Since Mike Leake pitched his last game in a Reds uniform on July 28, the team’s starting rotation has been comprised of five rookies: Anthony DeSclafani (25), Michael Lorenzen (23), Raisel Iglesias (25), Keyvius Sampson (24) and David Holmberg (24). DeSclafani has pitched the entire season, making a team-high 22 starts. Lorenzen was promoted in late April to take Homer Bailey’s spot and has made 16 starts. Iglesias spent time in the minor leagues, the Reds bullpen and on the disabled list. He essentially replaced Jason Marquis and has made 9 starts. Sampson and Holmberg were the guys called up to replace Johnny Cueto and Leake. They’ve each made just two starts.

So how have the young guns performed?

Game-by-game breakdown since July 28.

July 28 is the date Mike Leake pitched his final game for the Reds and seems like as good of an arbitrary starting point as any. That’s also when Nick Carrington urged patience. The rotation has spun two full times since then, plus an extra game for Anthony DeSclafani. That’s 11 starts.

Kids2

[Key: Opponent, Date, Innings Pitched, Walks, Strikeouts, Ground Ball Rate, Hard Hit Rate, Fastball Velocity, First-Pitch Strike Percent, Swinging-Strike Percent]

Only twice did the starters go longer than 6 innings, but every game the starter went at least 5. Strikeout numbers were good in relation to innings pitched, but walk rates were spotty. Fastball velocity is better than league average (91.6) for everyone but Holmberg. The first-pitch strike rate is around league average (61.6%). The two new pitchers, Holmberg and Sampson, were the lowest in first-pitch strikes, possibly due to nerves. Michael Lorenzen had the two best games in that metric (more on that later). Swinging-strike rates seem highly variable based on opponent, albeit with a tiny sample. The league average is 9.2%. Again, Lorenzen was best over this short stretch.

Season Performance

Here are the season-long numbers for the starting pitchers with at least 9 starts: DeSclafani, Lorenzen and Iglesias. First, the nuts and bolts of strike-throwing:

Kids4A

Anthony DeScalafani is having a solid year. He’s right around league-average in fastball velocity, first-pitch strikes and swinging strike rate. His strikeout rate is a bit below league average and his walk rate a bit above. That leads to a below-average K-BB% indicator. His ground ball rate is close to league average. He’s given up more hard hit balls than average, although on August 4, he gave up an incredible rate of 60% hard hit balls against the Cardinals (at the same time, he was striking out 9, walking none and giving up only 2 runs) which inflates his overall percentage.

Michael Lorenzen has an above-average fastball velocity, which is a good starting point. But he has been well below league average when it comes to first pitch strikes. It’s worth noting that he’s done much better on that in the last two games (70.4% and 69.6%). Lorenzen is below average on strike outs, but it’s his walk rate that is a disaster. It produces a K-BB% that is awful. He’s also been a bit of a fly ball pitcher.

Raisel Iglesias has been league average when it comes to fastball velocity and first-pitch strike percentage. His deceptiveness produces a high swinging strike and overall strikeout rate. His walk rate has been league average, producing a K-BB% way above the norm. The one red flag with Iglesias is that he has been an extreme fly ball pitcher so far. We’ll have to see how much the Reds use him the rest of the season. Remember, Iglesias spent last year escaping from Cuba.

Those are the fundamentals. They’ve produced these outcome stats:

Kids4B[Key: ERA measures the number of earned runs given up on average over nine innings. That number is influenced in part by factors beyond the pitcher’s control, such as the quality of his defense. The batting average on balls in play (BABIP) has varied between .295-.300 for the league for a long time. It’s believed pitchers have little control over the balls hit in play, so if their BABIP deviated substantially from the .295-.300 range they have been lucky/unlucky or were helped/hurt by their club’s defense. The same is true with runners left on base (LOB%) which is a sequencing or bullpen issue. A higher-than-average LOB% indicates good luck. Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) adjusts for those defense and luck factors by isolating what pitchers can control. FIP is referred to as an ERA estimator.

The number of home runs per fly ball also remains relatively constant over time, between 10-11%. If a pitcher has a HR/FB over that number, he’s been unlucky on homers. xFIP is an ERA estimator that normalizes home run rates for a pitcher and shows what his ERA would be with normal luck on homers, balls hit in play, runners left on base and defense. SIERA is a further refinement of xFIP that gives pitchers more credit for ground balls and strikeouts.]

Anthony DeScalfani has been near league average on outcome. He’s been a little lucky on home runs, which is why his xFIP and SIERA are higher than his FIP. Kevin Michell recently dove in depth on DeSclafani’s evolving pitch portfolio.

Michael Lorenzen has the highest ERA of the three pitchers. He’s been lucky when it comes to balls in play and runners left on base, which is why his FIP is so high. But he’s been unlucky when it comes to home runs, so his xFIP and SIERA are lower, but still awful. His problem is giving up too many walks. He also had that terrible start in Colorado (8 earned runs in 2.1 innings), which has a huge impact on his ERA.

The ERA estimators have nothing but good things to say about Raisel Iglesias. His ERA is high, but his strong K% and BB% are highly positive indicators for his future.

You Better You Bet

After searchin’ high and low, the Reds front office has stocked their system, including the minor leagues, with promising pitchers. We’ve seen a few of this year as substitutes for another guy and we’ll likely see more as the year goes along. People try to put ’em down, but the starting rotation has held together since the departures of Cueto and Leake.

Regarding the three pitchers – DeSclafani, Lorenzen and Iglesias – who have more extensive track records this year, the early outlook is favorable. Anthony DeSclafani has performed as a league average pitcher, which is great for a rookie. Raisel Iglesias has outstanding strikeout and walk rates, which means he’s demonstrated the highest upside of the three so far. Michael Lorenzen has great stuff. If he develops confidence that he can throw it over the plate, his numbers should improve accordingly. Keep your eye on Lorenzen’s strikeout and walk rates. They’ll show you what direction he’s headed, for miles and miles.

54 Responses

  1. George Mirones

    Steve;
    I agree , the “kids” are OK. It is not very often that fans get to see the formation of an entire starting rotation from scratch. It will be a joy to watch. They all will face the sixth inning curse for a while but when they get “command of the out pitch” it will be awesome.
    The wins, losses, are secondary at this point, the growth is the main thing. Also the constant harping about the use of Chapman is a mute point at this time of the season as my belief is that Walt is waiting for the winter meetings to really get value for him. There will be some “wannbe” teams that almost made it in the playoffs except for a closer and will still be smarting because they don’t have “the one”.

    • Tom Gray

      I can’t recall a Reds SP rotation with all 0 or 1 yr experience guys. It will be an E Ticket (Disneyland terminology for exciting ride) to be sure.

  2. vared

    Good stuff. This may be a stupid question: In general, which is more coveted these days – major league quality arms in an organization’s system or major league quality bats? Or put another way, if the Reds end up with a surplus of major league quality arms in the next year or 2 or 3, how easy/difficult will it be to cash in a few chips for quality bats?

    • Steve Mancuso

      Based on reports during the trade deadline, clubs were extremely reluctant to trade hitting prospects. What that really means is that sellers weren’t willing to give enough in most cases. Whether that’s due to the buyers over-valuing hitting or the sellers not facing up to new realities, depends on a case-by-case analysis and we’d need specifics. For example hypothetically, if the Reds front office keeps making offers based on the underlying value premise that “you build your club around pitching” they won’t be able to land a coveted hitter. They’ll keep reporting that “no hitters were available” while other clubs acquire hitters.

  3. ncmountie1

    Good read. Is it possible that this could be the rotation going into next season (assuming HB isn’t ready opening day)? Which of these guys would move to pen when Bailey comes back ? Does this automatically keep Cingrani in pen or does he try to compete for starting job? I know a lot depends on WHO is managing club but the rotation gives me hope that we could compete in 2016 with a couple bats and relief help, putting them in a position to possibly contend for division in 2017..IF these guys continue on upward trajectory and get some hitting.

    • Tom Gray

      No way Homer is ready to P by Opening Day. Maybe by ASG. His injury takes a year to recover and really 2 years to get back to (new) normal.

      • ncmountie1

        Which is why I said assuming he wouldn’t be ready by opening day… Also, I’m speculating that several of the other young arms will be invited to Goodyear, so some are going to have to come out of the pen.

      • Steve Mancuso

        What are you basing your claims on?

      • Tom Diesman

        Homer Bailey had his Tommy John surgery on 05/08/15. I found the following info on Tommy John rehab:

        Week 16 Baseball players will begin a throwing program soft tossing at 45 feet. Distance and repetitions will be increased every week until the baseball player can reach 150 feet.

        Month 6 The baseball player will begin to throw off of the mound if they are a pitcher. They are only to throw fastballs at 50% gradually increasing the number of pitches and intensity.

        Month 7 The pitcher will begin throwing breaking balls on flat grounds.

        Month 8 – 10 Start practicing in game conditions.

        Month 11 – 12 The baseball player can return to competition

        Assuming a normal recovery, Baily starts throwing in September. Starts throwing off a mound in early November. Starts throwing breaking balls in December. Practice in game conditions (Spring Training?) Jan – March. He’s back in pitching in competition next early April to early May. So sounds to me like if he has no setbacks it is possible he may only miss a few starts at the beginning of the season.

      • Steve Mancuso

        You need to read more carefully. That article says 80 percent of pitchers are back on the mound in 12 months. It goes on to say pitchers may not return to their previous form for 18 months, but that’s variable.

        Your original statement that I questioned was: “No way Homer is ready to P by Opening Day. Maybe by ASG. His injury takes a year to recover and really 2 years to get back to (new) normal.”

        Based on the article you cited, there an 80% chance Homer will be back by May 1. You should also acknowledge the variability in outcomes when you say things like “his injury takes really 2 years to get back to (new) normal.” Could be worse could be better than that.

      • Tom Gray

        Glad to bet you Homer won’t P before June 2016 and won’t be effective (similar numbers to his pre-injury career) until 2017.

        2 seasons (instead of years) if you prefer that terminology. Injured in 2015. Back P in mid 2016. Fully back to normal P in 2017.

        I’d be happy to hear about P who successfully returned to normal sooner than 12 months after TJ surgery. And OF COURSE to every TJ surgery is the same.

  4. sezwhom

    The “kids” pitching is all right but the vets can’t hit. Pure conjecture but I’d say Holmberg is the odd man out and maybe Lorenzen too. Waiting in the wings are Stephenson, Garrett, Finnegan, Reed, and Lamb along with a returning Homer. Going to be some trades too.

  5. big5ed

    My guess is that the Reds will not fire Bryan Price over the winter, because they want him developing the young pitching staff next year. You can beef about bullpen usage, but Desclafani, Lorenzen and Iglesias have been handled pretty well. Lorenzen needs better command of his breaking stuff, but I like his arm and presence.

    • msanmoore

      Good point. And I’m thinking if they do can him, he’s going to rebound immediately as a top-flight pitching coach elsewhere. He’ll succeed in that without any doubt in my mind.

    • Tom Gray

      Price is a very good P coach but not so good as a manger. Make him P coach again. Just get another manager.

      • preacherj

        It’s tough for someone to take a demotion. My guess is he would be a pitching coach someplace else before he would do it for the Reds.

      • Tom Gray

        One example is can think of is the late Cal Ripken, St who returned to 3B coaching job after being relieved as Orioles manager in 1988. Rare but not never.

      • Tom Reed

        I believe Bob C. will bring Price back for 2016. If not, I agree he will not take a demotion as pitching coach with the Reds, instead he’ll probably go to a west coast team. I find these remaining two months of the season worth watching because of the gradual development of the young starting pitchers. And trades could be coming in the off-season that will strengthen the Red’s offense.

      • Tom Gray

        That’s likely. If Price were going to be fired, it would have been after ASG.

        He has 3 yr contract. Why pay two managers when the 2016 team will not be as good as 2014 or 2015 teams?

        He is better off as P coach on West Coast. Ted Power could do that job in Cincy.

      • ohiojimw

        Good point about Power as a potential MLB pitching coach. I’d rather the Reds have a different and better more proven manager in 2016 with Power as the pitching coach than to see them keep Price as mgr simply because they value his skills with pitchers. Keeping Price would simply underscore their propensity to overvalue pitching at the cost of other aspects of the game.

  6. jamesgarret

    Thanks Steve for the article and especially the data to back up your comments.I like the young guys a lot with Lorenzen my favorite because of his power arm.Once he throws more strikes keeping his pitch count down I feel he will take off.

  7. Brian

    Great article. When you look at the pitching prospects plus the current young Starting Pitchers I have two questions: 1) what is your guess as to the future of the Rotation: Homer, Stephenson, Iglesias, DiSclafani, Finnegan? 2) do you see Lorenzen being moved back to being a closer if Chapman is moved and with this SP depth – maybe he is more comfortable there being that he was a closer in college or do you see his upside too great as a SP with his power arm?

  8. The Next Janish

    Steve-Lorenzen has had a quick rise to the show. Considering the Red’s are not truly competitive this year, did it make sense for him to get promoted and start his FA clock already? Great write up as always.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Yes, he needed the major league experience. Every new stadium he pitches in, every new lineup he faces, every day working with major league catchers – all to the good. I even like the fact that he got shelled in Denver. Now he understands what people mean when they say breaking balls don’t break there. He’ll be ready the next time. As long as it isn’t hurting his confidence – and judging from what I’ve read about him, it isn’t – he’s better off soaking it all in. In my view it’s the fast track to stardom.

      • Tom Gray

        Reminds me how the Reds handled Claude Osteen in late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

        Unfortunately the Reds traded him in 1961 for next-to-nothing in return. Osteen went on to be a star LHP in MLB.

  9. WVRedlegs

    As well as these 3 Reds rookies have pitched, there is no guarantee that all 3 remain in the rotation for 2016. Next spring training, the competition for starting rotation and bullpen spots will be fierce and fun to watch. There could be 3 more rookies starting next opening day in the rotation. Stephenson is in, and Lamb, or Fennigan or Reed could jump past Lorenzen.
    I don’t think there will be any veteranyness to the bullpen next year, either, no Parra, no Marshall, no Badenhop, and certainly no Gregg. It might not be a bad thing if Lorenzen and Fennigan get bumped to the back of the bullpen to join Chapman, Hoover, Jumbo, and Cingrani. Could be the makings of a nice bullpen. Villarreal, Sampson, or Holmberg might seize that 7th bullpen spot.
    I can see the competition for the bench spots will be hot too.
    Hopefully the competiton for the LF, 2B, SS, and CF positions will be just as heated. There shouldn’t be many “To-Do’s” to cross off the to-do list this winter for the front office and a (new GM) a hibernating GM to complete.
    1. Find a leadoff hitter at the LF or SS positions, and move Suarez/Cozart to 2B.
    2. If step #1 is a SS, then find a LF with very good OBP skills, or vice-versa.
    3. Go back to mid-winter’s nap.

    • George Mirones

      It would be interesting that is for sure . My thoughts are that any of those last 4 you mentioned who we may see in September will be faced with the same challenges that the current starting 5 are dealing with. Any mention of Homer before the ASG next year is unrealistic and from a outsiders perspective I would look at Homer like a late season waiver pick up instead of mentioning him in any 2016 seasons plans. I still think that the current Cubs SS (Castro) is the answer in left field for the Reds. As far as second base what happens with Phillps he is still owed serious money. While many feel that Hamilton’s unique skills are great if he isn’t on base, he is just a glove.
      Just some thoughts.

    • Tom Gray

      Gregg didn’t work out (to say the least) but he was a quality RP (closer) for Cubs in 2013. Just 1 year removed from that success, he was worth a shot.

      Badenhop may not return but he signed a 2 year contract and has been very good (under 2.00 ERA) since May 1st after a terrible April.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Gregg was not a quality RP for the Cubs in 2013. He had a couple good months, then was awful. The Cubs tried to trade him at the deadline and couldn’t find anyone interested. People who saw him then knew he was washed up. There was nothing in Gregg’s recent major league record to indicate he should be on a major league roster, let alone be assigned the 8th inning. The fact he hasn’t pitched for any other major league teams after the Reds let him go is further proof of how bad the Reds judgment was. Apparently they put stock in his past record getting “saves” which, when you think about it, is consistent with their bullpen M.O.

        I do agree there is a good chance they’ll pick up the second year of Badenhop’s contract.

      • Tom Gray

        Apply sun tan lotion to your stats.

        Gregg had 33 saves for 2013 Cubs out of 38 chances.

      • Steve Mancuso

        That’s a low save percentage. Just proves what a terrible stat Saves is to measure pitcher competence. Just about any major league pitcher could convert 33 of 38 saves. Kevin Gregg’s 2013 is proof of that. That stat is also what led Bryan Price to make Gregg the 8th inning guy in April. How did that turn out? If Gregg was so great, why didn’t anyone trade for him at the deadline when the Cubs were shopping him?

      • Tom Gray

        Nah. Gregg pitched well in spring training 2015 for the Reds. Well enough to get a chance to P but it didn’t work out.

        Price sucks at a lot of managerial decisions but taking a chance on Gregg isn’t one of his worst ones.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Gregg spring training: 8.2 innings, 6.23 ERA, .378 batting average against (14 hits!). Yeah, he was a regular stud. “Pitched well.” LOL.

      • citizen54

        Kevin Gregg did not pitch well for the Cubs in 2013. His fWAR was -.1 and his bWAR was .5. He was even worse in 2014. That’s the reason almost everyone here knew he was going to be a disaster this year. Saves is one of the most overrated stats in baseball.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Gregg’s second half stats for the Cubs included a strikeout rate of 16.8% and walk rate of 14.9%. His ERA was 4.93 and xFIP was 5.47. That doesn’t sound like a quality reliever to me. Lest you think this is hindsight, here’s what I wrote in February in my season preview:

        “Kevin Gregg has really never been much more than a mediocre pitcher. He’s now at the tail end of his career and coming off elbow surgery. He sat out almost all of last season. Major league clubs, including the Reds, cast their verdict on Gregg at the 2013 trade deadline. It’s hard to expect anything more from Kevin Gregg than his second-half stats from 2013. Signed to a minor league contract, the Reds aren’t exposed. But if they expect Kevin Gregg to offer more than insurance for the bullpen, they are deluding themselves.”

      • Tom Gray

        Sorry i pay no attention to season previews by anyone.

        Gregg was worth a gamble as MiLB FA signing. He didn’t work out. It happens.

      • George Mirones

        UPDATE on Gregg and Marquis

        By Jeff Todd [June 15, 2015 at 6:25pm CDT]
        Veteran righty Kevin Gregg has opted out of his minor league deal with the Mariners, Triple-A Tacoma announcer Mike Curto reports. Gregg signed with Seattle a few weeks back.
        Gregg’s number at AAA
        7 games, 9.1 innings, 2.89 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 5 BB, 8 SO’s

        Jason Marquis’ Pro pitcher Jason Marquis, the celebrity host of the 28th annual March of Dimes Celebrity Golf Classic
        “I had a few opportunities to get back, but it didn’t make sense. If you take the route of going to the minors, you don’t know what that team is going to do,” said Marquis, who has a lifetime MLB record of 124-118.
        “It’s been 20 years. That’s a good run. I have no regrets,” he added. “For me, it’s a ‘win-win’ situation. Right now, I get to come home to my beautiful wife and three beautiful kids.
        “If some team comes calling three weeks from now, I’ll listen. I’m leaving the door open. If not, I’m at peace with it

        After all is said and done it was a wasted effort, They finally realized that father time had given them notice.
        It happens almost every year and more than our GM tries to validate the effort. Nice try guys (GM’s) but the numbers really tell the truth in these two cases.

  10. Dale

    And let’s not forget Moscot! And, Stephenson! How do we re-tool the bullpen with all of these prospects? I’m asking– I don’t pretend to know. But something’s got to be done about how many games the relievers have blown in 2015

    • Tom Gray

      A good guess is that 50% of the young SP will turn out to be MLB quality SP. Some of the other 50% may wind up in the bullpen.

      • George Mirones

        Tom;
        Using that as a guide, we have 5 starters now, 4 that we will see soon, and Bailey , Cingrani, and Moscot who will in the mix later in 2016. That is a total of 12 new faces. That is the entire pitching staff roster. Think about that for a while.

  11. seat101

    I know plenty of you think that firing Dusty was a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”, but we forget just how bad Dusty was.

    • Tom Gray

      So bad that he led Reds to their first 2 NLC Central Division titles since 1995 and 1990.

      • docmike

        I think you meant to write this…

        So bad that he led two Reds teams with enough talent to get to the World Series, yet flamed out in the first round of the playoffs instead.

  12. Tom Gray

    A recent Reds P who got TJ surgery was Ryan Madson in 2012 (spring training). Since then (clipped from his Wikipedia page) he has:

    Cincinnati Reds
    Before the end of Spring Training, Madson had a torn ligament in his right elbow, requiring Tommy John Surgery, and missed the entire the 2012 season.

    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
    Madson began the 2013 season on the 15-day disabled list due to still recovering from the Tommy John surgery. Later in the season, the Angels transferred Madson to the 60-day disabled list. He was released on August 5 without appearing in a game.

    Kansas City Royals
    After missing three seasons because of his recovery from injury, Madson agreed to a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals in January 2015.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Ha. You already posted a link to an article that said 80% back within a year. Now you’re posting Wikipedia research from one of the 20% who wasn’t. No one says it’s a sure thing when Bailey will be back. Anyone who says they know for sure doesn’t understand the concept of probability and TJS. That certainty you offered before is as wrong as can be.

      • Tom Gray

        I posted the most recent Red who had TJ surgery. His comeback was worse than most.

        Remember Bailey had surgery in 2014 AND 2015.

        I’m of the opinion that Bailey won’t be back P for Reds until mid 2016. I’ll bet my $73K mortgage in Utah on it.

  13. lost11found

    If all goes well, He’ll probably follow the Jose Fernandez Plan.

    Throwing in earnest later in ST and extended ST. Followed by Rehab stint with a debut in July of 2016.

    • Tom Gray

      That’s a very good guess. P for Reds in mid 2016.

      Some RLN folks think I feel off a turnip truck but my stepdaughter is a professional athlete (now retired) who suffered injuries and had major surgeries as a result. I know how long it takes a pro athlete to get back to feeling normal.

      In case, it was a knee injury (not elbow) in 1994. She was fully recovered and good as ever in 1996 but NOT in 1995.

      • ncmountie1

        No offense Sir but there have been many advances in surgery in 21 years. I know I had a full ACL replacement within the last 10 years and that surgery has changed since then. You consistently make dated references to players (40 years or more) and now you say in another post that MLB hasn’t changed in that time??? That Sir couldn’t be further from the truth between equipment, athletes and of course “enhancements” that clouded the game from late 90’s through 2000’s.
        I don’t disagree that Bailey won’t probably be ready until May or June of 2016 but unfortunately I can’t see how your example has any relevancy (Male/Female; Knee/Elbow; Baseball vs IDK?)