How’s this for an opener: The Reds’ starting rotation is worse than the University of Florida’s, the Reds’ bullpen is better than the one currently at the top of the AL Central standings, and Thom Brennaman is a schoolyard bully. Looks like a three-pitch strikeout of a sentence to me, so let’s break this down a la Rob “Pitching Ninja” Friedman.
Strike 1: The Reds’ starting rotation has the worst WAR of any staff in the league BY NEARLY TWO WHOLE POINTS. Led by Homer Bailey’s abysmal -1.2 WAR, the Reds staff’s -5.4 mark looks longingly up at the Padres -3.7, hoping for better days. And it’s not just Homer being an anchor on otherwise productive young guys. The starters minus Homer and Brandon Finnegan have a -3.5 WAR, which hey, better than the Padres?
- Reds’ bullpen: -0.3 WAR.
- Indians’ bullpen: -3.5 WAR, which hey, better than the Padres’ rotation?
Strike 3: Okay this is the one that gets me, and albeit, it is a week’s old taunt now, but Thom claiming the Rays are “an awful organization” and mocking them for starting Sergio Romo is pretty rich when you work for the Reds. Steve Mancuso wrote much more eloquently about the incident when it happened, but I just can’t wrap my head around the reasoning on Brennaman’s part. Why pick on the team trying when your team can barely figure out the difference between the bullpen and the DL?
Have you figured out where this post is going yet? That’s right, the Reds should use Amir Garrett and Raisel Iglesias as openers, just like the Rays have used Romo, in order to get their best pitchers more innings, cushion the load on the young developing guys, and just stop being the backwards-thinking organization it has been for, well, ever.
There’s a video out there that if you’ve ever been to a leadership seminar, I’m sure you’ve seen it already. It shows a shirtless man dancing, or really moving his limbs, at the Sasquatch music festival in 2009. Gradually, more and more people join in on the dance, until the whole dang festival is shaking their limbs off beat with this shirtless man.
Accompanying the video are some lessons on leadership, the most important of which deals with the idea of the first follower. While there is a leader, the shirtless dancing man or perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays, he can easily be dismissed as a lone nut and ridiculed (ahem, Thom). The more important player is the first follower, who joins the leader and shows everyone else that maybe the leader is on to something.
What do the Reds have to lose by being the first follower?
Just yesterday, Tyler Mahle labored through 5.0 innings with 96 pitches. The start before that? 5.0 innings and 102 pitches. And ditto, 5.0 and 102, for the start before that. Mahle’s not getting lit up in these starts either, allowing seven runs across the 15.0 innings. It’s not a good line, but he’s not pitching poorly, just inefficiently.
Now imagine if Mahle could game into the game in the second or third inning and face the bottom of the lineup to start. Imagine if he didn’t have to battle right out of the gate, running up his pitch count. Imagine if he could learn how to work into the third time around the order, but ease his way to working around the top of the order a third time.
All it would take is moving Amir Garrett back into the rotation, an idea I don’t think many will push against. Garrett has been the second most valuable pitcher for the Reds this year, behind only Jared Hughes, but has only thrown 34.2 innings.
If the Reds adopted a system where Garrett started in front of Mahle and Iglesias went in front of Romano, then two of the Reds top three pitchers would be maximizing their innings and, for Iglesias at least, their trade value. Should a close game still need to be closed, shutdown reliever extraordinaire Jared Hughes would be ready to go.
To be fair, this entire experiment would require player buy-in to even get off the ground. Just pushing these new roles on players seems to always be poorly received (ahem, Homer). But if the front office and Jim Riggleman are committed to these young guys being the future of the rotation, then something needs to be done to get them up to Major League speed.
When the young starters prove they can take the mound without training wheels, then they begin the game all by themselves again. But for the time being, why continue to let flounder when there is a better way to acclimate to the Majors while maximizing existing value?
So how’s this for a closer: The Rays are dancing alone at the moment and Thom can mock them all he wants, but pretending to be a cool kid from the cellar of the NL Central is so overrated.
Tom Hallion, Wicked Backward K Mechanics/Yell. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/eHSsCi0y4f
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 2, 2018