed some interest in that role. See my previous post about crying on the side of the road a week or two back on that topic.

    It would be a minor miracle that a team that could have used Chapman this same way and didn’t suddenly found their critical thinking skills and continued to deploy him as a multi-inning weapon.

    • Scott E. Disney

      I don’t know what FO’s opinion on this is, but Price sounds like he likes using guys like Iggy and Lorenzen for 2+ high leverage innings. Jim Day – I think it was him – was talking about this last night.

  8. David

    If the Reds were having the Cubs season and had Cubs talent, the right move is to keep him in the bullpen this year and maybe even next year. Since the Reds have Reds talent (insert sad face), there should be proper conditioning for Iglesias to try being a starter again next year. Worst case, he ends up back in the bullpen after another failed attempt. Since the Reds are the Reds, they will probably choose a path that limits Iglesias’ value and contribution to the club overall, i.e. use him one inning at a time in generally low leverage situations (SAVES!!!!!!!).

    • The Duke

      No, the worst case scenario would be a severe shoulder injury that ends his career. The shoulder keeps wearing down, all it takes is pushing a tired shoulder a little too long for something bad to happen.