Improvements have been few and far between this offseason, but this first week of February has had about as much activity as we’ve seen from the Reds’ front office since the Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon trades. Minor league deals have been doled out to Paul Maholm and Kevin Gregg, but Saturday also brought us righty reliever Burke Badenhop on a major league deal.

Badenhop’s first year is cheap at $1 million with incentives kicking in for racking up 45, 50, and 55 appearances. Following that is a choice for the Reds between a $1.5MM buyout and a $4MM mutual option. So, the Reds got a righty arm for the bullpen at either one year/$2.5MM or two years/$5MM, but how good of an asset did they just bring into the fold?

A full-time reliever since 2010, Badenhop relies on inducing ground balls to be effective. With a low three-quarters arm angle (his delivery may prompt flashbacks of Bronson Arroyo minus the exaggerated leg kick), he adds a little more sinking action on his breaking pitches, of which he has three. Badenhop’s sinker is his Number One; he threw it 71.4% of the time in 2014 and has thrown it 1500 more times than all of his other pitches combined since 2011 (2712 to 1127, according to Texas Leaguers). With its pronounced arm-side run, Badenhop’s sinker can be employed similar to a two-seamer that clocks in at 89 MPH on average.

Because of that, Badenhop’s sinker catches hitter off-guard when paired with his other two primary offerings, his slider and splitter/changeup (more on that later). This pitch has induced the lowest swing rate of all his pitches at 39%. Though Badenhop has never been much of strikeout pitcher—his career K/9 is 6.34, but he posted a meager 5.09 last year for Boston—he can use this pitch to get out of tough jams if he can locate it well.

Badenhop slider-sinker swingAnd that sums up Burke Badenhop as well as anything: if he can locate it well. Badenhop does not miss bats very often when he’s pitching. His sinker from 2011 to present has only generated a whiff/swing rate of 2.5% (and though whiff rates on sinkers are lower than most pitches league-wide, the average is around 12%). Perhaps of more concern for the future is the overall trend on his whiff rate; after managing 11% whiff/swing on pitches in the strike zone in 2011 it’s gone down each season hence, bottoming out last year at 5.64%. Granted he’s become more of a groundball pitcher over time, thus he’s pitching to contact more, but that declining rate puts even more pressure on his command and requires hitters to chase some pitches.

badenhop whiff overallHowever, as shown in the first graph, his slider can generate a few more swings and it’s no coincidence that he kept a pretty high whiff rate on it in his most effective season (2013, when he posted a career-best 1.19 WHIP and 3.5 K/BB in 62.1 innings). He’s thrown just over 53% of his sliders for strikes since 2011, so his use of the pitch is largely predicated on getting the hitter to swing at it. Locating the slider in the strike zone isn’t terribly important if he’s able to bend his sinker in for strikes.

Badenhop whiff monthlyHis third pitch has been classified as a split-finger fastball by Fangraphs and Texas Leaguers, but Brooks Baseball calls it a changeup. It makes sense either way—it averages just over 83 MPH, has a little more pronounced sink than his sinker but also just a shade of arm-side run, and generates more swings and misses when played off of his primary pitches. As for any usage of a four-seam fastball, Badenhop has only throw ten in the last four years (15 according to Brooks Baseball).

All of this together paints a pretty clear picture of what Badenhop’s plan is each time he takes the mound: Keep the ball down, try to use a hitter’s aggressiveness against him, and pitch to induce weak contact—ideally weak ground balls. In 2014, Badenhop was effective in that game plan, with 61% of batted balls resulting in grounders while maintaining a line drive rate just below 20%.

So if that’s how Badenhop pitches, what does he actually provide the 2015 Reds? Really, his WHIP and FIP track record make him a solid addition to the Cincinnati bullpen with no question. Comparing his FIP to the other primary righties who were in the 2014 bullpen, Badenhop has been more consistently below 4.00 than anyone other than Jonathan Broxton (and that was the Broxton of six to eight years ago). As for WHIP, Badenhop’s had a better rate than all but 2012-2013 J.J. Hoover and 2014 Broxton since the start of the 2012 season.

Reds righties and BadenhopOf course, past performance doesn’t necessarily mean future success. Badenhop will be under more pressure to keep the ball down than ever while pitching in Great American, but should he successfully do so he’ll likely slot behind Sam LeCure in the bullpen pecking order. He’s going to give up a fair share of singles just by virtue of giving up grounders (and a career 1.30 WHIP that implies he isn’t the best to come into the game and get out of a runner-in-scoring-position jam), but infield defense is one of Cincinnati’s best traits. It’s quite possible Burke Badenhop reaches all three of his innings incentives this season and makes that option for 2016 sound somewhat reasonable.

37 Responses

  1. redsfan06

    I have more confidence in Badenhop than Ondrusek. His FIP and his results measured by WHIP and ERA+ have been much better than Ondrusek’s. So the answer to your question is yes, the bullpen is better with him.

    • Chad Jones

      I agree. Ondrusek was a lit gas can every time he pitched. Badenhop had to be better.

      • THEGAFFER

        Ondrusek was signed for this type of money last year. So, either Logan was overpayed or Badenhopp is underpayed.

      • geneo75

        Ondrusek could be a good pitcher if he puts things together. He’s got the stuff and the height.

  2. UglyStrike

    Perfect type of bullpen pitcher we need. I actually believe this will work out well for us though I think the 2 year contract was a bit generous.

  3. preacherj

    Badenhop instantly makes this bullpen better, IMO. Due to that sinker causing a lot of toppers, he will benefit by our infield defense and I think his numbers will be even better as I believe he will give up fewer bleeders than he did in Boston.

    “ground ball inducing” is a term I want to hear for any Red pitching at GABP.

    • Kevin Michell

      Right after “ground ball inducing”, I want to hear Kelch, Brantley, et al. describe his sinker as “a real worm-killer”.

      • THEGAFFER

        You still listen to the local game feed? I recommend the out of town feed on MLB.com. You get tons of info on the reds the local guys miss while discussing UDF malts and JTM horse meat.

      • jdx19

        Mmmmm…JTMs…

        Haven’t had one in 15 years!

  4. JMO

    Great signing. Hated losing I Guillon though.

  5. redmountain

    mehhhh. Another day another arm.

    • MrRed

      Well, in this case, they need more arms. Unless you were happy with the state of affairs in the BP last season. And I’m going to guess that you weren’t.

  6. Hotto4Votto

    I like this signing. In fact, adding Badenhop to Adcock, Mijares, Maholm, and Gregg on the minor league deals, has been a solid offseason as far as the bullpen is concerned. Add to the returnees of Chapman, LeCure, Parra, Diaz, and Hoover, plus the guys that got their feet wet last year in Contreras, Corcino, Villarreal, Dennick, and Holmberg it looks like the Reds should have a lot of options. Bullpens are finicky creatures, but I like that it appears we have some solid options from both sides.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Agree with the notion of casting a wide net for the bullpen. Wish there were a few more options with big arms instead of creaky vets, but that’s who you find in the free agent market. Have to include loser of Iglesias/DeSclafani/Cingrani competition, too.

      • JB WV

        Steve, with Broxton gone, who do u see as the primary set-up man? After last years “blossoming”, I hope, of Jumbo, would think he’s the front runner.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I’d say Jumbo, but his RH/LH split is alarming. Might still be good enough. Dare I suggest Marshall (wishful thinking dept.). We’ll have to see which of the three starters ends up in the bullpen. Any of them could be great – all three of them have serious questions about pitches beyond fastball, or in Iglesias’ case, his third pitch.

      • Kevin Michell

        That’s a good point, I kind of forgot we’ll probably see Iglesias in this bullpen too. Chappy, LeCure, Badenhop, Iglesias, and Jumbo ain’t half bad in my mind.

      • JB WV

        Can’t wait to see Iglesias pitch. I’m hoping we got another electric arm, not necessarily velocity, but movement. He could fit in nicely as mid to long relief and spot starter, prepping for next year as a starter. But who knows

    • dirtybird

      Don’t forget about Marshall I think hell be back and have a big impact

      • THEGAFFER

        I think actually LeCure may be behind Badenhop based on last year. Hoover may not make this team (I think he may have an optionm not sure).

  7. Shchi Cossack

    Per Jon Heyman via twitter…

    todd frazier, reds agree to $12M, 2-year deal, avoiding arbitration

    • Steve Mancuso

      Thanks for the heads up. Just published a new post.

      • Chad Jones

        On another bullpen note, it will nice if we see the 2012-13 J.J Hoover and not the 2014 version. Hopefully, last year was an aberration. That in itself will help.

      • Steve Mancuso

        I’ve spent a long time looking at Hoover’s numbers from last year and I’m convinced 2014 was largely an aberration. On the other hand, 2012 and 2013 were kind of lucky years, too. I’d expect to see Hoover between 2014 and 2013, but closer to the latter. I’m optimistic.

      • Michael E

        Hoover scares me in that he throws a very flat fastball, and throws it down the middle and slightly up WAY too often. He needs a reliable breaking pitch that HE relies on more often to keep hitters off-balance and either needs to turn that arrow straight fastball into a 2-seamer (my preference) or start spotting it on the corners. If he can’t do any of those things, 2014 will be repeated with line-drives all over the diamond like batting practice.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Hoover had those pitches in 2012 and 2013 and he was fine. Hoover gave up fewer line drives in 2014 (18.8 percent) than he did in 2013 (21.3 percent). He did give up more home runs, but fewer doubles.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Hoover’s walk rate last year wasn’t that far out of line with the previous two years 11.3 percent vs. 10.6 and 9.7 percent.

      • Michael E

        Steve, I get what you are saying, but after last year, I think 2014 was his norm and previous years were the aberration. You can’t throw fastballs that don’t move and get anyone out in MLB on a regular basis. Maybe he does get a little movement if he keeps it down? We find out soon enough, and while I don’t think anyone can stink that bad again, so there is that.

  8. Shchi Cossack

    There are enough serious questions regarding the 2015 bullpen that I think makes Burke Badenhop a lock for middle relief. I think his contract makes that clear. Even with Badenhop locked in, that leaves the bullpen with just 4 guaranteed arms (Chapman, Diaz, LeCure & Badenhop) to fill an 8 man bullpen. The contracts for Marshall and Parra make them both locks if healthy, but their health/effectiveness remains questionable at best. Hoover will have every opportunity in spring training to refute his 2014 performance, but his contract can be easily flushed if necessary. Cingrani and DeSclafani are needed and wanted to fill out the starting rotation, but if either falters in a starting role, the bullpen awaits their arrival. I think the decision on Iglesias has yet to be finalized. I do not see him in the starting rotation on the 25-man roster, but he may be stretched out at AAA or utilized in the major league bullpen.

    • ohiojimw

      As long as he is healthy, I think Iglesias makes the MLB club out of spring.

      Cingrani is a long shot to be healthy and ready for either starting or the pen when they break camp. However if they need to press him into service, he likely will be more ready for spot use out of the pen. This could place Iglesias on the fast track to be a starter depending on the the liked of Maholm and Marquis do in camp.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Jocketty did say in December that Cingrani was fully recovered. But yeah, with shoulders you never know. Given how the Reds will probably feel like Cingrani, DeSclafani and Iglesias are all on innings limits this year, it wouldn’t be the worst thing if one or more of them aren’t ready in April.

      • ohiojimw

        There is a world of difference between “fully recovered” and ready to pitch competitively.
        Price was quoted in late Oct/ early December as saying Cingrani hadn’t thrown a baseball since he went on the AAA DL in mid to late June 2014 (after being on the MLB DL the first half+ of May) and they didn’t expect him to throw other than perhaps some casual long toss until he got to camp. Given the normal off season regimens now followed, Cingrani will be coming into camp having not thrown since June and several weeks behind the curve in his preseason prep. Given the injury he is coming off of that is a pretty steep slope for him to be ready by opening day.

    • Kevin Michell

      I imagine Contreras gets the other middle relief spot and one of Marquis, Maholm, or Axelrod get the long relief role. The bullpen now seems pretty well set but, like you said, Cossack, the health of Marshall and Parra is the resounding question mark. Who’s the next lefty up if they’re both incapacitated? I guess right now it’s up to either Maholm, Ryan Dennick, or Juan Mijares.

  9. WVRedlegs

    Badenhop is a good signing and a good addition to the bullpen. This certainly helps. Something I advocated for a couple of weeks ago.
    Something not mentioned, is that the Reds great defense will make Badenhop even a better pitcher with that ground ball rate.
    The 7 bullpen spots are about full.
    Chapman, Jumbo, Badenhop, LeCure, Hoover, Marshall, and Parra. And with Adcock and Mijares as backup plans, that really makes Iglesias the wild card. Where does he end up? The Reds bullpen or Louisville’s rotation?