For this week’s question we asked some of the writers from Redleg Nation about how the Reds’ bullpen.

Question: The Reds’ bullpen has been a bit of a mess at times this year. Which reliever do you have the most faith in?

Steve Mancuso: The Reds bullpen has been excellent. To say that it has been “a mess at times” is to say that it is a group of players comprised of relief pitchers. Relievers are inherently inconsistent. The Reds bullpen is still 5th best in the major leagues, 2nd in the NL and best in the NL Central based on xFIP. xFIP is a much more reliable stat than say ERA, especially for the small sample size concerning relievers. The Reds have fewer blown saves than 21 other teams. Every team’s bullpen is being used more now and they all have meltdowns. The Reds bullpen has pitched fewer innings than 23 other teams. I have about the same faith in Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen and Amir Garrett. On a scale of 1-to-10 with 1 being Zach Duke and 10 being Mariano Rivera, I’d put the three of them at 7.5 or 8.

Mary Beth Ellis: I’m sure David Bell had some sort of proper lefty-righty matchup numerology he was following when he yanked Amir Garret in favor of Iglesias on Friday night. I don’t doubt it at all. But as soon as I saw who was on the mound and who wasn’t, I uttered a pre-emptive “Welp,” and immediately started whining on Twitter. “I want my teammates to know they can count on me, whether in a game or to get them a beer or whatever,” he said before Players’ Weekend, pointing at “Count on AG” on the back of his (stupidly plain white) jersey. And… I do.

Jeff Carr: Hands down Amir Garrett. When Garrett takes his jump shot after emerging from the bullpen, I know the other team is getting shut down. The first thing I look at with a reliever is how does he fares coming into games with runners on. In the last two seasons Garrett has inherited 80 runners and has allowed just 20 of them to score. He also averages just 15 pitches per appearance. Now, sure, some of that stems from an occasional usage as a specialist, but we’ve seen that even specialists can rack up the pitch count (looking at you, Zach Duke).

This season everyone is hitting .190 against Garrett. He’s not getting lucky, either, as the BABIP against him is .271. Something that is unquantifiable and every bit as important is Amir, himself. He’s a leader for this team. There’s not a ton of guys in MLB that you can say lead a team from the bullpen. Heck, most relievers are content to be quirky, pitch an inning a night, and be done with it. When Bronson Arroyo described this team to me, he said “Geno, Winker, and Amir are the leaders in the clubhouse,” and you don’t have to look to hard to see where he’s coming from.

Doug Gray: Overall I think that the bullpen as currently constructed is a quality one. As Steve notes, relievers can be inconsistent – for whatever reason that is, it generally holds true. With that said, I think that I have slightly more faith in Michael Lorenzen than the rest of the bullpen. That’s not to say I worry too much about the other guys, just that there’s a little more faith in Lorenzen. This year he’s missing bats at a career high rate, his walk rate is solid, he’s not giving up a lot of runs, and he’s generally keeping guys off base.

68 Responses

  1. Don

    Great debate question.
    Lorenzen, Garrett then Iglesias is my confidence in the BP.

    Garrett was pinch hit for by Peraza in bottom of 8th.
    Jose Iglesias made the last out of the top of the 8th and this is the first time I can remember the entire year a relief pitcher was going to be hitting 3rd in the next inning and a douple switch for the last player whom make an out was not done. The plan must have been to have Garrett only pitch one inning Friday no matter what occurred due to the lack of a double switch.

    Could have put Farmer in at 2nd or 1st (put JVM at 2nd) and moved Galvis to SS or just put Peraza at SS hitting 9th and Garrett hitting 6th giving flexibility going into the 9th, instead Bell took away his flexibility and options.

    Ideal time for a double switch and the 1st time Bell and coaches did not do the double switch like seems to have been done for no reason all season

    • Lackey

      Reds have NO closer
      Iglesias should have been traded in the last trade period. Reds are a pitiful, awful worst team in MLB.

  2. Mason Red

    I must be following a different team than the Reds if their bullpen can be described as “excellent” or “a quality one”.

    • Doug Gray

      I’d say that the guys in this bullpen, today, is a quality one. The whole year? They are 16th in the league in ERA. But that bullpen includes multiple players that were cut with ERA’s north of 5.

      Iglesias, Lorenzen, Garrett, Sims, Stephenson – that’s a pretty good 5 right there isn’t it?

    • RichS

      I agree with you Mason. The bloggers on this site rely on the numbers that a calculable. Here is an example that demonstrates the danger of the numbers game. During the last St Louis Series Brennaman posted some series comparisons on both teams and the Reds were better or equal to the Cardinals in virtually every category except, of course, Wins and Loses or First and Last place. What is the metric that explains that anomaly?

      • Doug Gray

        It’s tough to address this without having the numbers that were presented.

        But sometimes it can simply come down to “luck”.

        Both the Reds and Cardinals have good pitching (109 ERA+ and 108 ERA+), and both teams have below-average offenses (90 OPS+). The Cardinals are +53 runs this year. The Reds are -8 runs this year. That’s about 7 wins worth of runs right there. Should the difference of 61 runs exist given their adjusted stats? That probably deserves a little more digging.

      • RichS

        Doug… it is deeper than luck. Another data point offered by Brennaman and Welsh…previous scuba series it was pointed out that the Reds had hit twice as many home runs as the Cubs, but the Cubs had scored more than a third more runs. This is not luck…it is timely hitting, it is knowing how to hit in a specific situation, it is knowing when a sacrifice is more important that your individual stats, etc.
        We glamorize the number of homeruns hit by Suarez but cannot measure how many times those homeruns were meaningful…last nite good example. And there is no one on that team that is reliable in basic fundamentals.

      • Mason Red

        Rich you’re going to have a hard time convincing those who use analytics that the Reds,despite some of the data saying otherwise,is still a bad team. I will say there is luck involved when it comes to the Reds. They are lucky their record isn’t worse than it is because by luck they came across some decent starting pitching. It wasn’t part of some grand plan based on analytical data.

      • Doug Gray

        Rich, the Chicago Cubs have 203 home runs to the Reds 181 home runs. So if we’re going to start trying to break down why this or that, we need to understand the sample size part of the equation. One series doesn’t tell us much of anything in terms of why or why not about a season.

        The Cubs offense is significantly better than the Reds. They hit for more power and they get on base more. That’s why they score more runs.

        As for the timely hitting thing, the Cubs are a little bit better than the Reds with runners in scoring position. They are quite a bit better with runners on. This is also why they are a better offense than the Reds.

        Pretty much, they’ve just got better players. They have better pitching by a little bit. They’ve got better hitting by a lot.

        The Cubs aren’t better than the Reds because of luck. They are better because they have better players. The Cardinals? That one could come down to a lot of luck because they really aren’t doing any particular thing better than the Reds are.

      • Mason Red

        Wow you’re really trying to convince us that the Reds are just unlucky?? I think that’s the result of you having nothing else lol. The Reds are a bad team. It has nothing to do with luck.

      • Doug Gray

        No, that’s not what I’m trying to convince you of, Mason Red. What I am saying is that the difference between the Cardinals and the Reds could (again, COULD) be a matter of luck being on one side and against the other side. Where as the Cubs are clearly a better team and the stats show that one very clearly.

        With the Cardinals/Reds, the stats don’t really show that at first glance.

      • VaRedsFan

        That’s because they are just looking at the numbers, instead of the games. They see that the Reds have scored 18 runs in 3 games.
        (15, 2 and 1), but can’t figure out why they are only 1-2 in a 3 game series where they outscored their opponents 18-7

  3. Ed

    Without even addressing the rest of the bullpen- I worry that Garrett has looked rough for a while. I would need to pull up some stats, so I admit I could be wrong.

    My general perception is that he really was not performing well, and went on the IL- then he came back and ended up suspended, without really proving he had his stuff back. Plus, yanked his first game back from the suspension. He gave up some big fly balls in this last outing, barely got out unscathed. The fan interference double would have been an easy homer at GABP.

  4. TR

    If the Reds are leading after 5 or 6 innings, none of the relievers give me too much confidence the Reds can hold the lead.

  5. matthew hendley

    Rasiel Iglesias IF used in a save situation. Last Friday not withstanding I have general faith he will close out a game if placed into it. However not a fan of the earlier experimentation with him.

    • VaRedsFan

      and even half of those hits were luck, bloopers….before a hard hit to win it vs. that might have otherwise been caught, by a drawn in outfield

  6. Ed

    Amir Garrett has a 4.50 ERA in his last 3 games… but he’s rocking a 7.88 ERA in his last 9 games. In 8 innings. I think he had great potential but he has really been struggling.

  7. Centerfield

    Most of the problems with the Reds’ bullpen seem to be with how they are used. If you use 4 or 5 relievers every night, chances are at least one of them will have an off night. Bell rarely “rides the hot hand.” If a pitcher goes 2 or 3 innings he won’t be available the next day, but that should only apply to Garrett (at least until there is another LH in the BP. I have the least amount of faith in Iglesias. I don’t see much self-confidence there.

    • Don

      Friday looked to me to be a weird pitch selection for Iglesias.

      Batter #1
      Changeup – Strike
      fastball – foul
      changeup – single
      Batter #2
      slider – single
      Batter #3
      Change up – swinging strike
      Change up – ball
      fastball – foul
      change up – single
      Batter #4
      Fastball – sacrifice bunt
      Batter #5
      slider – strike
      slider – ball
      slider – single -= game over

      Seemed to be pitching to a scouting report and fooling hitters, not challenging them with fastball.

      Gave up 4 hits on 4 off speed pitches. Not a normal pitch sequence going from memory of watching Iglesias the last few times out.

      • Pete

        Don: if we rolled the dice and Ev of the batted balls were:
        90.5
        74.8
        66.5
        96.5

        I doubt we would want a re-roll. Sometimes bad luck will hurt you and it did Friday night. I trust Rasiel in the ninth with the game on the line – save situation. I’ll take Lorenzen is any other situation.

      • Don

        Pete:
        I agree the balls fell in lucky spots. Watching Friday, it just looked like Iglesias was not pitching as hard or with the emotion he was in the last few outings.
        He seemed to not like what he was doing, similar to the body language when he was put in non-save situations where is did not want to be.

        Results were bad as a result. He did not look like he wanted to be there.

      • Pete

        Don: you might be right. I’m nearly exclusively a stats/numbers guy. In my mind I’m wondering if the exit velocities Friday night were reproduced 10 times over, what would be the likely outcome? I really don’t know but I’d guess they’d favor Iglesias. Obviously, he didn’t appear to have his best stuff, I don’t remember one swing and miss pitch.

        It’s possible he realized he didn’t have the hard stuff that night, thus a heavy dose of breaking balls and change ups. May also account for him looking like he didn’t want to be out there. I’m somewhat unique around here as I hold RI in a high regard –if he is in a true closer role.

  8. SultanofSwaff

    Lucas Sims or BobSteve. Sims’ 1.08 WHIP leads the group by a fair amount. Not that he’s w/o warts (7 home runs in 28IP).

    You could easily argue Stephenson should be the closer as he has yielded 14 fewer hits than Iglesias in roughly the same number of innings with equivalent K/BB/HR.

  9. Jeffreyp05

    I am not sure why Bob Steve is not getting more love. He has been outstanding in August and on a year to date basis, his stats are better than most. He is 2nd on the team in hits/9 and whip and his FIP is second on the team to Sonny Gray.

    • Jim Walker

      Old memories die hard? This could also explain looking past some warts that have grown on other guys.

  10. Scott C

    I would have to go with Lorenzen. Every one of the main three (Iglesias, Garrett, and Lorenzen) have had issues at time this year but to me Lorenzen has the attitude, and the stuff that makes a reliever as dependable as possible. This is based on no facts. Just how I feel when one of them comes into a game. I like Stephenson’s stuff, which I think is closer quality but I doubt his mental approach at times. If he can get past that he may be the best of the group.

  11. RedNat

    I trust Lorenzen the most on this team. he seems to have a knack for coming up big in crucial situations. take Friday night for example. I mean that was basically the season right there. we had just taken 2/3 from San Diego. with 7 winnable games in a row against last place teams and a lead in the 9th. no way Lorenzen blows it. he is the most “clutch ” reliever we have.

  12. Jim Walker

    My eye and memory test is that there is a lot of feast or famine in this group that works out as not so bad when looking at metrics that are averages. If Iglesias, Garrett or Lorenzen come in throwing strikes and blow away the first guy they face, we can pretty relax in the knowledge all will go well. If not…..

    I don’t believe they are that fragile in their ego or confidence. I do believe they may not know how to make on the fly batter to batter and pitch by pitch adjustments. Also add in adjustments based on who the umpire is on a given night.

    • Scott C

      I think your last phrase says a lot Jim. It was one of the issues that Baur had yesterday. He wasn’t getting the inside call on left handers nor was he getting the low strike call. Personally I think the umpire was missing that low strike call but tat isn’t even relevant. If he is not calling it, quit trying to get him to call it. The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

  13. VaRedsFan

    Peraza with a slight lead over Farmer… 😉

  14. Shchi Cossack

    Quite frankly, I’m enthusiastic about the bullpen for next season. The top 5 of Garrett, Lorenzen, Iglesias, Sims and Stephenson look solid. The flyers for Gausman and Alaniz look interesting and I want to see more of Kuhnel. The key for next season’s bullpen could be Reed, but we may not see him again until next season.

    Gausman would be an expensive bullpen piece for next season, but he may have found his niche with an assist from the Reds.

    Bullpens are always fickle, so depth will be important.

  15. VaRedsFan

    I couldn’t find a lot on this, but it looks like the Reds are the 5th WORST in MLB at allowing inherited runners to score. Maybe somebody can dig deeper on this.

      • VaRedsFan

        Thanks Jim. St Louis has only inherited 2 fewer runners than the Reds, yet has allowed 21 fewer runs to score. To me, that is the mark of a good bullpen.

      • Mason Red

        Well there are those here who will say that’s just luck or the lack there of.

      • Jim Walker

        Here are the Reds inherited runner (and other stats) by individual pitcher. Note the league average for inherited runners scored is 32%. Lorenzen is right on the average. Garrett and Sims are a tick above (33%).

        Lorenzen and Garrett have both allowed 12 inherited runners to score. It would put quite a dent into their ERA/FIP if some or all of those runs were charged against them as some folks have suggested should be done in evaluating relievers.

        https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CIN/2019-pitching.shtml#players_reliever_pitching::16

      • Steve Mancuso

        It wouldn’t affect the FIP at all.

      • Jim Walker

        Steve,
        “It wouldn’t affect the FIP at all”……

        Which is a reason I maintain FIP and xFIP are flawed tools for evaluating the contribution to the team of pitchers who come on with runners already on base.

      • Steve Mancuso

        So it’s a negative result when a relief pitcher gives up an otherwise harmless ground ball or fly out that scores a runner on third base who happened to be there because of another pitcher? Or if they give up a single on a weak ground ball that happens to go between two fielders. Or they give up a floater fly ball that just by luck landed between two outfielders? Or they give up a ground ball that the fielder botches but the official scorer rules a hit? Etc. That’s what’s flawed. Research shows that FIP and xFIP are far more predictive of how a pitcher will pitch in the future than ERA.

        Strikeouts are the single best weapon for a pitcher who comes in with runners on base. I want a stat that measures strikeouts directly, not one that treats it like any other out.

      • Mason Red

        If a relief pitcher gives up runs it doesn’t matter to me how softly the hits were or where they happened to fall. If a reliever gives up 3 bloop hits that’s leads to a couple of runs score it’s not going to impress me if he struck out the side.

  16. Klugo

    Scoring and preventing scoring is the point. The dangers of peripheral sabermetrics is that it can be used as an alibi to the end goal. An equation is the sum of all of it’s parts. If someone is consistently “unlucky” they are not “unlucky” at all.
    The only pitcher I trust on this staff right now is Sonny Gray. Period.

    • Jim Walker

      Well said. My rant yesterday about lack of direction and leadership was sparked by very similar thoughts. The players are not trying to do bad. The manager is not trying to manage badly. It is often as if each person is in their own cubicle doing what they believe the organization expects and wants them to do but lacking coordination of effort.

      • RichS

        Jim: I often wonder what Marge Schott would do to this team?

  17. Steve Mancuso

    People who treat stats like xFIP as exotic data misunderstand what it is.

    You can tell the most about how a pitcher has pitched and will pitch in the future based on his strikeouts, walks and ground ball rate. Period.

    xFIP combines those three stats, which are not dependent on defense, sequencing, scorer’s decisions, luck, etc.

    If you’re analyzing pitchers over a few innings or appearances based on ERA, you’re making a big, avoidable mistake. There was a time when ERA was about the best we could do, but now it’s super easy to find MUCH better alternatives that have been proven by research to be more accurate at describing how the pitcher actually pitched and therefore better at predicting the future. I’ve been making that point here for years.

    • RojoBenjy

      Thank you Steve.

      Is xFIP the best one to look at for this, or are there other ones you like, too?

      • Steve Mancuso

        If I had to recommend one stat, it would probably be xFIP or SIERA. It’s also valuable to look at the Statcast data like xwOBA, which is an entirely different way to measure how a pitcher has actually pitched, although it’s also independent of defense, luck, etc. That’s the key thing in searching for a stat to evaluate a pitcher. If you want to know how a pitcher has pitched, then you need stats that isolate the pitcher, not variables (like earned runs, runners on base, scorer decisions) that depend on other players or luck.

        As I said before, prior to the new saber approaches ERA was considered the gold standard *because* it isolated just the *earned* runs for the pitcher. Well, now we have a much more sophisticated understanding of what the pitcher earns and have statistics that express those concepts. It’s really just a continuation of the improvement that ERA is over Runs or Wins.

    • Eric

      Folks, please don’t fall victim to the Classic Blunders:

      1.) Never get involved in a land war in Asia.

      2.) Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

      3.) NEVER challenge Steve here on the validity of this one…simple…point: xFIP tells you how a pitcher is performing.

      Trust me…he’s Batman in this meme…you’re Robin.

      But what about the combined ER… NO!!! [whap!]

      But what about the inher… NO!!! [whap!]

      But situational… NO!!! [whap!]

      • RojoBenjy

        Eric-

        I’ve built my immunity to iocaine powder.

        Besides, my question is sincere. Steve is dropping knowledge, I’m picking it up.

        My approach to analytics is to learn them and see how they and tacit baseball knowledge and experience can compliment each other.

      • Doug Gray

        xFIP is flawed and should be treated as such. It should not be used as some fact. Like other stats, it’s a guide that requires more information.

        xFIP does NOT tell how a pitcher is performing. xFIP suggests how a pitcher *is likely* to perform if they maintained their same ratios and their home run rate were exactly league average on HR/FB.

        And for the record, I’m Batman.

    • Aaron B.

      Just from common sense alone you can understand why those are the most important 3 stats to consider. Strike a guy out, it’s a guarantee. Give up a groundball, you need some luck but it will stay in the park. Walk not good but not a home run. I mean I can see how these three stats become predictive of success. I still think there are a million other variables, and I still trust my eyes over any data. For example people were immediately saying Galvis was garbage based on historical OBP when the eye test shows you he is way more advanced than most of our hitters.

      • Klugo

        But how many times have I wished for one of our guys to just put the ball on the ground or take a walk, keep the line moving? I love Aquinos HRs but the singles smacked to opposite field are the hits that convince me that he’s a good hitter. I don’t think luck plays as big of a factor in hitting as many make out.

    • Klugo

      A wise man (or maybe wisea$$) once said that “all end points are arbitrary”. The Reds bullpen was excellent to start the season. They’ve been far from it lately. The season isn’t over . Are you ready to predict, based on their “excellence” thus far, that they will be excellent moving forward? C’mon. I don’t think so. The saber metrics can be useful, sure, but like any set of stats, they can be manipulated to say whatever one wants. There are many, many factors ready taint numbers.

  18. AirborneJayJay

    I find the notion of the Reds having an “excellent” bullpen very comical. They must not have been watching much in the second half.
    I do find a good nucleus of Garrett, Lorenzen, Stephenson and Reed to build a bullpen around. But the Reds will need 4 more arms and a few more stashed away at Louisville the way Bell uses and misuses his bullpen.
    If the Reds front office is smart, and that is highly questionable, they will trade Iglesias to the first taker they find this winter.

    • Pete

      2nd best in the NL, 5th in MLB. That’s pretty darn good if not excellent.

      Your eyes will mislead you and if you don’t watch baseball outside of the Reds, it’s easy to underestimate, and other cases overestimate, what the Reds have. Everything is relative… Example: Puig has a wRC+ of 98, it’s who he is and it’s below average and way below average for a RF. Just is, people can make eyeball arguments all they want but it’s not objective evidence.

      • Mason Red

        Fangraphs ranks the Reds bullpen 22nd in MLB.

    • Steve Mancuso

      I see you got your commenting privileges restored and that the time off didn’t make your opinions any less deranged about David Bell or the front office.

      I based my “bullpen excellent” comment on the entire year, not just something from a recent memory or a month or two. It’s the year that matters, unless you have an agenda. Over the year, the Reds are ranked as I said they are in my comment. Most teams have bullpens that are struggling. ERAs are higher by half a run this year. All that considered, the Reds bullpen has been outstanding.

      You could cite a few statistics to make your case instead of just accusing me of not watching many games. lol.

      • AirborneJayJay

        I see you haven’t stopped with the name calling and still don’t respect other’s opinions.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I called your opinion deranged, not you. How would you characterize a person who has been blocked from a private website numerous times but keeps coming back with new IP addresses to circumvent the wishes of the owner, only to spout boring, repetitive calls to fire the manager and say the front office is stupid?

      • Mason Red

        I would say calling someone’s opinion deranged is as insulting as calling them deranged. I don’t have a dog in this fight but not everyone is going to agree with your opinions.

      • Klugo

        Basing your conclusion on the entire season, to this point, is especially arbitrary in this case. Just as using only their second half performance is. But if bullpens are simply as inconsistent as we are led to believe normal, then we should’ve seen this recent nosedive coming, based on the impressive first half. Oh wait…

  19. Billy

    Is “luck” or “bad luck” the reason only six other teams in all of baseball, including four expansion teams, have played in a World Series since The Reds last appearance?
    Now THATS really bad luck!

    • Pete

      No luck. The Reds either don’t draft well or develop well, my suspicion is they do neither well. Even the teams people accuse of ‘buying” WS Champs develop their own homegrown talent to form a base. The Reds do not. Until this changes they won’t be able to compete. The pick-up of guys like Jose Iglesias and Freddie Galvis can help, if used properly, but they will never be the core of a championship team. A lot of folks got bent out of shape trading Trammell and Puig, neither is ever going to be a core player, they’re not the good. The trade works because it gave an opportunity to AA who might be a core player.

      I watch Jose Siri at Louisville and he is supposed to be a big-time prospect for the Reds. Neither his statistics nor anyone’s eyeball test can conform this. In fact, they refute it as strongly as possible. To my eyes, he even looks worse than his awful statistics. The Reds should unload him while he still may have a mirage of value. But many cry to the high heavens, “how could we let this future superstar go”. He’s no good that’s how. Get something of value for him while you can – the bigger idiot theory.

      • matthew hendley

        I was shocked when Jose Siri was still in the reds system on AUG 1st. The Reds need to trade him now. (well obviously not right now cause they cant, but this offseason) The K rate had not abated and he is putting up numbers that make Billy Hamilton look like a world beater. Seen this coming for ages. Is he on the 40 man?

  20. MBS

    If Bell would use Iglesias strictly as a closer, he’d be my number 1, but since that hasn’t been the case.
    Garrett, Lorenzen, Sims, Iglesias, Stephenson