Kill the Win

The Reds pitching staff is allowing HRs at a record pace

To put it mildly, it’s been a bumpy season for Reds hurlers. At times, the pitching staff — especially the bullpen — has been unwatchable. Things have gotten considerably better as players have returned from injury, but the unit still ranks among the worst in baseball by most measures.

The Reds have the highest FIP (5.33), xFIP (4.83), and SIERA (4.64) in the game, and they are the only team to be below replacement level (minus-2.1 fWAR) as a staff. They also lead the league in walk rate (10.3 BB%) and are 27th in strikeout rate (18.9 K%). Only the Diamondbacks (5.10) have a worse ERA than the Redlegs (5.09).

That being said, all of those numbers have gradually gotten better as the season has worn on and guys like Anthony DeSclafani and Raisel Iglesias have come off the disabled list. There have still been hiccups (Monday night’s ninth-inning, nuclear meltdown comes to mind, though that could hardly be classified as a mere hiccup), but the Reds are no longer on pace to have a historically awful pitching staff. As Wesley Jenkins put it last week:

The Reds pitching staff is no longer “the worst in baseball history;” now it’s just your average, everyday bad.

But there is still one area where the Reds just may end up being the worst in baseball history: home runs allowed. Sure, half of the team’s games are played in the notoriously home-run friendly Great American Ball Park. But every other Reds club since 2003 can say the same thing, and none were even close to giving up the long ball at the pace this year’s team has.

In fact, no other team in history has allowed dingers like the 2016 Cincinnati Reds — not even a Colorado Rockies ballclub or a team from the Steroid Era.

Through 111 games, the Reds have allowed 179 home runs, by far the most in baseball. The next closest team is the Twins, who have given up 154. Cincinnati relievers have been particularly afflicted by the long ball, allowing 74 — the 23rd highest total in history. With 51 games remaining on the schedule, the record of 88 seems likely to fall. What’s more stunning is the amount of home runs given up by relievers to the first batter faced in a game, something that has been well-documented throughout the season:

Per nine innings, the Reds have allowed 1.62 home runs. Want to guess how many teams in baseball history have put up such an unsightly number? That’s right: zero. The 1996 Tigers have the next-worst rate, and they’re a ways behind at 1.51 HR/9.

In terms of homers allowed per fly ball, the Reds are also the worst (16.3 percent) since the stat began being measured by Fangraphs in 2002. No team has ever had a higher HR/FB rate than 14.1 percent (the 2012 Blue Jays). Four teams are above that number this year: the Yankees (16.1%), Royals (14.3%), and Diamondbacks (14.3%). Since pitchers have little control over whether a fly ball goes for a home run, this number tends to be luck-based and will normalize over time toward the league average; typically, that has been around 10 or 11 percent. This year, it’s at 12.8 percent, the highest rate on record. That’s something to keep in mind when looking at the Reds’ high mark, but that doesn’t make their number any less staggering.

These numbers have also been improving as the season has worn on, but the Reds are still giving up home runs at a higher rate than most teams.

Reds home run rates

After horrific home run rates in the first three months, Reds pitchers were simply bad in July and have been average so far in August. The good news is the team is showing real progress. But will it be enough to prevent them from setting an undesirable record? Even if they allowed long balls at their August rate (1.29 per nine innings) for the rest of the year, they would still allow 245 home runs, breaking the all-time record by four. If we assume every game for the rest of the season lasts nine innings, they would still break the HR/9 record as well (1.52).

Thanks, Alfredo Simon.

7 thoughts on “The Reds pitching staff is allowing HRs at a record pace

  1. Iglesias, Wood and Cingrani are the only pitchers with a HR/FB% below 10%. Under 11% adds in Straily, Desclafani and Cotham.

    Lorenzen, Hoover, Jumbo and Reed are all above 25%. yikes

    • while Hoover, Jumbo and Reed are giving up meatballs, Lorenzen’s 33% HR/FB rate is due to only giving up 9 fly balls. His 14.8% FB rate is just a small sample size because the lowest rate for all qualified pitchers is Stroman at 20.6%, but still interesting

  2. The numbers are bad but from the old “eye test” the two things that jump out for the relievers are home runs and walks to first batters. Total numbers and rates issued for those two must be historically bad. Can anyone provide numbers on those two? The Reds relievers MUST be setting records in those categories.

  3. Does anyone know why home runs are up across baseball? Just a couple of years ago (after the steroid era) they were talking about how home runs were on the decline. Is it the balls, the hot weather this year or has anyone heard anything different?

  4. To many pitchers throwing heat right down the middle of the plate. My guess is that the new sabermetric darling stat of exit velocity would also have the Reds pitchers leading in mph. The Reds need better development down on the farm for both a secondary pitch and fastball location.

  5. Its location location and location.Major leaguers hit 95 MPH a long way when they are belt high and down the middle.Fastball command and movement go a long way just look at Dan Straily and really take a look at Bartolo Colon.

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