In the first part of this series we’re going to look at the things that went right with the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff in 2021. There were plenty of things that went wrong, but a few things went right.
There was a not-so-small portion of the fanbase that wanted Wade Miley cut after the 2020 season. Thankfully the Reds didn’t listen to those members of the fanbase because Wade Miley wound up being the best pitcher on the team.
I can’t speak for everyone out there, and I understand if there is another more memorable moment for you, but from where I’m sitting it was Wade Miley providing the highlight of the year for the Reds when he fired a no-hitter on May 7th against Cleveland.
When the season was over, Miley had made 28 starts and led the Reds with a 3.37 ERA over his 163.0 innings. He led the team in WAR (the Baseball Reference version). A year after missing much of the season with injury, a 34-year-old Miley put up the best season of his professional career.
After having a breakout in the abbreviated 2020 season it was confirmed in 2021 over a full season that was just as good as the one before. A 26-year-old Tyler Mahle made a National League best 33 starts and threw 180 innings to go with a 3.75 ERA. The righty picked up a career high 210 strikeouts, cruising past his previous career high before July came to an end. While there were some concerns with just how weighted his numbers were on the road versus at home, the overall totals were that of a well above-average starting pitcher.
The future for Tony Santillan is still undecided. He had always been a starter in his career until the big league club needed some relief help in the middle of the season. Santillan headed to the minors to work out of the bullpen briefly before returning to Cincinnati and from the middle of July through the end of the season, Santillan showed he belonged in the big leagues.
Tony Santillan the reliever pitched in 22 games and allowed 7 runs in 26.2 innings – good for a 2.36 ERA. He walked 11 batters and struck out 36 of the 108 batters that he faced in that span.
The future role for Art Warren isn’t in question like it is with Tony Santillan. Warren is a reliever. And he came out of nowhere for Cincinnati this year. The 28-year-old had all of 5.1 innings in his career at the big league level and those came back in 2019 with Seattle. He was good in those six appearances, not allowing a run and striking out 5 batters. But that wasn’t enough to get him much more than a cup of coffee in 2019 and he didn’t pitch in the big leagues in 2020.
Art Warren first came up in the middle of May and pitched in two games, tossing a hitless inning in each appearance. He returned to the big leagues with the Reds on June 10th and he never went back to the minors. He did miss nine weeks with an injury, but the righty posted a 1.29 ERA in his 26 relief appearances while giving up just 11 hits in 21.0 innings and striking out 34 batters.
Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson
After watching the bullpen crap the bed most of the summer, the Reds finally decided to try and do something about it at the trade deadline and acquired Luis Cessa and Justin Wilson from the New York Yankees.
Luis Cessa had been successful with the Yankees before coming to Cincinnati. His ERA was 2.82 in 38.1 innings and he had allowed just three homers on the season. His walk rate and strikeout rate weren’t exactly great in New York, but he had kept runs off of the board. After arriving in Cincinnati his walks almost disappeared and his strikeout rate jumped up from 19% to 23%. As a result he posted a 2.05 ERA with the Reds in 24 games after the trade.
Unlike Cessa, Justin Wilson had struggled while in New York in 2021. In 21 games with the Yankees he had posted a 7.50 ERA – thanks in large part to the 5 home runs he had allowed in 18.0 innings. After he got to Cincinnati he allowed just 1 home runs in 16.0 innings and his ERA dropped to 2.81.