Bryan Price might be under a bit of stress. Disregarding team secrets becoming Ã¢â‚¬Å“world eventsÃ¢â‚¬Â, Price has had to deal with a pretty good rotation having many of their quality starts squandered either by lack of offense or the game of Russian roulette that is the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ middle relief corps, which has probably put the guy on edge (not that his outburst was right or justified, mind you).
Even after two straight wins, anyone not named Hoover or Chapman puts one heck of a knot in my throat if I see their jerseys trotting in from the outfield. Kevin Gregg threw his second scoreless frame in a row last night, but the bullpenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s numbers are still unsettling. Among all teams, the Cincinnati bullpen has the worst FIP (5.15), third-worst WHIP (1.47), eighth-highest batting average against (.247, while having a close-to-average .280 BABIP), and second-most home runs surrendered (7) while facing the fewer batters than all but seven other ballclubs.
We know the problem children sitting on the pine in the outfield from the contributors. Chapman is still untouchable and underutilized if anything negative could be said. J.J. Hoover is the second-most reliable reliever in the bullpen (though his three-walk outing last night wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t encouraging) and is keeping the ball in the ballpark with the aid of a 2.25 ground ball to fly ball ratio. As for the restÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Yikes. Manny Parra has retired only half of the batters heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s faced and batters are hitting .455 against him. Outside of Hoover and Chapman, only Tony Cingrani and Jumbo Diaz have swinging strike rates over the league average (9.5%). However, Cingrani is getting fewer guys to chase his pitches out of the zone and is getting hit harder judging from that 28.6% line drive rate.
For some perspective, among the 258 relievers who have made an appearance in 2015, Kevin Gregg has the 15th-worst FIP, Badenhop the 21st-worst, Parra the 37th, and Diaz is 42nd. Sorting by WHIP doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make it much better, as Parra has the second-worst in all of baseball and Cingrani, Hoover, Badenhop, and Gregg are all in the bottom 100. Gregg also has the ignominious honor of being one of only four relievers in baseball to have surrendered three homers thus far.
Okay, now take a breath and repeat to yourself Ã¢â‚¬Å“three weeks in, three weeks in, three weeks inÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â No one outside of Chapman or Diaz has pitched over six innings yet. Tony Cingrani has made just three appearances and hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been brought into a game in over a week. Burke Badenhop canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t possibly maintain a 28.6% HR/FB ratio with a sustained workload. But, just like Russian roulette, you have no idea when the next explosion might come and from whom. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s obviously more stressful for a team (and a manager) when you have to determine whether a playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bad beginning to the season is indicative of their actual talent as opposed to a hot start. I think we all have our minds made up about Kevin Gregg, so that leaves a couple storylines: Can Jumbo be the bridge to Chapman when Hoover isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t available? Is Burke Badenhop too hittable to be effective? Can Cingrani or Parra be the lefty the middle relief corps so badly needs? Will Bryan Price use Chapman for more than an inning occasionally?
The only way to find out is to play the game. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just lately it feels like that gun has three or four full chambers instead of one.