This week’s contribution to the Looking Back at the 2019 Reds series we will be taking a look at reliever Raisel Iglesias.

The Preseason Projection

Raise Iglesias was coming off of a 2018 season in which he posted the lowest ERA of his career, a 2.38 mark across 72.0 innings for the Reds while picking up 30 saves.

Here’s what Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the 2019 season had to say for the Cincinnati Reds right-handed pitcher:

IP ERA H HR BB K WHIP ERA+
67.0 3.22 56 8 24 77 1.19 131

The 2019 Season

13 months ago the Cincinnati Reds and Raisel Iglesias agreed to a new contract, essentially buying out his arbitration years – but not adding any additional years to his deal. The deal was worth $24.1M over the 2019-2021 seasons. The talk at the time of the deal was that it would allow Iglesias to still be paid like a closer throughout his remaining years (arbitration pays guys with saves, and it doesn’t pay guys without them no matter how dominant they actually are out of the bullpen), but to use him in a non-traditional closers role.

The season for Raisel Iglesias got out to a tough start, much like the season for the Reds had. In his first three appearances he allowed a run, taking the loss in two of those games. He’d rebound well the rest of the month of April, giving up just three more runs over 10.0 innings (2.70 ERA) with 19 strikeouts. But May began just like the beginning of the year had – he blew a save and then took a loss in his first two outings. Like before, he rebounded in a big way. From May 8th through June 25th he allowed just one run (0.60 ERA).

June 26th and June 30th were not great for the statline of Raisel Iglesias. He allowed four runs in an inning on the 26th, taking the loss. On the 30th he allowed three runs in 2.0 innings, but picked up the save. When the calendar flipped to July, the first half of the month went well as he tossed 5.2 shutout innings. But the reliever then allowed five runs over the next three outings as his ERA jumped up nearly a full point on the season.

Over the next three-and-a-half weeks he gave up just one run in 10.2 innings while picking up 14 strikeouts with just one walk – getting his season ERA back to where it was before the middle of July happened. But the final week of August was not friendly to the Reds closer, who gave up six earned runs over 2.2 innings in five games. Two of those games he failed to record an out, and in another one he only recorded one out. And just like that his ERA had jumped back up to 4.63 on the season. September was a strong month, though, as Iglesias allowed runs in just one game – a blown save loss on the 27th.

The season was wildly inconsistent for Raisel Iglesias. At times he was the dominant reliever he had shown in the past. But then he would go through a week stretch where he simply couldn’t get anything done. In the end, he would be charged with a loss in 12 games during the year. While he did pick up 34 saves on the season, 12 losses for a closer is a ton. It’s tied for the most losses in a season by a reliever with at least 50 innings pitched in a season since 2000 with Luis Ayala (2004).

What happened?

The baseball, in part, happened. Everyone knows at this point that the baseball was different. It flew further than it used to, and that meant that home run rates were up across the league. That, coupled with the fact that Iglesias went from being a fly ball pitcher to an extreme fly ball pitcher didn’t help him at all. The last two seasons saw him give up 12 home runs in each after giving up just 12 home runs in the previous two seasons combined.

It was the home run that caused the most problems for Iglesias during the season. But it wasn’t just the home runs. He struggled in games where he entered before the 9th inning. In the 16 games that Iglesias entered prior to the 9th inning he threw 21.0 innings and allowed 14 earned runs. That’s an ERA of 6.00. In games that he entered in the 9th or later on the season his ERA was 3.33 over 46.0 innings.

By the time that the first week in May had rolled around Raisel Iglesias wasn’t happy with how he was being used, and he vented those frustrations publicly. How he was surprised by the way he was used is a mystery given that it was talked about at the press conference about his new contract, but that’s a different story for a different day. Whether it was the mental preparation for non-9th inning or later appearances, just simply bad luck and random variance showing it’s ugly face at the wrong time giving the impression of a trend – whatever it was, it happened. And it was a big part of the reason his ERA, and loss total was much higher than it’s ever been before.

Season Stats

IP ERA SV H HR BB K WHIP ERA+
67.0 4.16 34 61 12 21 89 1.22 109

What’s to come?

This is the question on a lot of minds. If Raisel Iglesias can get back to the dominant reliever that he was from 2016-2018 it would be a huge benefit for the Reds bullpen. But in order to do that he’ll probably need to go back to finding more ground balls than he had last year, and possibly figure out whatever it was that seemed to be holding him back when he came into the game before the 9th inning.

Not everything was bad in 2019 for Raisel Iglesias. There were some good signs during the season. His strikeout rate of 32% was the best it’s ever been. His walk rate of 7.5% was at it’s lowest point as a reliever, and only trailed his 2015 season as a starter in terms of the lowest rate he’s shown in his career. And his BABIP against was also easily the highest it’s ever been in his career. There’s a lot of reason to think he should perform better from an ERA standpoint in 2020 than he did in 2019. But there do remain a few question marks, too.

16 Responses

  1. centerfield

    For context – I’m not a big fan of Raisel. He displays wonderful stuff, at times, but never seems to be fully warmed up when he enters a game. Complaining about non-save situational use is just being selfish. Judging by body language, he seems to lack confidence. I think most of his problems are located between his ears. I just can’t get over 12 losses and a number (?) of blown saves. I am hoping they can find some trade value for him this winter.

  2. JayDubz

    Is there a statistic that de-averages based on the talent that he is facing? For example, a pure 9th inning guy might face the top, middle, or bottom of the order. But the role that he was in put him consistently in the highest leverage situations.

    Maybe he’s not as good as we think?

    This is all purely a hypothesis.

  3. Big Ed

    The naked eye tells us that his problem was leaving WAY too many fat, hittable pitches over the heart of the plate.

    Maybe there is a stat I’m not familiar with, but there ought to be a pitching converse of the “barrel” stat, whereby they measure how often a guy leaves a pitch in the hitting zone, with little movement and non-elite velocity. Iglesias was superb at that. Another variation, which may exist, is “barrels allowed.” (You could call them “Homer Baileys” or “HBs.”)

    A pitcher has to be graded not only by his good pitches, but also by his bad pitches, and his tendency to throw them. A pitcher’s “spin rate” is interesting, but we hear very little about the consistency of his general spin rate or his “useful” spin, and hence the propensity to throw the cement mixer over the middle of the plate.

    “Wins” as a stat are generally suspect, but the exception to that is for a closer. When a closer has 12 losses, something has gone wrong.

  4. SultanofSwaff

    I wasn’t a big fan of his pitch selection for much of the year. Didn’t help he wasn’t physically ready to answer the bell the first month of the season as the Cowboy alluded to. The myriad arm angles and 4 pitch mix are a recipe for inconsistency…..maybe because he didn’t have his best stuff and thought he had to get by with cunning and guile. I thought he was at his best when he challenged hitters with the fastball-slider combo.

    What is most troubling to me is that it appears Raisel won the battle of wills with the manager/front office. Rarely if ever was he used outside of a 9th inning save situation after his tantrum. If that’s the case moving forward, you have to wonder if a less expensive pitcher could convert saves at the same rate and the Iglesias money deployed to get outs in higher leverage situations.

    • TR

      For the sake of the team, I think it’s best for management to make the call when a player, such as Iggy, is in the game whether a save is on the line or not. Since the Reds have a number of young pitchers who could be closers, I’ve been a bit surprised this offseason that R. Iglesias has not been mentioned much as part of a trade to upgrade the offense.

  5. Colorado Red

    Analytics vs reality.
    First of all, I am a fan of analytics, but the human is involved.
    I think Bell, badly used Iggy this year.
    We need to keep him in the closer position.
    That is what he was mentally prepared for last year.
    If analytics is not working on a player, do what is.
    Use the bast of both worlds.

    • JayTheRed

      I agree Iggy needs to be our closer. Keep him in the role he has done best in. Give him the confidence that he is the first guy we will go to in the 9th inning and I bet he has a fairly decent come back season.

      I don’t have the stats in front of me but I felt like he got better near the end of the season too when his role was returned to being the full time closer.

      I will say this if he does falter again I think Lorenzen should be the first person given the chance to be the closer based on how well he handled it in 2019.

  6. DocProc

    During his rough stretches (and there were several), his upper 90s FB was MIA. It seemed to return in September. That final month he had a 1.69 ERA, 15 Ks, 1 BB, and 7 saves. Not sure if it was due to beating back physical or mental fatigue, but I hope that Iggy is back in 2020.

  7. CFD3000

    You could make a reasonable argument that Raisel Iglesias alone made the difference between a .500 season in 2019 and only 75 wins. If just half of his historically bad 12 losses as a closer ended with Reds wins, that’s an 81 win season. If the Reds keep him (I’m in favor of trading him if real value is offered in return), then a bounce back is critical to success in 2020. 12 losses is a lot for a starter. It’s ridiculous for a closer. Whether it’s attitude, preparation, mechanics, pitch selection, a hotter ball or something else those problems need to be identified and corrected. I believe that the Reds will not win the division if Raisel Iglesias has even half that many losses in 2020. He is clearly capable of being a shut down reliever. His success at that in 2020 will be a huge factor in the Reds success. I’ll be rooting for him.

    • Rex

      I agree and said it all year last season

      if he had his average year their record would have been far better

      it wasn’t just stats it was key losses that hurt movement

      he was horrible in April but during April was lights out in San Diego, 3 sv in 3 nights on 9 k’s with 9 batters faced…so erratic

      to me he scuttled the REDS last year

  8. Sliotar

    Iglesias – HRs allowed (per FanGraphs)

    2017 – 5 HRs allowed in 76 IP
    2018 – 12 HRs allowed in 72 IP
    2019 – 12 HRs allowed in 67 IP

    I wish I had kept a link, but there was an article, I think hyping RedsFest, where it was written Iglesias has already been assured of mostly closing/9th inning work in 2020.

    OK… but if the Reds are truly “all in”… IMO, they should sign or trade for someone with closing experience to be in the bullpen before Opening Day, as cover.

    Waiting until around Trade Deadline to see if Iglesias still has a HR allowed problem and trying to fix problem then feels like taking an unnecessary risk. Especially, when many teams now appear willing to shuffle their bullpen staff regularly.

    And, the margins for winning the NL Central, at the moment, appear small.

  9. Sliotar

    Elephant in the room…following up on @SultanofSwaff’s point.

    If Iglesias is not effective as a closer in 2020, would the Reds pull him from that role on more than a “skip a day or two” basis?

  10. Stock

    I think Iglesias poor season belongs to Bell. Bell has no clue on how to use RP. He had pitchers up far too often and sent them in for 1/3 of an inning on a regular basis. This is great in April and May but they will be toast come August and September.

    Pitchers with more than 30 saves last year:

    Yates, Osuna, Chapman, Hader, Hand, Iglesias, Smith and Jansen

    Exclude Hader because in the past he was a multi inning RP.

    Started the 8th inning 0 times during the year: Osuna, Chapman, Hand, Smith and Jansen.

    Started the 8th inning 1 time during the year: Yates.

    As a general rule closers do not start the 8th inning. Closers make appearances in the following situations as a general rule.

    1. 8th inning runners on base and it is a save situation.
    2. Beginning of the Ninth in a save situation.
    3. Ninth inning if game becomes a save situation.
    4. Ninth inning in a tie game if they are the home team.
    5. Extra Innings.

    Iglesias ERA if he enters the game to start the 8th inning: 10.45
    Iglesias ERA if you eliminate games he started the 8th inning: 3.02
    Iglesais ERA if you eliminate non-save situations and when he starts the 8th Inning: 2.79.

    The mental part of any sport is very important. Bell is smarter than others so he used his closer in non-closer situations and the results scream he is not as smart as he thinks he is. He just ignores the mental aspect and looks at numbers. Iglesias was absolutely correct. He was being used improperly and had no clue when he needed to get mentally prepared.

    • SultanofSwaff

      You could also argue his high ERA totals in the 8th are because he was brought in specifically to face the heart of the order in a high leverage situation, whereas in the majority of his ‘saves’ he starts the 9th inning clean and faces the weaker parts of the lineup. Makes you wonder what he’s actually paid to do.

  11. Roger Garrett

    Blaming his performance on how he was being used was just terrible.Now if he had said he had to adjust mentally to non closer situations and actually did it then that’s different.That is manning up and being responsible.I backed Bell cause just like others on this site I got so tired of watching us last year and in previous years lose game in the 7th or 8th while Iggy watched.Bell brought him in not because he is smart,he brought him in because he is the best pitcher or is paid that way.Having closer rules on any team as bad as we have been for years now is just a joke.Iggy needs to go and it won’t be soon enough for me.Twelve losses for a closer is well just awful.