On April 1, 2016, the Cincinnati Reds claimed pitcher Dan Straily off waivers from the San Diego Padres.

On the surface, this acquisition looked like the Reds were desperate. That assumption would be correct. They were. The Reds pitching staff coming out of Goodyear, Arizona was inexperienced, decimated by injuries and the season was getting ready to kick off.

The Reds were getting a pitcher that was affordable ($512,00 per year salary) had some major league experience and they would have four years of control over him if things went right.

Five months later, the addition of Dan Straily can be justified as a brilliant move.

As of Tuesday, Straily leads the Reds pitching staff in wins (13), innings pitched (178) and strikeouts (150). In those 178 innings of work, he’s allowed 143 hits. Straily has started 31 games for Cincinnati and his earned run average is 3.83. He’s been generous with home runs allowed with 28, just behind Brandon Finnegan’s 29. But all in all, Straily has been a bargain.

Dan Straily was never a big-time pitching prospect. He was drafted in the 24th round of the 2009 draft by the Oakland Athletics, then traded to the Chicago Cubs, then traded to Houston and eventually wound up with the Padres. The 6’2”, 220 pound righthander is has been used both in the bullpen and as a starter over his career.

Now there’s a debate on whether the Reds should keep Straily or trade him. His stock is much higher now than it was on April 1st. But to me, Straily is a keeper for the next few years. He doesn’t have a record of injuries, he consumes innings, he’s reliable (based on his time with the Reds) and I see him as a #4 or #5 starter down the road.

It’s not like the Reds have five better starting pitchers than Dan Straily right now. Anthony DeSciafani, yes. Possibly Finnegan next season. A healthy Homer Bailey. But unless our big pitching prospects (Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett) emerge next spring, the Reds are going to need Straily.

Getting Straily reminded me of when the Reds traded for Fred Norman, a crafty lefthanded pitcher, during the 1973 season. Both played for five organizations before coming to the Reds. Neither had much success before coming to the Redlegs. And although their pitching styles are different and Norman’s resume was a bit longer, it may have been a case of finding the right team at the right time.

Norman played for the Padres and had a 1-7 record with a 4.26 ERA in 74 innings of work in 1973. Sparky Anderson was desperate for starting pitching. He had three solid starters in Jack Billingham, Don Gullett and Ross Grimsley but the cupboard was bare after that. Gary Nolan was injured and out for the year. Roger “Spider” Nelson, acquired from Kansas City for Hal McRae, was in and out of the rotation with a sore arm and pitched just 51 innings the entire season. Jim McGlothlin’s career was about over. And the Los Angeles Dodgers were building a sizable division lead over the Reds. The Reds were sorely in need for a reliable, back of the end rotation starter.

GM Bob Howsam traded Reds prospect Gene Locklear, a Triple-A first baseman, and sent some cash to San Diego for Norman. In his first outing with the Reds, Fred Norman threw a shutout. He kept on pitching outstanding for the Reds. Norman sometimes drove Anderson crazy. “He’s experimenting again!” Sparky would yell to pitching coach Larry Shepherd in the dugout when Norman was on the mound. But make no mistake about it—the Reds wouldn’t have rallied and won the NL West in 1973 without Fred Norman.  He finished with a 12-6 record and an ERA of 3.66 in 166 innings. It was one hell of a trade for Howsam and the Reds and it’s routinely overlooked.

During his seven years in Cincinnati — all contending Reds teams — Norman was never better than a #3 or #4 starter but he was valuable to the Reds. His career record was 85-64 with Cincinnati, including nine shutouts. He averaged 187 innings pitched per year. He started two World Series games (Game 4 in 1975, Game 2 in 1976) and a crucial Game 4 against the New York Mets in 1973 with the Reds down 2 games to 1.

There’s certainly room on the roster for Dan Straily. There’s room on this horrible last-place Reds team and there’s room down the road when this rebuild gets better and we can truly have some fun. 2016 certainly wasn’t.

Going further, a solid case could be made that Dan Straily be named the Reds pitcher of the year. DeSciafani, Michael Lorenzen and Raisiel Iglesias have had good  seasons but missed significant playing time due to injuries. Straily has been there for Manager Bryan Price, day in and day out.

Like all at the Nation, I look forward to the next Reds winning team. And I hope Dan Straily is a part of it.

19 Responses

  1. WVRedlegs

    I agree with your assessment. Getting Dan Straily was an excellent pick up for the Reds. Luckily the Phillies didn’t have a need for Straily as they had just set their rotation for the season. And the Reds won the waiver claim.
    I always have liked Freddie Norman. That Freddie Norman trade was a good deal for the Reds in 1973. It was also good for the Padres too, as they promoted a rookie pitcher named Randy Jones after that trade. Yes, the 1976 Cy Young Award winner, that Randy Jones.

  2. Old-school

    Thanks for the article John and your service to others. Love the historical parallels and stories. Straily has had a nice season.We will see if he can sustain things going forward. For the sabermetric phD’s, I understand BABIP and sort of XFip….but why is straily’s WAR so low. Only 1.2? How so…I’d think he is a 2.5 guy?

    • lwblogger2

      WAR is different based on how it’s calculated. You’re probably looking at FanGraphs’ WAR which uses FIP as a big part of the calculations. Straily’s peripherals, including FIP are pretty bad. He gives up a lot of HR and his fair share of walks without a ton of strikeouts. He hasn’t given up a lot of actual runs though so his WAR, as calculated by Baseball Reference (which uses ERA in its calculations) is probably a lot higher than the 1.2 number you’re putting out there.

  3. Bill Lack

    Just to add some more Fred Norman info, he not only threw shutouts in his first 2 games as a Red (beat Pitt, then SF) and nearly had a 3rd, but gave up a homer in the 9th to Ron Cey in beating the Dodgers in his 3rd Reds start.

    He joined us on Redleg Nation Radio for a two parter in 2013 Part 1 & Part 2

  4. Chuck Schick

    Fred Norman’s K rate and BB rate were better in 1972 with the Padres than in 1975 with the Reds.

    However, the 1972 Padres averaged 3 runs per game and the 1975 Reds averaged 5. He was basically the same pitcher, he just had much greater run support.

  5. Jason Linden

    Completely agree with this. Even if all the prospects pan out, guys are going to run into innings limits and whatnot. Straily is going to be needed.

  6. lwblogger2

    Considering the fact that he’s not even arbitration eligible yet, so he costs basically nothing to keep, I don’t think it hurts to put him in the rotation again and see if he can be one of those guys that posts a BABIP below league average and can consistently have an ERA that outperforms his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. There aren’t a lot of those guys and I wouldn’t sign him to an extension or anything but it doesn’t hurt the Reds to find out what they have. I think a few of the young guys still have some stuff to work out at AAA and they may well have innings limits anyway. Then there’s the possibility that Bailey or any of the other pitchers the Reds may be counting on may have setbacks or injuries going into 2017. I agree that Straily needs to be kept and I’ll add that he should probably be penciled into the rotation to start 2017.

  7. Tom Mitsoff

    Straily is a lightning rod for discussion because his “traditional” stats look pretty decent. Who wouldn’t want a starting pitcher with a 13-8 record, right? But his “SABR-metric” stats are not so pretty.

    In front offices, neighborhood bars, and baseball websites across the country, this issue is debated — not Straily in particular, but what is more important — “traditional” stats like wins and losses and ERA, or “SABR” era stats such as FIP, spin rate, etc.?

    • lwblogger2

      Yes, but I think even a lot of traditional leaning baseball people are at least looking at the “SABR” statistics and at least excercising caution when the underlying numbers don’t look nearly as good as what the more traditional stats are telling them. The traditional leaning baseball people will also be looking at things beyond the stats like how a guy actually looks at the plate or on the mound. What’s the movement like? Where is his velocity? Do there seem to be a lot of “at ’em” balls? Are guys just not squaring him up for some reason?

  8. Carl Sayre

    He is so cost effective you have to keep him. The worst case scenario he implodes next season and you release him. The upside is the young studs come to camp kicking backsides and kicking in the door for a spot, he can be the long man in the pen or traded for a position player. He also brings something to dance that might help, he basically is healthy and stays that way maybe that is genetics, luck or just good mechanics. There is a chance that he does a great job taking care of his self from the looks of things our youngsters could learn a little about that. Pitchers in particular who take care of their body and stay healthy are something to be cherished and learned from.

  9. David

    Dan Straily will either get better or worse. And no, I’m not trying to be overly witty here.
    His win/loss record with the Reds was probably due to decent run support when he started. Although his peripheral statistics are not impressive, give him credit for having an idea of what he is doing on the mound.
    If his peripherals get better with more experience, confidence and general strength, then he will be a good starter (he reminds me more of Bronson Arroyo than Fred Norman). Or this year was a fluke, and next year his peripherals will be more predictive of his win/loss, runs allowed, etc.

    I would bet that his peripherals will get better next year as he gets more innings and repeatable mechanics get better.

  10. Jeff

    My recollection of Fred Norman is that the biggest advantage to that trade was no longer having to face Fred Norman. Reds in the NL West in those days would have played the Padres 18 times. The hypothetical Fred Norman of memory would have been 9-11 with a 4-0 record against the Reds. Fact checking 1972 I see that I was close, he was actually 4-1 against the Reds, 5-10 against the rest of the league. Three brilliant starts plus one clunker plus a win in relief. Tidy little September shutout on 7 hits, 5 walks, and 15 strikeouts.

  11. Jeff

    At time of trade in 1973 he was 1-7. Naturally his only win was a complete game, 2-1 victory againt the Reds.

  12. ArtWayne

    Good article. Sometimes it’s a matter of being in the right spot at the right time.

  13. Tom Mitsoff

    A little food for thought: I went to ESPN with the idea of doing some research on who the Reds player with the top WAR this season is — looking of course for Joey Votto. But you’ll never guess who the top Red this season is for WAR, and by a wide margin. Straily is the number 70 player in the majors this season with a 3.83 WAR. Votto is the second-ranked Red, number 97 overall, with a 3.12. Hmmmm. 🙂 Sounds like a guy who needs to be put into a long relief role next year, right? 😉

    • Nick Carrington

      Depends on who is calculating WAR. If you prefer Baseball-Reference’s calculations, then yes Straily has had almost a 4 WAR season. In Fangraphs WAR, which puts way more emphasis on the elements a pitcher actually controls, Straily has 1.2 WAR. Votto has 4.2 fWAR.

      It’s the same friendly argument we all keep having. If you think Straily can maintain his otherworldly BABIP and beat his ERA predictors (FIP, xFIP, SIERA), then you think he’s a long-term solution. If not, then you don’t.

      You could make the argument that Reed, Stephenson, and Garrett need more time in the minors to develop pitches and command, and then you almost definitely start Straily in the rotation in 2017. Maybe they should compete in Spring Training just to see.

      • Tom Mitsoff

        I completely agree that there should be true competition in spring training. Nobody on this pitching staff, other than DeSclafani, Bailey (if healthy) and Iglesias, should be a lock going in. The Reds lack impact players in all aspects of the game (other than Votto and possibly Hamilton).

  14. IndyRedMan

    Disco, Lorenzen, Homer, Straily, and Finnegan in the rotation. If Homer becomes a well paid spectator again and Straily/Finnegan bust out then there are plenty of alternatives! Its easy to compare Straily to Sammy LeCure and they were both better vs lefties so they could be pretty useful in the pen for the middle innings! Personally I’d like to see Lorenzen get a chance to start but either way I love Price’s idea of dual 100+ inning high leverage/closers. That might be the best thing to come out of this lousy season! Thinking outside the box a little….I actually proposed Homer as a closer before he came back this year. His numbers have been better from his 1st-30th pitches as opposed to many starters that start slow and warm up! The Reds front office usually goes out and gets Price guys like Simon, Gregg, Badenhop, Marquis, etc. It would be a pleasant change if they could sign a hardthrowing guy for the pen that could team up with Iggy/Lorenzen or whoever they leave in the pen. Wood and Cingrani don’t measure up! I barely trust either one of them with a 2-3 run lead.

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Interesting idea with Homer as closer. We’re not likely to see that kind of out of the box thinking, though — not at his salary.