The Cincinnati Reds will need much better, consistent starting pitching after the All-star break if they want to successfully defend their National League Central title. The leftfielder, shortstop, and the slumping hitter-of-the-week stirs a lot of discussion, but the largest area of weakness on this team in the first half has been the starting pitching.

The Reds finished the first half ranked 14th in the NL in both total runs allowed and team earned run average. Their rotation also ranked 14th in ERA. Only the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros have allowed more runs this season.

Johnny Cueto is the only Reds starter to having an ERA better than league average, but he missed the first month of the season. Three of the Reds starting pitchers are sporting ERA’s over 5.00, though 2 of those 3 are currently in AAA. You’ve got to believe that Bronson Arroyo is underperforming, and a return to mean will lead to positive results in the second half.

Cincinnati Reds and NL Average Pitching – First Half 2011

Total 4.17 1.330 0.738 3.82 1.307 0.710
SP 4.64 1.344 0.774 3.93 1.305 0.720
RP 3.29 1.305 0.667 3.59 1.311 0.690
Cueto 1.96 1.004 0.563
Bailey 4.13 1.229 0.718
Leake 4.28 1.204 0.711
Wood 5.11 1.500 0.822
Arroyo 5.58 1.398 0.871
Volquez 5.93 1.635 0.849
Bray 2.12 1.011 0.501
Chapman 4.57 1.385 0.539
Ondrusek 1.67 1.116 0.595
Cordero 2.95 1.084 0.609
Masset 3.13 1.326 0.630
LeCure 2.72 0.977 0.657
Arredondo 3.04 1.437 0.681

With Cueto, Arroyo, Leake, and Bailey holding down 4 rotation spots heading into the second half, we will see who steps up in the final spot in the rotation. The Reds have a lot of depth and options there. I wouldn’t bring Volquez back until he shows some semblance of control with the Bats. Now that the D-Train is on the 40-man roster, he’ll be given a few starts to prove that his AAA results translate to success in the majors. I personally would have had Wood ahead of Willis on the rotation depth chart, but now that Willis is up I am intrigued as to how this will play out.

If the Ubaldo Jimenez rumors are true, then let’s hope Walt Jocketty doesn’t miss the ace starter he is seeking this July. ZIPS is projecting Jimenez to post a 3.23 ERA over the rest of 2011.

On the other side of the mound, the bullpen has been performing better than league average. Of Reds relievers throwing more than 20 innings, only Aroldis Chapman has posted a below average ERA. Of note for Chapman is how different he has looked at different times this season. There is a huge contrast to how he started the season, his results when he lost control in May, and how dominantly he has pitched since coming back from the disabled list. I’ll take a lot more of what he’s been throwing in the past few weeks.

Chapman’s First Half

2011 G IP ER BB K
Thru Apr 27 12 11.2 0 8 12
Apr 30-May 15 4 1.1 10 12 3
Since June 25 8 8.2 1 2 17