Narratives separated by eight months:

February 2017: The Reds finished 68-94 last season, fifth place in the National League Central division. The club’s starting rotation enters 2017 with considerable uncertainty: (1) veteran pitcher who didn’t pitch until June, but who started every turn afterward; (2) quality veteran who was injured last season, hopes to return to full form; (3) promising, durable young pitcher with a sub-4 ERA; (4) young, top prospect who got around 10 major league starts; (5) young pitcher who soared through team’s system and got a handful of starts, (6) another young pitcher with promising potential, and (7) a bullpen pitcher, one of the best arms on the team, who hopes to become a starter but received no opportunity.

October 2017: The Reds finished 68-94 last season, fifth place in the National League Central division. The club’s starting rotation enters 2018 with considerable uncertainty: (1) veteran pitcher who didn’t pitch until June, but who started every turn afterward; (2) quality veteran who was injured last season, hopes to return to full form; (3) promising, durable young pitcher with a sub-4 ERA; (4) young, top prospect who got around 10 major league starts; (5) young pitcher who soared through the team’s system, got a handful of starts, (6) another young pitcher with promising potential, and (7) a bullpen pitcher, one of the best arms on the team, who hopes to become a started but received no opportunity.

  • February – (1) DeSclafani, (2) Bailey, (3) Finnegan, (4) Stephenson, (5) Reed, (6) Garrett, (7)Lorenzen
  • October – (1) Bailey, (2) DeSclafani, (3) Castillo, (4) Stephenson, (5) Mahle, (6) Romano, (7) Lorenzen

Blowing up opportunity

A major league baseball team has 162 starting pitching assignments to hand out over the course of a single season. Those opportunities are a scarce, valuable resource for the organization. Here is how the Reds allocated their starts in 2017:

If you take the pitchers with comments in their row and add up the number of starts you get 67, which is 41% of 162. The Reds wasted all of that precious opportunity last year.

Tilt your head sideways, peer out one eye and you might see Scott Feldman as a veteran presence. Indeed, Feldman ate innings. He also devoured opportunity. But even if you place Scott Feldman in the reasonable-to-start category, that still leaves 46 wasted starts or 28% of the total.

The front office should have put Bronson Arroyo on contract for one game, let him play his concert and then retire as a Reds player. Instead, they afforded 40-year-old Arroyo more opportunity to start than Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed and Michael Lorenzen — combined. As you shake your head at that last sentence, also take in that the Reds gave more innings to Tim Adleman than to any other pitcher in 2017.

That’s the opposite of a clear-eyed, well executed rebuilding process.

Think how much farther along the club could be now if they gave twelve of those 67 starts to Michael Lorenzen after the All-Star break, another 15 to Robert Stephenson and 25 to Cody Reed. Amazingly, that still leaves 15 starts to divide between Sal Romano and Amir Garrett. If even one of those five pitchers learned from their enhanced experience and showed meaningful progress, the Reds would be much better off today.

Cody Reed, for example

After a solid performance in Goodyear, Cody Reed began the season assigned to the Reds bullpen. Reds management was sending Reed and Stephenson a message by putting Rookie Davis in the Opening Day rotation.

Reed relieved in four April games, giving up no hits and no runs in 8 innings. Yes, he walked four – all in his first appearance – but he also struck out 9.

Reed was finally given an opportunity to start. On April 22, he faced the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs had led the major leagues in walks in 2016, so it was probably the worst match-up possible for Reed. He didn’t pitch well. And that was it. Reed’s one and only start of the 2017 season took place in April.

Cody Reed began 2017 as the Reds #2 prospect. Yet, even in September, when the club turned to the likes of Deck McGuire, Bryan Price couldn’t see fit to give Reed another chance or two.

“A year wasted in development”

The outcome of the 2017 season for the Reds was never in doubt. The prospect of another losing season was obvious to the team and its fans long before Sean Casey served as Grand Marshal for the Opening Day Parade.

What we wanted was an organization competently executing the latter stages of a rebuilding process. On the pitching side, that meant a single-minded devotion to opportunity and experience for the club’s valued youngsters. Not dopey nostalgia or play pretend that the Reds were a 2017 contender. The Dan Straily trade in January appeared to be a breathtaking indication that the organization understood that. Or so we hoped.

Instead, what followed was an unfocused mess. One step forward, one step in a different direction. Luis Castillo, then Lisalverto Bonilla.

“When we looked at the pitching staff last year on the last day of the season, we’re looking at almost identical to this year,” said Jeff Brantley, as he spoke his mind before the final game of the 2017 season.

“And it’s a year wasted in development.”

Assessing blame and struggling to keeping faith

Who is to blame for the pitching staff’s disappointing lack of progress?

From a certain point of view, the answer is simple. It’s the pitchers themselves. They have to earn opportunity and failed to do so. Cody Reed and Amir Garrett had long stretches of ineffectiveness. On the other hand, Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle knocked the door down.

(Although one wonders how long Castillo’s emergence would have been delayed if Bronson Arroyo’s shoulder hadn’t fallen off.)

But placing accountability solely on 23-year-old pitchers isn’t just simple; it’s too simple. Pitchers rarely develop in a steady, uniform direction. The organization’s minor league and major league pitching coaches play a critical role. If not, why does every club pay for them? Bryan Price and Delino DeShields wield substantial influence in who gets promoted. They seem to have deep, complicated doghouses. Price makes out the lineup card.

Dick Williams warned that 2017 would be “a year to help crystalize who goes where.” Then he watched Bronson Arroyo get 14 starts. Was that to crystalize Arroyo should be inducted to the Reds Hall of Fame? It shouldn’t have taken 2, let alone 20, starts to know Tim Adleman’s fate.

Maybe Williams’ choices were constrained by non-baseball factors. Perhaps ownership pushed for the sentimental, but ultimately catastrophic, Bronson Arroyo lap of defeat. Maybe Scott Feldman was put on the mound out of concern for attendance if the bottom fell out early. I still believe that an all-young starting rotation in April would have captured the public imagination and been vastly better for the organization in the medium and long run, if not right away.

With a team destined for non-contention, you give young, talented pitchers opportunity beyond their present-day merit. Even if they struggle, working through the challenge provides a valuable learning experience and teaching opportunity.

Losing big is tough to watch. Reds fans are wondering if we’re staring down yet another painful 94-loss season. Keeping faith under these circumstances is a challenge. But it does help to know your team is being smart and doing everything it can to get better. The stupefying lack of progress in sorting out the starting rotation last year was discouraging. Let’s hope the front office doesn’t squander the offseason with a similar loss of direction.

104 Responses

  1. CI3J

    It was profoundly frustrating to watch another “Season of Sorting” lead to absolutely bumpkiss. The Reds were supposed to be ready to compete next season. 2016 was supposed to be the year to throw all the young starters in the fire and see who survived. 2017 was supposed to be the season those survivors honed their craft and maybe pushed the team to a .500 record with they eye on fully blossoming in 2018.

    Instead, the Reds pitching has only marginally developed since 2015. Yes, part of that is because of the players themselves, but it’s also because management refuses to give them an opportunity. It’s baffling, Bryan Price’s decisions to not play the kids seems to be because he “wants to win”, yet he’s the owner of 3 straight 90+ loss seasons. Would playing the kids have made a difference at all? Probably not in the present, but almost definitely for the future.

    And this is the man the Reds’ brass looked at and said “Yep, let’s give him another chance. Heckuva job he’s doing!”

    Short-sighted, wasteful, redundant idiocy.

  2. Matt V

    I’m getting a little tired of the “Free Lorenzen” trope and I wonder how much it’s influenced by memories of how he started off the year. The guy has stuff for sure, but he pitched to a 4.45 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 1.349 WHIP out of the bullpen. Those aren’t numbers that are screaming “I’m overqualified for this job! Put me in the rotation!”

    In the absence of any evidence compelling me to push for him being in the rotation, I’d defer to the organization’s greater knowledge than my own.

    • Steve Mancuso

      The organization doesn’t have any knowledge of what Lorenzen would look like as a starter now because they haven’t tried it in two years. Different pitcher now. Just give him the opportunity instead of Feldman, Adleman, Arroyo etc. See above post.

      You talk about his pitching line as if it was disqualifying. 4.45 ERA, 4.01 FIP and 3.89 xFIP was FAR better than almost every pitcher who received starts.

      • Matt V

        That’s apples and oranges though. That was his pitching line as a reliever, and pitching in relief allows your stuff to play up in shorter outings. It would presumably be worse as a starter.

        I recognize that at his age it’s very possible for him to grow and mature, and I can understand some measure of an argument that more innings means a greater opportunity to learn, but it also feels to me that if he’s not being terribly successful in relief, it’s likely he’ll be a pretty poor starter too.

    • Nick Carrington

      The memories are Lorenzen pitching 96 innings from last year until the 2017 All Star break with a 2.91 ERA and 3.37 SIERA. But, his terrible second half has led to more question marks and maybe an end to his opportunity to start.

      • Scott Carter

        I am not making the decisions(obviously) but just because pitcher struggles as a reliever at times (and remember there were times even in the second half that Lorenzen was untouchable) doesn’t mean that person cannot start. The whole mentality between stating and relieving is different, as is the physical regiment of preparing for a start or relief appearance. We as fans look at it as silly pitching, or as I have heard some announcers say, relievers are just starters who have failed. And yes you can get by relieving with one or two pitches and you generally only have to go trough the lineup one time but just because a pitcher may struggle relieving does not mean he can’t start.

    • Patrick Jeter

      Like Steve alludes to, it is all about opportunity. Lorenzen MIGHT turn out to be good. It’s a greater than 0% chance. It’s probably almost literally 0% that Tim Adleman or Scott Feldman will be a useful piece of “The Next Great Reds Team.”

      In a wasted season, you explore. The Reds did not explore enough. Simple as that.

      And, for what it is worth, I sort of agree that Lorenzen probably wouldn’t be a good starter, but I wish the Reds would find out for sure.

      • lwblogger2

        “…And, for what it is worth, I sort of agree that Lorenzen probably wouldn’t be a good starter, but I wish the Reds would find out for sure…”

        I agree with this sentiment exactly. And I’m not so sure he may not be a better starter than we might think because he worked as a RP in a very similar way a SP generally works. He used multiple pitches and not just his best 2 offerings. Hopefully we find out if he can start. No matter what, if he’s in the pen again, I think the Reds need to get him to use his 2 best pitches and have him scrap the rest of his offerings. This is counting his two-seamer and four-seamer as one pitch.

  3. Sandman

    My question is this: has anybody questioned Price and/or Williams about the lack of substantial opportunities for some of the young pitchers? There obviously seems to be a kind of moral outrage here. And I get it, I do! But, to me, the next logical step would be to get answers by pressing the decision makers until they give you an answer. If this has happened and they’ve given an answer…what did they say? I must’ve missed it bcuz I ain’t seen anything on social media about it. Have the questions been asked but Price/Williams are side-stepping or being tight lipped? The only answer I can seem to come up with as to why starts got wasted on has-been veterans who aren’t in this clubs future plans is bcuz they hoped they would eat innings to spare the bullpen. Obviously that didn’t happen bcuz the veterans were has-beens and well-past-their-prime. But maybe, just maybe, they ate just enough innings to keep the bullpen from blowing out earlier than what they did. Obviously not enough innings were “eaten” bcuz the bullpen was still overused and became less effective as the season went on. But, if the rotation had been chock full of youngsters from the very beginning then maybe the bullpen would of blown out a lot earlier than what it did. You can talk about moving pieces in and out of the bullpen to keep arms fresh but would the bullpen have been as effective as it was for a part of this season? Maybe, seeing how dominate our bullpen was, is very important to Price/Williams and they tried to keep it that way for as long as they could. Maybe these has-been and washed up veterans offered a better chance to possibly eat up innings than the youngsters in the minds of Price/Williams (even though they largely proved that belief wrong). Now, I know it may seem as if I’ve done a complete 180° turn from where I was at the start of this response, but I assure you I haven’t. All that stuff in the very large middle of my response were just possibilities for you to chew on, with some questions I have, thrown in there. Bottom line is someone needs to put forth some hard hitting questions to Price/Williams until they hopefully give some semblance of an answer. Btw, I’ve typed Price/Williams so much during this response that I’m thinking of combining the two of them into one person and calling them Prilliams! It would be fitting bcuz all Price is is a ventriloquist dummy saying whatever Williams wants him to. Or maybe the two of them are just that much on the same page. Maybe Price is Williams in disguise? More things to ponder. #thingsthatmakeyougohmm!🎶

    • Steve Mancuso

      Preventing the bullpen from blowing out – if that’s even a thing – is far less important than developing the starting pitchers. Are we really worried about the bullpen of a team destined to lose 90 games? So what if had been 100 losses? And there is virtually no connection between the 2017 bullpen and the bullpen for the next contending Reds team, whether that be in 2018 or 2019. Iglesias and Lorenzen are the only ones at most. Reds could easily have found scrap heap bullpen arms if wear and tear was the limiting factor.

      • Sandman

        Steve, I liked our bullpen this year (for the most part) and I think it has the potential to be a lockdown bullpen. I would like for us to be in the phase of the rebuild where we start keeping the good players bcuz we are supposed to get back to contention soon…hopefully next year. Yes, some bullpen arms didn’t exactly wow us but those that did I’d like to keep. You guys seem to be under the impression that it’s easy-peasy to just literally throw together a good or even dominate bullpen. The general consensus also seems to be that the bullpen isn’t as important as the starting pitching/rotation. I guess I can kinda see where you guys are coming from on that but I, for one, am not gonna discredit the importance of having a good bullpen. In my opinion, having a good or even dominate bullpen is just as important as the starting rotation. But, as far as it being easy to throw together a good bullpen, I have seen cases where a bullpen has been bad and the team had removed a bad piece and replaced it with another arm that winds up proving to be just as bad or even worse than the arm they replaced. All, I’m saying is that the bullpen is something that can easily get away from a team and can be easily overlooked and it’s something that should not be discounted. I’m not saying that you guys are doing. I just don’t completely agree with your views on the bullpen. Like I said, I can kinda see where you’re coming from, but not entirely. I apologize if I’ve misunderstood anything.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Having a good bullpen is extremely important. But much less so when the team isn’t in contention. When Dick Williams feels the Reds are ready to compete, he’ll invest $$$ in bringing in quality relievers. The 2017 Reds bullpen was nowhere near lockdown. Just Iglesias. By 2019, the names will all be different and include a bunch of young pitchers who are currently in the starting rotation competition.

      • Sandman

        Steve, we’re supposed to be finding out now who we’re keeping for the next good reds team(s), right? We’re supposed to be returning to contention next year, right? That was the front offices prediction wasn’t it? Well, if we’re supposed to return to competition next year then wouldn’t it make sense to keep the good players that we already have? Keep the good, get rid of the bad and hopefully who you replace the bad with will be better. That’s how you build a winning or even championship caliber club. This makes sense to me I don’t know about anyone else. It sounds like you believe that we’re at least 2 more years away from contending and I gotta say that I think you may be right bcuz of the simple fact that they brought Price back. But even 2 yrs is not that big a stretch to start keeping the good players. It’s beginning to sound more and more like the common way of operating a MLB team is to keep switching out players (even some of the good ones) until we get a group of guys that somehow manage to put together a winning season. That seems crazy to me.

      • VaRedsFan

        I love this comment Sandman. The Reds won a lot of games through June with one of the HISTORICALLY WORST starting pitching staffs in MLB history. Why? Because the bullpen was doing it’s impression of Nasty Boys v2.0. Baseball has changed…having a well oiled bullpen crew is the new formula for success, and shouldn’t be just “thrown together” with failed starters. Move Finnegan to the bullpen now.

      • Sandman

        VaRedsFan, I can’t tell if you’re being genuine or sarcastic. If you’re being genuine, I apologize for not understanding.

      • Patrick Jeter

        What the heck does “well oiled” even mean? Hah! 😉

        Oil Can Boyd is probably available!

    • Scott Carter

      Reporters are afraid to ask those questions in fear of getting boycotted by the team.

      • Sandman

        Scott, well that’s bull! There’s the tone in which they could ask the questions and the consistency in which the question is asked that could possibly not get them boycotted. So long as they’re respectful and not combative I think they could get an answer.

      • Davis Stuns Goliath

        Has this site ever applied for media credentials, or know what the Reds’ criteria are for granting them? I realize they can’t (and shouldn’t) let every blogger into the press box, but for sites like this with a long and proven track record — not to mention a history of positive past engagements with the team and its front office — I honestly don’t see the harm in being allowed to participate in pregame media interview sessions with the manager at the very least.

        If it’s never been floated, perhaps it’d be good to request on-field media access for post-game spring training interviews? The manager and sometimes a player usually spend about 30-60 seconds talking to a handful of reporters before scurrying off. It wouldn’t require press box or locker room access, but maybe it’d be a “test the waters” kind of situation to demonstrate professionalism to the powers-that-be, etc.

      • Steve Mancuso

        Yes, we’ve applied. I know the guys at Reds Reporter have aggressively pursued it. As long as Rob Butcher is in charge of Reds media relations, blog writers won’t get access. The new front office is open to talking to us backchannel, off the record at times. We had the one meet up a year ago where we got to ask on-the-record questions. We pursued limited access for spring training last year, but nothing came of it. I, for one, really don’t have any interest in interviewing players. But wouldn’t mind asking Bryan Price a question or two every once in a while.

      • Patrick Jeter

        If an RLN stalwart got access to Price, that would be…Priceless…

      • lwblogger2

        I’ll add that Reds MiLB teams have granted some press credential requests to RLN staff, if I’m not mistaken. It is the MLB operation and Rob Butcher that have been unwilling to grant them.

    • VaRedsFan

      You guys that are in Reds country…Don’t they have a caravan or something, touring towns with players and management? You guys could ask some of the tough questions. Direct to Price: Do you favor speed or OBP in the leadoff spot? When Lorenzen was successful in the 1st few months, why were his mechanics changed? What were the thoughts on letting Adelman and Arroyo pitch in the starting rotation out of Spring? Same question, after 1 month of starts?

  4. Bill

    Just saw where the KC Royals, who finished 12 games better than the Reds, fired their bench & pitching coaches. Would anyone expect the Reds FO or manager to make any moves? If they would look for a pitching coach maybe they could look at Brian Bannister.

  5. larry

    Well stated Steve. Sad but true. This coming year, I’d like to see Feldman find employment elsewhere. I hope the starters are Bailey, Castillo, Mahle, Ramano and one of Bob/Steve, Stephens, Larenzen or Lopez. Let Reed, Finnagan (if healthy) or maybe Garrett be bullpen pieces at the beginning of the year. I am not confident that Disco will be healthy in the spring of 2018. Anyway, that’s my dream list of starters next year.

    • da bear

      Feldman will be out next year after surgery. He actually gave helpful tips to either Mahle or Romano or Stephenson after observing one of them pitch from the locker room. He’s probably a better pitching coach than our supposed pitching guru.

  6. Cincinnati Jeff

    I think you’re working with a bit of revisionist history here. I agree with you on Arroyo, but I feel like Feldman, and Adleman to a certain extent, were justified in their starts. Reed and Stephenson couldn’t throw strikes. They clearly have issues with their deliveries, why not allow them to work on those issues in the minor leagues? MLB hitters were consistently getting ahead in the count and jumping on fastballs those guys were forced to throw for strikes. As for Mahle, Castillo, Romano – they are really young. I had no problem with how they were handled. All of them got a solid taste of the majors, and none were going to throw 200 innings for the Reds this year anyway. Injuries and ineffectiveness were problems early, but I would say the Reds are in a much better position heading into 2018 than they were heading into 2017.

    • Craig

      I agree with this, but for a different reason. I truly feel like the FO expected Garrett, Reed and Stephenson to get their act together in AAA while Feldman and Adleman built some semblance of deadline trade value. Then, after Feldman and/or Adleman were moved, Stephenson/Reed/Garrett would get their starts. The problem was, the FO literally struck out: all 3 prospects struggled in AAA; Feldman got hurt; and Adleman was largely ineffective.

      I agree with Steve, the biggest mistake in all of this was giving Arroyo 14 (!!!!!) starts, all while Stephenson and Reed were both accruing service time in unexplainable bullpen roles. I simply cannot understand the thought process that went into that decision.

      • Cincinnati Jeff

        You are somewhat making my point. How can we say the Reds screwed up by not starting Garrett, Reed and Stephenson when they showed no ability to throw strikes, even when given the opportunity in AAA to get it together? I don’t look at it as a lost season for pitching. They had pitchers who didn’t step up and the organizational depth showed. I’m guessing they would have preferred to avoid bringing up Castillo and Mahle, but they had to and we learned a little more because of that.

      • da bear

        Reed was totally mishandled, I’m in agreement with Steve. He did great in the bullpen, was thrown to the wolves versus the Cubs, then sat and sat until it was decided it was better he get a chance to pitch in the minors. He has the stuff. It’s the mental coaching he needed, and he wasn’t given coaching or encouragement, he was told to sit in the corner with his nose against the wall and not to make a sound. Price is terrible at teaching and not encouraging for young player development. Like how he handled Jesse Winker? Sit boy. We got some great .230 hitters who can hit the ball a country mile ahead of you!!!!

  7. Kap

    Cody Reed was walking batters in Triple A when he started. No reason to think he wouldn’t have done the same here. He should be a reliever going forward, even if his control is still mediocre at best

    • Steve Mancuso

      Agreed that Reed struggled. Maybe his role will be in the bullpen eventually, but it’s way too soon to give up on him as a starter. Lefties with a slider like his can be really effective.

    • kmartin

      If a pitcher has control problems why does it logically follow he should be a relief pitcher? A starter can work on control issues when throwing regularly scheduled bullpen sessions between starts. A relief pitcher that must always be ready to pitch does not have this luxury and it would seem have less opportunity to work on control problems.

      • lwblogger2

        I’ve raised that same point several times. Fully agree with you.

    • JoshG

      if they would have started Reed up here more ….. he’d be done … mentally
      you could just see with body language he had no idea if he could get anyone out. looked like he completely lost his confidence and that wasn’t going to get fixed starting in the major leagues.

    • da bear

      In 2016 Finnegan was shelled and shelled and shelled….until he wasn’t shelled. He figured stuff out along the way, found pitches that worked, got batters out, struck a bunch of them out. He was given time to develop and find his way. Reed wasn’t afforded that opportunity.

      • james garrett

        Amen Bear.The Reds used that formula to the tune of 31 starts for Finny and did the same with Disco the year before.No reason at all not to do it in 2017 but they didn’t so we sort again in 2018.

  8. WVRedlegs

    The injuries to the top 3 starters was just a killer for the rotation. Feldman was supposed to be a #4 starter when signed with the hope that a younger pitcher would eventually take his spot later down the line. I won’t begrudge any starts by Feldman.
    The starts by Adelman (20), Arroyo (14), Wojo (8), Davis (6), and Bonilla (4) that totaled up to 52 that were very perplexing.
    On the other side of the coin, who would have thought that the Reds would have reached down to AA to bring up Castillo when they did? Not a move that Walt Jocketty would have made. Giving Mahle a shot too at just 22 years old and a handful of AAA starts under his belt is not a typical Jocketty move either.
    Some nice progress was made in 2017 with the rotation. The negative part is that it only happened in the second half of the season and not a whole season.
    The Reds did find 3 starters so far out of the young group of pitchers in Castillo, Romano, and Mahle. Robert Stephenson may also figure into this group as he had a solid August and September. Homer Bailey made some nice progress and finished strong. That bodes very well for 2018. The wild cards are the arm health of DeSclafani and Finnegan. The other wild card in the deck is Williams’s earlier comment about a possible starting pitcher acquisition this winter.
    I get the sentiment, but I don’t think August and September were a wash regarding the rotation. Some very valuable information was garnered and some valuable progress was made. It would have been nice if that time would have been longer, but some of those young pitchers either were not performing well at all or got injured themselves.
    As far as Lorenzen is concerned, his very inconsistent second half showed that he may not be starter material. I think there are situations that Lorenzen gets himself into that then he gets rattled and starts elevating his pitches. Lorenzen, as emotional as he gets, might be his own worst enemy on the mound.

    • JoshG

      I agree about the injuries (without them Arroyo doesn’t even get 1 start)…. it is a totally different team if Bailey, Disco and Finnigan come out of the gate healthy, like competing for the wild card at least different……I also agree on Feldman. I think Wojo got his starts based on one or two very good performances when it seemed like for a small stretch that he was the only one outside of the back of the bullpen (Iglasias,Lorenzen, and Peralta) that could get ANYONE out. but they sent him out there for too long after that. For whatever reason Price likes Addleman, I do too.. as a long reliever, but the biggest disappointment for me was Garrett…. man he looked like a stud and then just completely lost it.

  9. Streamer88

    Steve this is spot on. In 2019 if we miss out on the wildcard by a game or two, and we note Castillo, Bob Steve or Mahle still making sophomoric mistakes during the pennant chase, we should recall 2017, when that growth could’ve happened but didn’t.

    Lessons must be learned. Let’s hope this nonsense strategy of theirs doesn’t cost us chances to turn the corner in upcoming seasons.

  10. Jason Linden

    There is too much certainty in this article. I agree with a lot of the points, but I’m worn out with people who know for sure how to handle 23-year-old Nuke LaLooshes. Yes, they are young and some of them, you can bet are immature. Also they are young and immature and some folks expect them to just figure it out on a major league mound? That works for some people. It destroys others.

    I would strongly suggest people go read and watch some of the interviews with Cody Reed. Especially Zach Buchanan’s big piece on him from a few months ago. You’ll see someone who is clearly struggling with himself and his future. Now, do you want to put him on a major league mound?

    Garrett was, apparently, hurt much of the year and developed some mechanical issues as a result.

    Stephenson actually seemed to start to get a handle on his control.

    Romano had a great year.

    So did Castillo and Mahle.

    Is that a wasted year? I don’t see how. We can argue about how the Reds should have proceeded, but none of us really knows. I don’t know, that’s for sure. Different players are different and respond differently. It bothers me that Arroyo’s starts are “inexcusable” because it ignores the possibility that – in a year when the team isn’t expected to compete – the development of a player was prioritized over the performance of the team. It may be that the Reds would have been better off start Reed or whoever else on those days. But it may also be that this experience would have damaged a player who wasn’t ready for the opportunity.

    Again. I don’t know. But neither, I suspect, does anyone else here. We need to acknowledge the uncertainty present in our analysis and make certain not to label opinion as fact.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Did a quick search and didn’t find the word “fact” in my post.

      Plenty of legitimate room to disagree on the merits.

      It would be a pretty boring sports blog if we only wrote about things we “really knew” or wrapped every opinion in mountains of self-doubt or qualification. I thought it was safe to assume that readers knew what we wrote was just our opinion. If this is about writing style, in terms of writing with certainty, you thought the “picture is a lot clearer” even back in July.

      • Jason Linden

        With the exception of BobSteve, I seem to have been pretty correct back then.

        But you are niggling with my last point while ignoring the other issues I have. While I welcome opinion pieces (that’s what RN mostly is, after all), I’m weary of the “hot take” tone that words like inexcusable bring. I think we could all do with a little more equivocating.

      • Nick Carrington

        There have been a lot of hot takes, probably by all of us. I do remember someone saying that Cody Reed might be the Reds best starter when he arrived in 2016, that there seemed to be a “consensus” that Nick Senzel would arrive in 2017, and that the Reds would finish in second place in 2017.

        I guess we write what we think by our interpretation of the best evidence we have.

      • Nick Carrington

        But, I agree that we have lots of uncertainty, especially because the Reds have lots of information that we don’t.

      • Old-school

        Are you defending Bronson Arroyo being named a starter and getting 14 starts? He is 40. Had not pitched in MLB in 3 years. Major surgery. Could not hit 85 mph. Earned nothing…showed nothing in spring training.
        Openly admitted he was desperately searching and trying to find “it” while actively pitching major league regular season games. Set historic records for pitching futility and HR allowed.

        Pretty clear Adelman and Arroyo were handed jobs and did nothing to earn them. That’s a terrible double standard to set….different rules for different players. Robert Stephenson sat in Siberia in the bullpen. Inexcusable and very unequivocal.

      • lwblogger2

        Agree on Arroyo, especially considering missing 2 years due to arm problems and multiple surgeries. Adelman gave the Reds 13 pretty good starts (overall) in 2016 and that earned him the right for some starts once the injuries started to pile on with Reds’ pitching. I think he got too many starts based on his performance but I don’t fault that he got some starts.

      • Chad Dotson

        You’re both wrong on all counts.

        By the way, Billy Hamilton is going to be an All-Star in 2017.

      • Patrick Jeter

        You can put it on the booooooard, yyyyyyess!!

      • Chris

        Agree. IMO, it’s impossible to judge (not question) issues of individual player development from an armchair.

    • Gonzo Reds

      I think the answer is somewhere in between Steve and Jason’s takes (and both of you write fantastic articles). And the discussion of whether the front office / manager know what they are doing leaks over to other areas like the use of Winker, how we couldn’t trade any pieces we didn’t need at either deadline, and comparing our rebuild with that of the Twins who went last to the playoffs in a year.

    • JoshG

      well said Jason,
      when you just look at numbers.. you are not getting the whole picture.. the mental state of young pitchers is extremely volatile and important. Some have a harder time dealing with the bad outings and the good ones even

      • da bear

        Then in the case of Reed (whose mental state probably followed from his poor outings, and not the other way around), find a mental coach. He has the physical ability. Get someone who can unlock his potential, don’t leave him stuck with a guy like Price who has no time nor willingness to help a player become better.

        Price needs a staff of Castillos and a lineup of all Vottos to succeed. He couldn’t churn out 50 wins with what the Padres manager worked with.

    • james garrett

      Hard to imagine us going in to next year with the same questions about our young starters but it is what it is.We found out very little about any of them because of the small sample size so we have to do it over again.To me its a wasted year unless we think 15 starts tells us what we need to know vs 25 or 30 starts.See Finny in 2016 and Disco in 2015 for examples on how it should have been done.Oh and please notice how bad Finny was the first 15 starts vs how much better he was the last 16 starts.

  11. WVRedlegs

    Rookie Davis had hip surgery and begins the 2018 season on the 60-day DL, accruing MLB time. Scratch Davis from any 2018 plans at least for now.

    • jessecuster44

      Another Reds pitcher bites the dust. But the med staff has nothing to do with it.

      • greenmtred

        Are you alleging that someone on the med staff whacked Rookie with a bat? Players–pitchers especially–get injured. Somebody awhile ago did some research about injury frequency by team, and the Reds evidently reside comfortably in the middle of the pack.

      • jessecuster44

        Read the last chapter of Keith Law’s “Smart Baseball.” Yes, players – especially pitchers – get hurt, but the Reds don’t seem to be especially concerned or willing to try now things with regard to training or injury treatment.

        And really, the Reds should aspire to be at the bottom of games lost to injury. The fact that you use the word “comfortably” is apt, considering this organization’s hunger to win, or lack thereof.

  12. Redgoggles

    This was the single most disappointing aspect of 2017 to me; the lack of clear development/direction of the starting rotation. Having said that, I’m willing to chalk it up to a combination of bad injury luck (Disco/Finnegan/Garrett/Davis) and sending messages to players (BobSteve/Reed). I’m thinking that the Reds didn’t really plan on using Arroyo/Adleman that much, but really had no options unless they went back on their word that minor leaguers need to earn the call. The fact that Lorenzen was kept in bullpen (and really, what does his 2nd half ineffectiveness speak to him earning a shot?), could have been more about moving him further from his injury than a signal that the club doesn’t see him as a starter in the future. While this year was frustrating, I’m so much happier with the depth of young starters that I hope will avoid 60% of our rotation being retreads. I’m really just not sure how much this front office is to blame on how it played out this year.

  13. scottya

    I don’t agree that it was a wasted season for Reds pitching. Garrett in 14 starts proved he’s not ready. Reed didn’t start but clearly is not ready and they are working with him as they did with Stephenson, which appears to have turned Stephenson around. Stephenson pitched 125 innings by my count, some in the bullpen some at AAA and some for the Reds. As I said he has seemingly turned the corner, at a minimum he has some pretty good trade value at this point. I think the staff handled him they way they did to ease him into becoming a mlb starter, but I don’t know for sure. I do know it seems to have worked. A similar tact has been taken with Reed and he hasn’t performed well enough. It will take more time in 2018 for Reed.

    Castillo, Romano and Mahle look to have been handled very well. I don’t think anyone thought Castillo would get 15 starts this season at the beginning of the year or that Mahle would get 4 starts. All three continue to develop well.

    Feldman to me would have been a perfect success if we could have flipped him at the deadline, as I believe the FO was trying to do, up until he was injured.

    I do agree that Arroyo’s starts where a waste, his mentoring was valuable, but could have been done without him starting. I could argue reasonably that the other decisions with the pitching staff were reasonable decisions. I don’t agree at all that it was an “unfocused mess.”

    • james garrett

      Are you referring to all of Amir’s 14 starts or just the last 6 or 7 when he stunk up the place?I can remember after a few starts he was hailed as a future ace and was then sent down and got hammered when he came up.

      • da bear

        Lets not forget in his first several starts he was barely hitting 91 on the gun. He was only given one or two starts in September when he was topping out around 95, 96. There is untapped potential, we need to see what he can do when delivering at full strength.

  14. Sliotar

    Steve, nice write-up.

    I feel like this post makes the case for 2018 to be the “sorting of starting pitching” and the window starting in 2019 or 2020.

    There are only so many SP innings in 2018. Who do the Reds commit those to, knowing development isn’t linear and there is a polishing/grafting process that most have to go through?

    If it’s too soon to assign Lorenzen/Reed/Finnegan to the bullpen (and it probably is), that is a crowded field in the starting gate at Spring Training.

    Has to be willowed down and the winners knowing a bad start or two won’t put them on the Louisville Shuttle.

    (And, what about the potential adding of a veteran SP over the winter? That’s 200 IP spoken for in 2018.)

  15. sultanofswaff

    Price more than once went out of his way to pile on Reed and Stephenson to the press early in the year. He’s not a tough love guy and protects his players in the press, so why these two??? Combined with his batting orders and use of guys like Winker and Ervin, you really have to wonder what business he has leading a rebuilding effort.

    +1 for the inexcusable critique. I love the guy, but Arroyo had no business on a major league mound, regardless of whether the intent was to protect the younger arms. I would include Davis as well.

    I’m not as high on Romano and Mahle as some other commenters. Romano’s peripherals are sketchy and Mahle’s stuff doesn’t suggest he’ll be anything more than a back of the rotation type. Still, the depth they provide is insurance against ever seeing a fiasco like the last two years.

  16. wizeman

    I enjoyed the article Steve. I was always a bit quick to criticize Price’s use of and beating on Stephenson. However I think he really turned the corner the last third of the year and should be mentioned in the same sentence as Romano.
    Not sure what to think of Garrett. Sending him down so early affected his confidence and sometimes compensating leads to mechanical issues. I am not even close to giving up on him or Reed for that matter.
    Hoping we can get 120 innings for Desclafani and Finnegan.
    Thought a great deal of the season was wasted by Price but the last third gave me some hope which always springs eternal.
    Have a feeling that Lorenzen is angry at the way he has been handled. Hope I am wrong but can’t escape the feeling.

    • sultanofswaff

      When the Reds played .500 ball the 2nd half of last year I thought the worst was over………then came May, June, and July. End result, identical records. It’s hard to have confidence the corner has been turned, and yet I want to believe (again) that it has.

      Agree on Lorenzen–I mean, they tried everyone and their mother yet he couldn’t get a shot despite his stated declaration to do so.

      I’m not confident Reed or Garrett will be starters long term. Just not seeing a viable third pitch from either. No shame there, both could be good as relievers, especially Reed.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Someone else might write about that. A bunch of the position players were relatively settled. Sorting on offense was playing Suarez, Duvall, Schebler and Peraza, which they did for the most part. Could probably make a case for playing Peraza more at SS after the trade deadline.

      Next post(s) from me will be – my opinion – of what they should do in the offseason.

      • jessecuster44

        but not playing Winker more? Silly, unless they know they’ve got a gem.

      • Patrick Jeter

        This was one of my main downsides to the 2nd half of the season… not enough Winker.

      • Earmbrister

        Agreed, not enough Winker. Also could’ve used more cowbell.

        Otherwise, I don’t see the need for indignation. After all, the Reds used 16 different starters, 16. A lot of that was due to injury. How many organizations can go more than seven or eight starters deep without it turning into a dumpster fire?

        We were supposed to get riled up about Lorenzen not starting, but he was merely meh in relief this year. Now we’re supposed to get riled up about Cody Reed not starting? He was awful this year. Bob Steve was awful to start the year, but he eventually got his stuff together. Considering that he came around, how can you claim that he was mishandled? Feldman was fairly solid before he got hurt, and probably was a trade deadline candidate. Rookie Davis alternated between being hurt and being ineffective, as was Garrett. Beyond that we’re getting down to nitpicking.

        Again, considering all the injuries, I’ve got no major beef about whether the youngsters got a decent opportunity to start. They largely did, except for Cowbell Winker.

  17. Creigh Deeds

    Good analysis. I have little faith in management. Reed should be traded to allow his confidence to rebuild. He will be a middle of the rotation guy, but it will be somewhere else. Hamilton, DuVal, Gennet, and the best of the bullpen need to be converted into a stating pitcher or two. Only then can the Reds begin to be a team worthy of Votto. Saurez, Winker, Ervin, Schebler. Barnhart/Mesraco(unless he can be converted into a valuable asset, is a great start to a lineup. Add Perazo and Herrera, and maybe you can compete.

    • greenmtred

      Before you make those trades, you need to consider whether anyone left in the outfield can catch the ball and throw it. It’s possible to add by subtracting, I suppose, but it’s tricky.

  18. doofus

    “The stupefying lack of progress in sorting out the starting rotation last year was discouraging. Let’s hope the front office doesn’t squander the offseason with a similar loss of direction.”

    Succinct summary of 2017, nuff said. Question is whether the FO gets it, I doubt it.

  19. brunsfam

    Castillo – excellent year
    Romano – solid year
    Mahle – promising year
    Stephenson – maturing year
    Bailey – recovering year
    Lorenzen – healthy year
    Peralta – fine year
    Iglesias – spectatcular year
    Reed – lost year
    Davis – not sure if he was ready year
    Garrett – there’s potential here year
    Shackleford – steady improvement year
    Brice – not bad for the “extra player” year
    Gennett – who knew he could pitch year

    If we look ahead and can add #2 starter, Disco & Finnegan into the mix – I think we have the makings of a decent young staff with some depth.

    Were mistakes made? Sure – Reed has good stuff & Bronson doesn’t. I think we can all agree there was some “waste” here.

    But we’ve got some decent young talent and we know we’ll need some depth.
    It’s obviously win or get replaced for Coach Price in 2018.

    • brunsfam

      I was going to come out and blast the team, but figured that’s been covered.

      btw – Did I mention that we have some decent young talent and maybe some depth? Yes, yes I mentioned that a couple times! Forgot to turn on “redundant-check”.

    • cfd3000

      This is a pretty depressing thread but I love the last guy on your list. I needed a little dark humor in all of this.

      I’m much more optimistic about the Reds starting pitching situation than most, and I have not given up on Reed or Lorenzen, or for that matter Stephenson. All three are too talented to cast aside. Add in that Garrett was, apparently, not 100%, and that’s a lot of possibilities after Castillo / Bailey / Romano / Mahle / DeSclafani / Finnegan. And to agree with Steve Mancuso’s primary point, I don’t want to see anyone over 30 starting any games next year at the expense of anyone on that list. But I’m not holding my breath.

      • WVRedlegs

        Don’t you want to see Bartolo Colon in a Reds uniform next year pitching and hitting? Just think, Colon on first base and Hamilton up to bat. Billy laces one down the RF line. Who gets to 3B first, Colon or Hamilton? The intrigue.

      • Bill

        WVRedlegs are you old enough to remember Vada Pinson’s 1st home run ever in spring training? He passed the runner who was on 1st base between 1st and 2nd & was called out.

  20. TR

    Sentimentality is usually a factor in Cincinnati and the metro area in how we regard Reds players and that’s what gave 14 starts to Bronson Arroyo instead of concentrating on the young starting pitching. The same factor will apply to Cozart if he’s extended with his injury history instead of a couple young infielders getting experience at shortstop.

    • jessecuster44

      Sentimentality is a huge reason why the Reds never won a playoff series from 2010-2013. The organization is too sentimental. So is the city – essentially because all the great sports moments were so long ago. The game has changed. Once a player stops producing, replace him – no matter what he did in the past.

      • TR

        It’s probably a reason the Reds have an outstanding Hall of Fame compared to a lot of bigger ML cities.

      • jessecuster44

        Thank goodness the Reds have an outstanding Hall of Fame. It’s an awesome place. I’ve met Davey Concepcion, Tony Perez and Tom Browning there.

        The juxtaposition of the Hall and GABP is striking.

  21. Ernest Howerton

    What other team in baseball keeps their manager after the subpar record he has ?

    • Patrick Jeter

      There’s an idea out there that they don’t want their new manager (whoever it is that will preside over the next good team) to be part of another bad year. They might want him to have a fresh start.

      To me, it signals the FO thinks the Reds will be terrible again next year.

    • Bill

      John Ferrell in 5 seasons won 3 division titles & a World Series & was fired. Says it all about the Reds.

      • james garrett

        Short sweet and correct Bill.What a great discussion we could have on that.

      • greenmtred

        Might just as well say it all about the Sox.

  22. bouwills

    Arroyo, like Marquis & Simon before him, was just Reds folly. In all three cases the Reds could have pulled someone off the waiver wire & performed about as well. Adleman, on the other hand, had a decent to good 2016, & deserved some starts in 2017. He really fell apart during the” June swoon”, & never fully recovered. He’ll probably get DFA(ed) by the Reds & claimed by another team. He’s possibly Cingrani part 2 just waiting to happen (even a bigger ballpark would do wonders for TA). Feldman did a journeyman sp job for the Reds performing at or near the level they could have expected from previously-traded Dan Straily. His ill-timed injury is the only real blemish on a solid 2017 season. All the rest fall into 3 categories: 1) the DL club (Bailey, DeSclafani, Finnegan, Moscot, & Travieso); the hallowed prospects (Stephenson, Reed, Garrett, Castillo, Romano, Mahle, & possibly Davis: & the fill-ins. I didn’t see the Reds fail to give the ball to any of the “hallowed prospects” at any time that they could actually compete (except when they sent Garrett down to AAA & got a different Garrett back). On the contrary, the Reds let several of their top prospects get shelled more than enough. The Reds were very aggressive in giving starts to Davis, Romano, Castillo, & Mahle & enjoyed a large degree of success. On the other hand, they’re blame for not starting Stephenson, Reed, & at times Garrett- when it was obvious that they weren’t ready to be in the rotation. The fill-ins did just that & got the Reds to late-August. Now the Reds have a somewhat healthy Bailey, plus 4 young pitchers whom all look poised to begin their ML sp careers (Castillo, Romano, Mahle, & Stephenson). In addition, Finnegan & DeSclafani may actually return in 2018. Deck McGuire & Jackson Stephens are both better “fill-in” options than the Reds had last year. To boot, the Reds still have Adleman, Wojo, Astin, & a recovering R. Davis in the fold. There was ample waste in both 2015 & 2016 concerning the Reds pitching. Actually, 2017 finally casts a glimmer of hope for a competitive pitching staff, perhaps not for 2018, but definitely for the future.

  23. Anthony Maccagnano

    The Reds did what they had to do,B. Price was correct in not giving under achieving rookies. The ball, Cody Reed was awful & needed to go down. I think the starting staff looks great for next season.

    • james garrett

      I respect your opinion but its unusual to see Price and correct in the same sentence or paragraph.

    • TR

      The starting staff, as presently composed, with young pitchers who cannot get beyond the 4th. or 5th. inning is set for another 90+ loss season. At least one established starter is needed for the Reds to reach .500. The question overhanging the offseason is will the Front Office get it done?

  24. nicolecushing

    “Perhaps ownership pushed for the sentimental, but ultimately catastrophic, Bronson Arroyo lap of defeat.”

    Yeah, the Reds need to shed the sentimentality. While the Sweet Old Men in charge wax nostalgic about Arroyo (or the Big Red Machine, or the 1990 World Series), the team stays mired in a historically bad skid. And one wonders, what will the kids who went to games in 2015, 2016, and 2017 have to wax nostalgic about in 2037? While there are obviously some extremely strong individual performers on the team (Votto), the memories that tend to linger are those of seasons in playoff contention and–most important of all–championship seasons.

    The organization needs more ruthlessness. A ruthless team wouldn’t have started Arroyo. A ruthless team wouldn’t have kept Price on this long. Hell, a ruthless team would’ve interviewed more than one person for the job after firing Dusty Baker. I’m not saying the Reds need to go full-tilt Jerry Glanville or Al Davis on us. But maybe give us just a pinch and a dash of both, here and there.

    “Just win, baby.”

    How I’d love to hear someone in the Reds front office say that at least once, and mean it.

    • jessecuster44

      This is my FAVORITE post of the past three years. What brilliant sentiment. Imagine if the 2013 Reds were ruthless, and made a trade for a big bat in June? Imagine if the 2011-present Bengals were ruthless, and held players and coaches accountable for their performance?

  25. james garrett

    Great discussion about the topic but for me it really comes down to what we feel actually happened in 2017.For me regardless if guys couldn’t throw strikes,didn’t earn the chance or were in Price’s dog house nobody pitched enough at the big league level to throw them under the bus or anoint them as the next ace of this staff.Going into the season the goal should have been to let them pitch even if we lost 90+games and we did or even if the starters set records in futility and they did or even if we had to keep two buses gassed up going back and forth to the minors and we did.Its just unexcusable to have 41% of your games started by the pitchers Steve listed.

  26. Tom

    We’ll need next year to know if this year was wasted. The progress in the last couple of months by Castillo, Romano, Stephenson, and Mahle was strong. If that growth continues, that’s amazing progress.

    • jessecuster44

      we need next year to know about this year??


      So I guess all that talk about “sorting” was baloney.

      How incredibly frustrating. Stop wasting seasons. Joey Votto’s not getting any younger and neither am I.

  27. Tom Mitsoff

    Interesting comment by Dick Williams in Enquirer article:

    “With the young guys, a lot of people said the young guys didn’t step up or the young guys didn’t succeed like we thought the young guys were going to pitch. I think that’s a little unfair because we asked the young guys to accelerate their development. We were putting them in the big leagues before we wanted to. If you look at the amount of Triple-A innings these guys had pitched before they’re being asked to succeed in the big leagues – (Sal) Romano pitched 13 innings in Triple-A before he was starting in the big leagues; (Luis) Castillo didn’t pitch any, Rookie (Davis) had 24 innings; (Amir) Garrett, 67; (Cody) Reed, 64; (Tyler) Mahle, 59 – not a single pitcher even had a third of a season in Triple-A before they were pitching in the big leagues. Those were six of our top prospects, and we’re essentially asking all of them to skip Triple-A, which is the level where you start to face big-league hitters, older guys. That’s something that caught up with those guys a little bit. They were asked to develop in the big leagues. I’m encouraged by the way they did handle the opportunity they were given, the adversity they faced. You began to see some positive signs from those guys as soon as they were able to settle in.”

    The key quote: “We were putting them in the big leagues before we wanted to.” Not defending or justifying Williams, but it helps to explain why so many of the older, non-prospect pitchers got starts. The front office believed that many of the young pitchers were not ready. I tend to agree, though some of them did come around nicely later in the year.

  28. james garrett

    Interesting but that dog won’t hunt.His data is accurate but his words are not unless the 10 starts Reed and the 8 starts Bob got in 2016 fall under the category we put them in the big leagues last year before we wanted to.They put them in the pen and Rookie/Garrett into the rotation so that’s on DW.In addition they knew Disco and Homer would not be ready so they could have stretched out Lorenzen or even Peralta in the spring.Its an excuse.Any of these 4 guys could have started ahead of the warm bodies but of course its easy to exclude anybody by saying they weren’t ready but wait a minute they were already in the big leagues so maybe they were ready

  29. Steven Ross

    I wouldn’t call it a wasted season because Castillo was a joy to watch. Romano made nice strides and Mahle was fun too. Even Stephenson made some positive starts with a few hints of success from Reed as a reliever too. I’ll take that.