On Tuesday morning we heard Cincinnati Reds General Manager Nick Krall tell MLB Network Radio that the organization was looking for some help in the bullpen after trading away Raisel Iglesias and non-tendering Archie Bradley. The disconnect of that statement aside, it didn’t take much time to pass from Krall’s statement on MLB Network Radio to The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans reporting that the Reds were showing interest in reliever Ryne Stanek, who is a free agent after being non-tendered by the Miami Marlins two weeks ago.
In 2020 things went about as well for Ryne Stanek as they did for most of us – not well. The 29-year-old right-handed reliever only pitched in nine games for the Marlins and that covered just 10.0 innings where he allowed eight earned runs (7.20 ERA) on 11 hits and eight walks while picking up 11 strikeouts. That came on top of a rough second half in 2019 with Miami where he posted a 5.48 ERA in 21.1 innings that included 19 walks and 28 strikeouts.
In his time with the Marlins in 2019 and 2020, Ryne Stanek struggled with his control as he walked 27 batters in 31.1 innings. But in 2018 and 2019 with Tampa Bay he didn’t really show any control concerns as he threw 122.0 innings with 47 walks and 142 strikeouts. That stretch with the Rays also included a 3.17 ERA. While he did start at times for Tampa Bay in that time, he served as an opener, never throwing more than 2.0 innings in a given outing.
Ryne Stanek was pretty good with the Rays, and he was, not that, with the Marlins. That could be something worth looking deeper into. On Monday, manager David Bell noted this: “we really believe in the formula that we have in place to have a successful bullpen and even though the personnel may be a little bit different, we’re very confident moving forward.”
Taking a quick look at the data available to us, could this be another situation like the Sonny Gray deal where a new team changed up what a pitcher was throwing and it resulted in worse results? In 2018 and 2019 with Tampa Bay Ryne Stanek threw his 4-seam fastball 59% of the time. With the Marlins in 2019 and 2020 that rate dropped to 49%. With the Rays his slider usage was at 24% and with Miami it jumped to 30%. The splitter rate also went up with Miami, going from 15% with Tampa Bay to 21% with the Marlins.
Of course there could be more going on than just a change in pitch usage. Every season that Ryne Stanek has been in the Major Leagues his velocity has dropped. In 2017 he averaged 98.5 MPH. The next year the drop was small, but it went to 98.4. In 2019 that was 97.8. This past season, in a very small sample size, it was 96.2. The drop from 2017 through 2019 isn’t much to worry about. The drop in 2020 was big, though. Of course, that could be a sample size thing. Maybe it’s just a pandemic related issue where given how the spring was truncated and then a rush back to play led to some decreased velocity in a small sample.
While the organization has lost out on Caleb Cotham, who joined the Philadelphia Phillies as their pitching coach earlier this winter, they’ll still have pitching coach Derek Johnson, Kyle Boddy as the Director of Pitching, and Eric Jagers as assistant pitching coach in the fold. With what Johnson has been able to do in helping turn around the Reds pitching staff over the last two seasons, the background for both Boddy and Jagers – there’s plenty of reason to have faith in that group to get the most out of the players. Stanek’s got a history that suggests he can be pretty good out of the bullpen, but there’s probably some adjustments that need to be made to get him back to that point.