At the beginning of the year, roster construction is the hot topic around the Nation. We wonder who will be in the bullpen, who will make the team or go to AAA, who will be our fifth starter. And these are all good questions. This year’s medical-drama of a season made that early anxiety seem premature.

In my first Sixty Feet From Home column, I mentioned this article about pitching injuries. Jeff Zimmerman documents that, on average, teams use 7 starters during the year. Zimmerman goes on to say that pitching injuries are usually more severe than hitting injuries, so when pitchers hit the DL, they are usually on there longer than hitters.

This year, the Reds have used an entire 25 man roster just on pitching.* The pitching caravan was driven by a variety of causes: injuries, failed performances, or trades. Yet the result was the same: Reds fans were treated endured more pitchers this year than we have seen since 2007.

*Well, maybe a 24-man roster because Skip Schumaker is counted in that.

Here is a breakdown of the number of pitchers used by year:

  • 2014 – 25 pitchers used
  • 2013 – 20
  • 2012 – 17
  • 2011 – 21
  • 2010 – 23
  • 2009 – 22
  • 2008 – 23
  • 2007 – 25

The link becomes slightly more clear here. Not only are the Reds using more pitchers this year than they have in recent history, those pitchers are performing worse than their previous renditions. From this, it looks like teams use about 22 pitchers a season, plus or minus 2 depending on circumstance. If we keep in mind the Reds made the playoffs in 2012 and 2010. It doesn’t look like there is a strong connection between wins and pitchers used.

  • 2014 – 12 pitchers with negative f(WAR)
  • 2013 – 9
  • 2012 – 4
  • 2011 – 11
  • 2010 – 1
  • 2009 – 7
  • 2008 – 9
  • 2007 – 9

Perhaps the most impressive stat from this entire table is that in 2010 only 1 pitcher posted a negative WAR. (Compared to the current playoff contenders in 2014: Angels – 9; Braves – 2; Cards – 6; O’s – 4; Royals – 6; Dodgers – 9; Nationals – 2). However, in 2014, the Reds have had their worst year in terms of the number of pitchers used with negative fWAR.

Despite the great performances at the top of the staff by Cueto, Simon, Leake, Chapman & Co., the bottom of the staff leaves much to be desired. As painful as it may be, let’s take a closer look at the bottom of the Reds pitching staff and ask: Are these pitchers just having down years?

J.J. Hoover (-0.5 WAR, 58.0 IP) – He isn’t a free agent until 2019 or even arbitration eligible until 2016, so despite his less than stellar performance, it’s doubtful the Reds will cut him. Hoover is 27 years old, and this year was a serious decline from his previous two with the Reds.

David Holmberg (-0.5 WAR, 12.0 IP) – with only 0.002 service time, Holmberg is under Reds control until 2020 and doesn’t hit arbitration until 2017. Although that might be a good thing for Mr. Holmberg, because if he and the Reds went to arbitration, the Reds might ask for their money back.

Tony Cingrani (-0.3 WAR, 63.1 IP) – Cingrani was injured most of the year and will be back with the Reds as a starter next year.

Nick Christinati (-0.2 WAR, 12.0 IP) – Christiani and Holmberg are in the same boat: not arbitration eligible until 2017, not a free agent until 2020. He’s 27 years old, so despite his low cost and long contract, the odds are not good for Christiani making a long-term home in MLB.

Sam LeCure (-0.2 WAR, 48.2 IP) – LeCure was lights out at the beginning of the year, but regressed quickly to a 3.70 ERA (4.15 FIP/ 4.12 xFIP). His BABIP this year is outrageous (.345) but his strikeouts are down and his walks are up. At 30 years old, this year might be a down year, but Im not sure how much “up” there is left for LeCure.

Sean Marshall (-0.2 WAR, 15.0 IP) – Marshall is under contract in 2015 for $6.5 million. That’s about all we can count on.

Manny Parra (-0.2 WAR, 35.0 IP) – Parra is owed $3.5 million in 2015. He had a career year last year (115 ERA+ against a career 83 ERA+) and got the two year deal. This year Parra has been brutal, posting a 75 ERA+, the second worst of his career. At the age of 31, there’s not much to look forward to here.

There are others, too, but most of them are young (Corcino) with a few years left before we will know much about their potential. The worst part about the above list, however, is that there are a few big contracts hanging around in the negative numbers. All in all, the Reds had 284 innings of negative WAR pitching this year. So while there was a lot to be happy about with the 2014 Reds’ pitching, there are defiantly areas for improvement in 2015.