Bryan Price might be under a bit of stress. Disregarding team secrets becoming “world events”, 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 Reds’ 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 bullpen’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 wasn’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 rest…

Reds bullpen TBF

via Fangraphs

Yikes. Manny Parra has retired only half of the batters he’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 doesn’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 “three weeks in, three weeks in, three weeks in…” No one outside of Chapman or Diaz has pitched over six innings yet. Tony Cingrani has made just three appearances and hasn’t been brought into a game in over a week. Burke Badenhop can’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. It’s obviously more stressful for a team (and a manager) when you have to determine whether a player’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 isn’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. It’s just lately it feels like that gun has three or four full chambers instead of one.

50 Responses

  1. Philboyd

    I don’t get all the Hoover love. He had an historically terrible season last year — might have been the LVP, Least Viable Player, on a bad team. So after a couple decent outings you are going to anoint him as a positive presence in the bullpen? Even after three walks and a hit in a third of an inning?

    Wait and see. As soon as the Reds count on him in pressure situations he’ll return to 1-10 form. He is who he is.

    • Kevin Michell

      With 96 solid innings in the two seasons prior to 2014. And an untenable HR/FB rate that resulted in a season that was worse than his actual talent level.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=9037&position=P

      Now I think you’re exactly right. Wait and see applies to Hoover, too. Especially with those walks last night. But Hoover isn’t as bad as his 2014 portrayed him to be. Plus he’s flipped his GB/FB rate quite nicely so far this season. I think he’s squarely on the positive side of this bullpen based on this year and 2012/13 versus last season.

      • docmike

        I have practically been Hoover’s only defender on here. Most look at his 1-10 record last year and assume he’s garbage. And yes, he had a bad year in 2014. Some of it bad luck (extremely high HR/FB ratio), so of it was his own doing (higher walk rate than before).

        But he has great stuff. After getting the nickname “Home Run Hoover” last year, he has yet to give one up this year. And Tuesday night was really his first bad outing on the year. Even still, only one run scored while he was pitching, the other 3 scored when Badenhop gave up the grand slam. Just think, if Badenhop had come in and induced a double play from Herrera instead, Hoover’s ERA would be 3.18 instead of 7.94.

      • lwblogger2

        I’m a Hoover defender too. Very good stuff. Just needs to command it better. I think his prior few seasons were a bit of good luck that helped him out but 2014 balanced out the whole thing with horrible luck. There were some other factors at play as well, most notably with his pitch selection last year as opposed to 2012-2013. I don’t think he’s quite what we thought he was in 2013 but he’s certainly better than 2014 and isn’t the biggest problem in the bullpen.

    • Ryan Lykins (@ryan_lykins)

      Hoover was pretty good in 2013 so it isn’t a big leap to expect him to return to being decent again and there really aren’t any better options right now so I think most people are really hoping to a return to form for him.

    • Steve Mancuso

      1-10 looks really bad, but the lack of wins is on the offense, not the reliever. Aroldis Chapman had one of the greatest seasons ever for a reliever last year, his W-L record? 0-3

      Hoover is 2-0 this year, tied for the team lead in wins. Must be pitching well.

      • Kevin Michell

        If anyone needs any persuasion as to why pitcher wins are meaningless, Jason Marquis got the win last night.

      • The Next Janish

        I think meaningless might be stretch. But the tendency is to give it too much meaning.

      • jdx19

        What is the meaning of a win, if they are not meaningless?

      • BigRedMachine

        While I like modern stats as much as the next fan to say the old stats are meaningless is to say that there is zero correlation between them and player ability.

        If I told you I could get the Reds a starting pitcher that had 20-wins the last four seasons you’d be very interested. While it is very possible that there’s a 15-win pitcher out there with better stuff with less run support and/or a poor bullpen backing him up, the odds that a pitcher got 80 wins over four seasons that is otherwise horrible is very unlikely.

        (The same can be said for the infamous RBI. While definitely not the best measure of a batters’ ability–see one Joey Votto–if someone does have a season with 150 RBIs there is going to be a pretty good chance that he also scores well in other modern batting metrics.)

        The new stats are better than the old stats. On that I completely agree. But to say the old are meaningless is a bit too strong IMO.

      • Vanessa Galagnara

        Pretty every 300 win pitcher is in the hall of fame. Good pitchers consistently win. One season means nothing in wins but 20 years proves what the career meant to your team….. You won games. What other purpose is there for a pitcher?

      • docmike

        Yes, pitcher “wins” and “losses” is a completely meaningless statistic. There is no debate. None whatsoever.

        When you can pitch 5 innings, give up 5 runs, and get a “win”, like Marquis did last night, it is a meaningless statistic.

        When you can pitch 8 innings and give up 2 runs, like Leake did Sunday, or pitch 7 innings and allow 1 earned run like Cueto did a couple weeks ago, and get a “loss” each time, it is a meaningless statistic.

        The only Win and Loss that matters is whether the team wins or loses. The pitcher does not win or lose the game himself, he is merely 1 of 25 players on the team.

        The win-loss record should be abolished, now.

      • Kevin Michell

        Perhaps the better way to phrase this is to say that pitcher wins are arbitrary or meaningless without context.

        A pitcher’s win doesn’t mean anything without examining the box score. A pitcher who gets 15 wins is surely effective enough to contribute to his team winning at least some of those 15 games, but why would I look at that when there are other metrics of his actual performance and talent (not to mention if he ended up pitching in a bunch of 10-8 barnburners)? And why would I base any judgement off of those 15 wins without seeing if he had an ERA over 4 or a WHIP above 1.3? The stat doesn’t hold any real value for evaluating a pitcher’s ability on its own- it may give you an indication of how good a pitcher is or it may be completely misleading.

        Here’s a fun example: 2002 Jimmy Haynes went 15-10.

      • docmike

        Vanessa, you asked what other purpose is there for a pitcher other than to win games. That’s just it, it’s NOT the pitcher’s purpose to win games. The TEAM wins or loses the game, not the pitcher.

        The pitcher’s job is to pitch as well as he can, and to give his team the best possible chance to win. Sometimes you pitch well, but the team loses. The pitcher still did his job. Sometimes the pitcher is terrible (see Marquis from Tuesday night), but the team wins. In that case, the pitcher did NOT do his job.

        It is nonsensical that one man should get credit for a “win” or a “loss”, while completely ignoring the contributions of the other 24 guys. They need to abolish the win/loss record, now.

      • jdx19

        That might be the best way I’ve heard it phrased, Kevin. “Arbitrary or meaningless without context.” I’m going to start using that!

      • jdx19

        Here are Felix Hernadez’s (aka – best pitcher in AL, maybe in MLB) win totals since 2010.

        13
        14
        13
        12
        15

        Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leak, and Mat Latos all won more games than Hernandez in 2013 when Hernandez had 12.

      • Steve Schoenbaechler

        Wins are meaningless/not meaningless statistic. Fact is, it’s all how you look at it, in what perspective, in what relation.

        For instance, having a good defensive numbers would be nice to have. However, does a good defense mean we are going to make the playoffs? Does it mean we are going to win the WS? How did worrying about our defense the last couple of years work? It doesn’t look like it’s worked too well.

        Why? Because we are missing other parts of the game. Like everyone knows, our pen was horrible last season, and our offense still needs work, the same problem since we lost Rolen, who was little more than a band aid. It’s still a team game. It’s the team that puts the win up on the board, not a pitcher. The entire team wins the game. It just so happens to include a pitcher.

        But, then, a win is meaningless? Alright, let’s see, who wins the division? The team with the lowest ERA, FTP, LOB, QMF, XYZ, ABC? No, it’s the team with the most wins. So, to say wins are meaningless, that is exactly incorrect.

        But, are wins meaningless to a pitcher? Well, if you ask pitchers, I would think a vast majority would say yes. Do you really think they would rather have a loss? So, wins are meaningless? I wouldn’t think to pitchers nor any player. But, sure, they can only do what they can. So, some will, do, and should take other stats into consideration ALSO, but never only.

        But, also, what stats can’t tell you, does the person have the “X factor”? For instance, best comparison, Cueto last night in the 8th. Oh, he may not have allowed many runs. But, his WHIP took at hit that inning. And, the number of pitches he threw was way above what he should be throwing for an inning. But, Cueto is recognized for having the “X factor” where he can make the right pitch at the right time and get out of those jams much more often that not. And, not all good pitchers have that.

        Or, some may think, only for example, “Boy, Chapman saved the last 10 of 10 games for us.” While for the 9th inning, that may be fact, my concern “is also” why are we in such close games so many times? Our closer being efficient in saves is good. But, having to have him in so many situations isn’t necessarily a good thing. Good teams look to score even more runs to stay out of those situations so they don’t wear out their closer. I don’t know about you all, but I would rather win 100 games and not have to save any of them rather than having to win 100 games and all of them off save opportunities.

        To sum it all up, this is why I love a HOF’er’s, George Steinbrenner, statement, “Just win, baby.” As long as the team wins, that’s the important thing. You can have all of your other stats. The name of the game is not to set your team up in the best position to win. It’s not to have the best secondary stats. It’s to win the games. That’s still the name of the game, and it will always be. Each individual can still concentrate on their own parts which may not mean to concentrate on the wins, sure. But, to say wins are meaningless? Fine, then. I will take all the wins and go home. You all can have everything else.

      • docmike

        Steve, for a pitcher the name of the game IS to set his team up with the best possible chance to win. That’s his job. Is his job to win the game? No, that’s just silly. The pitcher can’t win a game by himself. The other 24 players play a role in that as well.

        The pitcher’s job: Pitch to the best of his ability
        The batter’s job: Hit to the best of his ability
        The fielder’s job: Field to the best of his ability

        The TEAM’s goal: Win every game

      • docmike

        And Steve, no one is saying wins are not important. No one. What we are all saying is that the pitcher “win” stat is not important. Big difference.

        It’s game 7 of the World Series. Which pitcher do you want to start?

        Pitcher A = 20 wins, 5 losses, 3.50 ERA
        Pitcher B = 12 wins, 11 losses, 2.50 ERA

        I will take pitcher B, every time. Even though pitcher A has more “wins”, pitcher B will likely give my TEAM a better chance to win the game. And that’s what ultimately matters.

      • kmartin

        Craig Kimbrel was also 0-3 in 2014. So Kimbrel and Chapman, two of the best relief pitchers in the NL, combined to go 0-6.

      • charlottencredsfan

        They have plenty of opportunities for losses, few if any, for wins. I think the reasoning on this particular example is fatally flawed. The overall point is sound though.

    • greenmtred

      With Hoover, or any pitcher, I think you have to consider his stuff. Hoover has good stuff, to my eyes at least, but trouble with command at times–all of last year.

  2. Ryan Lykins (@ryan_lykins)

    I don’t understand Cingrani’s role on this team and I don’t know that the Reds do either. He could easily be the 2nd best arm out of the bullpen imo but hasn’t been used at all. Is he a long man? Is he a setup guy? Who knows? It makes no sense at all to me.

  3. Eric the Red

    Parra’s numbers would be even more terrifying; two of the rare outs he recorded were on a bunt and on a strikeout of a closer with two previous career plate appearances. He’s demonstrated no ability to get guys out.

    Chapman is literally the only guy who can be relied on. I’m not a pitching coach, but it seems to me Jumbo is showing the same issues he showed last year (bottom line: he’s inconsistent), Hoover may or may not have figured things out, Cingrani hasn’t set the world on fire in relief but he’s really got nothing to rely on but a mid 90s fastball, and everyone else is just getting shelled. As noted, it’s not “bad luck on BABIP” shelled, but honest to goodness “guys are murdering the ball” shelled. Badenhop’s history says he should be getting ground balls, not line drives and long homeruns, so hopefully he’s fixable.

    So you’ve got Chapman and then ulcers. I can’t imagine trying to manage like that. It effects everything, from when to pull a starter to how aggressive to be on offense down 1 in the 8th. (And a whole lot more.) I don’t think there’s any hope for Gregg or Parra; replacing them is a necessity, and even then we still have a lot of holes to fix/fill.

  4. Thegaffer

    At some point they are going to have to let some of the AAA guys have a chance.

  5. WVRedlegs

    Votto and Frazier ought to hire Gregg out to be their personal pitcher in the HR hitting contest at the all star game.

    • jdx19

      I’d pay money to see Votto take 4 straight “balls” in a HR Derby.

  6. Brian Shotts

    Release Marquis and bring up Lorenzen and Inglesias. Let one start and give the other one a shot at the 8th…or mix-n-match in the 8th w/Cingrani or Jumbo. KC did ok w/going young in the pen last year.

    • George Mirones

      You know Walt isn’t going to dump 1.5mil.

    • CaliforniaRed

      That would put the best team possible on the field, Brian. Unfortunately, Reds’ brass is completely out to lunch.

    • lwblogger2

      You’d have to release somebody else along with Marquis to free up the two spots.

  7. George Mirones

    Kevin;
    “It’s just lately it feels like that gun has three or four full chambers instead of one”.
    I am still smiling at that statement, it really says it all when it comes to our current bullpen status 🙂

  8. ProspectCincy

    The stats on CIngrani so far are meaningless; 3 innings in 2+ weeks tells you nothing of what he is, or what he can be. Asking him to throw one 0.1 innings in the last 10 days is laughable considering what he’s shown he’s capable of.

    This bullpen is bad, very very bad, and it gets even worse when you consider that Chapman can only be used when the Reds have a lead, not to procure one in any way.

    What burns me more than anything is that Cingrani went into the Spring with the 4th SP spot promised. He pitched the best spring of any Reds pitcher, and we sent to the bull-pen to “make it stronger” And now he’s not being used at all …

    No logic whatsoever. Typical Bryan Price Garbage.

    • docmike

      Agree with this. It is criminal how Cingrani is being misused. Yet Price runs Marquis out there to embarass himself every fifth day.

    • greenmtred

      You have to wonder why Cingrani is so rarely used. It doesn’t surprise me that he isn’t starting: His fastball is his only decent pitch, and even that relies more upon deception than sizzle. But considering what the rest of the bullpen is doing (or not doing), it surpasses understanding that he’s not being used more. Maybe he’s hurt, though I hesitate to say that because I don’t know and I don’t want to precipitate another round of hating on the Reds’ medical staff, which I also know nothing about because I have never been a patient of theirs and am not a doctor who has been asked for a second opinion about a Reds’ player and, for that matter, am not a doctor at all.

    • lwblogger2

      The only thing I can think of that would explain it is that he’s dealing with some sort of injury.

  9. Vanessa Galagnara

    Cingrani probably also has his locker right next to the toilet. This guy gets no appreciation from fans or from management. Maybe,we,should trade him for a 38 year old,reliever?

    • jdx19

      No appreciation from fans? I can’t recall ever seeing anyone paint Tony in an unfair or harsh light. He walks a lot of guys, which has been said a lot, but that’s not a lack of appreciation, it is a statement of fact.

  10. Redgoggles

    I sure hope Cingrini is healthy, because his under use at this point is puzzling. But, the biggest problem with this (aged) bullpen is the propensity to sign them to multi-year deals. Then, of course we are stuck with relievers sucking it up presumably because we have financial commitments to them. Please Walt, STOP it!

    • jdx19

      I think he’s probably healthy and chomping at the bit. Last night they had a shot of him in the bullpen and he was tossing one of those green squishy balls against his chest and catching it like you do when you’re anxious. I think the guy wants to play. Just can’t figure out why PRice isn’t using him.

      • Eric the Red

        He’s got a mid 90s fastball and relies on guys chasing it up out of the zone to be effective. I don’t think he’s the bullpen savior.

      • jdx19

        I don’t either. And nothing I said indicated as such.

  11. SoCalRedsFan

    Parra’s 3.43 WHIP is embarrassing. How can a guy that allows 3.5 runners an inning be in anybody’s bullpen?

    • jdx19

      Sample size.

      Last year in all MLB, if you look at all pitchers with 60+ IP, the highest WHIP anyone put up was 1.78; Andre Rienzo of the White Sox. Highest on the Reds was Cingrani at 1.53.

    • redsfan06

      Sam didn’t look all that good last year, but Parra looks absolutely awful right now. Why not bring back Sam and let Manny get a workout at AAA?

  12. Mike DGJ

    Hoover has been worthy of a longer look whether your s believer ir not. Cingrani likewise plus he has the best fastball in the pen. I like Diaz plus he’s cheap but I think due to his control issues he’s proven he is more a start of an inning guy then middle with runners on and more so a 7th inning as opposed to 8th with all the pressure. As for the rest the heap? Not much you can do with Burke since he’s on a major league deal but I would immediately look to move on from Greg, whoever is in the last spot ( currently Villireal I believe) and think about using Parra much more selectively. There has to be someone out there anothe team is also ready to move on from gotta be better than Greg.

  13. Creigh Deeds

    Price can’t help who Jockey stuck him with; need bullpen help, reloaded bench and leadoff batter. Hamilton, Votto, Frazier, Cozart, Mesoraco are core.
    Need to extend Leake, trade Cueto, rethink use of or trade Chapman. Current roster has ceiling of 80 wins. Price won’t be back unless he can coax more than that out of team.