The Cincinnati Reds are close to signing right-handed reliever Pedro Strop according to Hector Gomez of Z101 Sports in the Dominican Republic.
— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) January 30, 2020
Take this information for what it’s worth, though. A week ago Gomez was reporting that Pedro Strop was down to the Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers. There are reasons why things could have changed, even if that report was correct. A team coming in late with a good offer certainly would make sense.
But let’s talk about whether or not Pedro Strop would make sense for the Cincinnati Reds. Last season was a struggle of sorts for the right-hander. He posted a 4.97 ERA in 41.2 innings where he allowed six home runs, walked 20 batters, and he struck out 49 hitters. But from 2014-2018 he never had an ERA above 2.91 and threw 296.1 innings with a 2.61 ERA in that span.
So what went wrong in 2019? Well, it was three-fold. First was that his home run rate went up. Surprised, right? It’s not like it went up across the entire league because the baseball was juiced. What’s that? My editor has just informed me that the baseball, in fact, was juiced. The next issue is that his walk rate jumped up to 11.2%. That was the highest it had been since the 2012 season. The third and final reason was that his strand rate was a career worst 68.6%.
His strikeout rate in 2019 was 27.5%, which was actually better than his career rate of 26.3%. That is good to see. What wasn’t great to see was that his velocity was down about 2 MPH on his fastball, and a MPH on his slider and cutter. His swinging strike rate on all of his pitches was down significantly from the previous years of his career. Those aren’t exactly great signs to keep a high-end strikeout rate, but it worked for him in 2019.
The walk rate is going to need to improve. In 2019 he threw the lowest rate of pitches in the strikezone in his entire career at 36.4%. It was only the second time in his career he was under 40.7% (2018 was under as well). His strand rate was also the lowest of his career, and 17% lower than it was in 2018. It was only 4% lower than the league average in 2019, but prior to last season you needed to go back to 2013 for the last time Strop didn’t beat the league strand rate.
Now one thing that Pedro Strop does well, and has throughout his career, is generate a ton of ground balls. His ground ball rate in 2019 was 53%. For his career it’s 54%. The league average rate in 2019 was just 42.9% – so Strop finds himself well above-average at getting hitters to put the ball on the ground.
Lots of strikeouts and lots of ground balls is usually a good recipe for success. And that’s what Pedro Strop brings. But he’s going to need to continue to do that, and will likely need to cut back on the walks a little bit, too. The home run rate is something that you’d like to see come back to where it’s been in the past for him – but without knowing how the baseball is going to play in 2020, that one might not be entirely within his control.