The Cincinnati Reds have officially added Luke Weaver to the starting rotation. Cincinnati’s plan from the offseason after signing Weaver to a 1-year deal was to have him compete for and hopefully land one of the spots in the rotation. But in mid-March he felt some tightness in his forearm during a game on the backfields and it set his timetable back for the season. After making two rehab starts for Triple-A Louisville, Weaver is ready to go and is going to be joining the rotation.

It didn’t seem like one had to dive too deep into the water to see that the Reds were already planning on having Luke Weaver take over the spot in the rotation of Connor Overton when he was healthy and ready to go. Cincinnati shuffled the rotation so that Weaver was pitching on rehab on the same day that Overton was pitching in the big leagues. Overton then struggled and after his last start wound up on the injured list.

While Overton was struggling in Cincinnati, Weaver was having some success with the Louisville Bats. He made two starts in Triple-A while on rehab, totaling 9.0 innings (4.0 in the first and then 5.0 in his most recent start) and giving up three runs on three hits, four walks, and he had nine strikeouts.

Weaver threw all four of his pitches while on rehab, using his fastball 49% of the time while mixing in his cutter (14%), curve (15%), and change up (22%). His fastball velocity was down a little more than a MPH from where it was last season – but he also spent last season pitching out of the bullpen. With that said, you have to go back to 2016 to find a season in which his velocity was lower on his fastball than it was while he was on rehab. It’s just two starts early in the season, so it’s nothing to worry about at this point but it could be worth keeping an eye on as the season goes along.

With Connor Overton having an ERA of 11.45 through three starts it seems highly probable that Luke Weaver is going to improve on that. But there should be plenty of skepticism about just how much of an improvement he will be, too.

The underlying numbers suggest that Luke Weaver should have produced a better ERA over the last three seasons. He’s given walked 51 batters and struck out 155 of them in 153.1 innings since the start of 2020. That’s come in 26 starts and 25 relief appearances. His FIP in that time is 4.10. But his ERA is 5.58.

FIP attempts to remove defense from the equation. The problem with that is that it assumes all pitchers are equal in their batted ball outcomes. Back in 2000 when Voros McCracken was at the forefront of introducing the theory that would eventually be the base for FIP, xFIP, and the other ERA estimators – that was kind of the best we could do. We didn’t have detailed pitching stats and breakdowns to look at. Now we do and we know that pitchers do have some ability to control the batted balls they allow.

Luke Weaver, for his career, has a BABIP 30 points higher than the league average. Expecting him to have an ERA equal to his FIP given this knowledge seems like a bad bet – for whatever reason it is, he can’t hold hitters to a league average BABIP.

What Weaver does do, though, is throw strikes and he’ll have a solid amount of strikeouts. The key for him may come down to his ability to keep the baseball in the park. Since joining the big leagues in 2016 Weaver has been roughly league average when it comes to his HR/FB rate. But only once – in 2017 – did he have a better than league average ground ball rate. That means he’s likely to give up more home runs than your league average pitcher would. Last season he only allowed one home run in 35.2 innings and his ERA was still 6.56, so it’s not a for sure thing that can turn things around for him.

The other question is just how many innings can the team expect from Weaver. The last time he threw more than 66.0 innings in a season was in 2018 when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s actually the only season in which he’s done so in the big leagues. He did throw 138.0 innings in 2017 while splitting time between AAA and St. Louis, so he had back-to-back years of a solid workload, but those seasons came half of a decade ago.

While Luke Weaver is a different answer, there are still plenty of questions about the Cincinnati Reds rotation’s 4th and 5th spots. If he remains healthy, Weaver is going to get his opportunity to stake claim to a spot as a starter. The Reds are hoping for the best because the rotation in Louisville hasn’t found much success early in the year.

28 Responses

  1. DW

    Anderson will likely take Cessa’s spot too I’m guessing. Cessa may get one or two more starts to prove himself though.

    • RedBB

      Please…..end the Cessa experiment. Yesterday’s performance could be a career ender for Cessa.

      • Tomn

        Make cessa a mop up or long man out of the BP. He clearly isn’t ready to be a starter but he can hold the fort some of the time. Anderson and Weaver are worth a try. Then after Abbott has a few more starts under his belt, make him the next man up. Looking forward to him with the Reds.

  2. CI3J

    Luke Weaver seems like the kind of pitcher who is going to give up between 2-4 runs most times he pitches. Sometimes he’ll toss a gem and give up 1 or no runs, and a few times he might get blown up (but hopefully not as bad as Cessa).

    Overall, he seems like he’s going to be the kind of guy who will do just enough to keep his team in the game, but it will be up to the offense to produce enough runs to balance the runs Weaver gives up. In other words, a perfectly serviceable bottom of the rotation starter.

    Hopefully that forearm tightness is really behind him and not a sign of something more ominous coming down the road.

  3. Optimist

    Weaver could be interesting – the floor is obviously Overton and Minor. If they can get 100 ip from Weaver, with better results than those two, they’ll be doing well. The analytics indicate he may be better on the road than at GABP.

    They need Cessa in the pen, so if Anderson is next in line they may be able to juggle the home/road starts accordingly. Not optimal, but if the pen improves at all it might help the flexibility.

  4. LDS

    Let’s hope it matters. It’s not like he has to be great. The competition certainly hasn’t been.

  5. JB

    Cessa’s first start wasn’t bad. His last two, were. Now since he is the 5th man I wouldn’t expect a 4.50 or lower ERA. Just keep them in the game type. His last two he hasn’t. Anderson or Cessa just need to hold the fort until somebody gets here from the minors. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Herget get the chance. He has looked decent as a sort of long relief. Just flip him and Cessa and see what he does for a few games.

  6. wkuchad

    Just a quickie review of the Reds offense so far in the young season, specifically who’s getting the most at-bats, and how are they performing. This probably doesn’t go here, but I had no where else to post it, and I was bored.

    Six of our players have enough at-bats to be “qualified” players. Decreasing this number of at-bats very slightly to 35, the Reds now have eight semi-qualified players.

    .944 Steer
    .924 India
    .871 Friedl
    .806 Fraley
    .751 Myers
    .733 Stephenson
    .694 Vosler
    .617 Barrero

    From this group, India leads the way with 54 at bats. Barrero has the least with 37. Based on OPS, this list makes up 8 of our 9 best hitters. Fairchild has a .857 OPS, but only has 22 at bats.

    For the most part, we’re playing the correct players most of the time. I would like Barrero and Fairchild’s playing time to increase, and Vosler’s to decrease. But besides this, not too many complaints.

    Steer, India, and Friedl have been fantastic so far, and I really hope they can keep up this level of play. Myers has struck out a whole lot, but if these last few games become the norm, I’ll have no complaints with him continuing to play through the trading deadline. I’m ready for Myers to get a few more starts at 1B and let the 3 F’s to man the outfield.

    Almost every one of Stephenson’s at bats have been single, walk, or strikeout. His OBP is great, but power numbers are terrible. I’m not worried about this however. He’ll get several homeruns and doubles in bunches soon enough.

    The two bottom players on this this are Vosler and Barrero. I feel like they’ve gone in opposite directions over the last few weeks. Vosler was red-hot to start the year, and we needed it, but he’s been just as cold since. I like Vosler as a bench bat, especially since his defense has appeared above average, but it’s time to get Myers several starts a week at 1B. He’s still leading the Reds in homeruns! Barrero looked lost to start the year. Not Benson lost, but still not good. However, he’s shown life lately. And based on age and potential, Barrero needs to be getting the majority starts at SS going forward (though I don’t mind occasionally playing CF).

    I’ve not heard anything about Steer. Really hoping he doesn’t have to go to IL. I assume if he does, Senzel gets the majority of the playing time there.

    Our backup catchers have been quite poor (offensively), but it’s such a small sample size for them. I like our lineup sooooo much better with Stephenson behind the plate.

    Offensively, I have very few complaints so far. Pitching is a different story, but that’s more about the off-season.

    • Rut

      Weaver for Overton is the baseball equivalent of exchanging deck chairs on the Titanic…

      Will be difficult to tell the difference on this 2023 sinking ship…

      • JayTheRed

        If Weaver can give us a 5.00 ERA or around that, this will be an improvement over Overton. I was really hoping we would see the old Overton but that has clearly not happened.

        If Weaver can pitch to around a 4 ERA this will be a significant improvement over what we have seen so far. This is what I am hoping for, but I would be shocked if we get this.

      • wkuchad

        yes, but also not on the IL (yet), so I’m holding out hope he’ll be back soon.

    • RedBB

      Thing is you are gonna have to OPS .750 or higher just to be at league average on OPS+ as league average is up this year because of the pitch clock as well as playing at GABP. Note Tyler’s OPS of .733 is an OPS+ of 95 which is below league average.

      • Jim Walker

        I wouldn’t want folks to be disappointed so here is my Fairchild plug stat of the day 🙂

        From Statcast:
        Fairchild is 2nd on the Reds in average exit velocity (90.3 vs 90.7 for Myers).

        Fairchild leads the team in Barrels per Batted Ball events % at 21.4 and Barrels per PA at 10.7%.

        So, he hits the ball better when more frequently when he makes contact and also at a higher % for all plate appearances including strikes and walks.

      • wkuchad

        Agree Tyler has been below average overall, but not for a catcher. And that’s with almost no power numbers. I think his OPS will be improving quite a bit soon.

      • wkuchad

        Jim, you got the 3 F’s playing together in the outfield tonight!

      • Jim Walker

        @Chad>> And SF better take advantage. He wasn’t that good over the weekend. 3Ks on Saturday (all vs LH pitching) and another yesterday with only 1 hit (a 2B vs RH pitching) and 0 walks to show for his efforts.

    • citizen54

      It’s actually the other way around. The Reds pitchers are #6 in fWAR while the hitters are #23. A lot of that is due to the defense, though.

      • wkuchad

        I’m basing my comments on expectations coming in.

        I’m happy with the offense so far. Six of the eight players from my list above (seven if you count Fairchild) are younger (though not young) and cost controlled for several years. They’re going to improve, and we’re going to be adding a lot soon from the minors.

        I’m very disappointed we didn’t sign a viable starting pitcher and bullpen pieces this offseason. Could have made a big difference.

    • LDS

      And Barrera looks even better when looking at his performance against RHers. Like Farley, he has a way to go against LHers. But, I’d b3 good with this eight, at least, until Votto, McGarry, or CES can bump Vosler.

    • Redsvol

      yes, great post. The offense is doing fine. Probably more than fine. Would be nice to see more extra base hits but we really don’t have anyone capable of 40 home runs. But if they hit, shouldn’t be a requirement and I agree more will come.

  7. Laura C

    It would be great if Weaver could give us 8-10 halfway decent starts (ie not give up 7 runs in the first 3 innings) and hopefully, Abbott will be ready. The Reds need to promote him to AAA – he doesn’t have anything left to prove in AA, based on his performance last year and this year so far.

  8. Melvin

    At this point trying ANYONE else in the 4th/5th starter spot at least gives a ray of hope.

  9. Jim Walker

    Amen Brother Doug on the FIP, ERA, and uncontrollable outcome viewpoints.

  10. Eddiek957

    I thought weaver would have been a good addition to the bullpen. Hope he can be solid for five innings.