Matthew Pouliot

Alfredo SImon AP
AP

The Incredible Awfulness that is the Reds pitching staff

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122: The number of runs allowed by the 2016 Cubs
137: The number of runs allowed by the 2016 Reds rotation
126: The number of runs allowed by the 2016 Reds bullpen

It was a given going into the year that the Reds would have pitching issues. After starting nothing but rookies with mixed results down the stretch last year, the team opted to stay the course rather than to pay for much in the way of stable veteran presence over the winter. Then there was the inevitable Aroldis Chapman trade. Only with the youngsters already banged up in mid-March did the team sign the unwanted Alfredo Simon for $2.5 million.

Fast forward 44 games into the season. Nominal ace Anthony DeSclafini has still yet to pitch because of an oblique strain, and No. 2 starter Raisel Iglesias is on the shelf with a shoulder problem. Homer Bailey, who was expected to return from Tommy John surgery right around now, has dealt with setbacks. Simon has a remarkable 10.16 ERA in his eight starts and one relief appearance. At least Dan Straily and Tim Adleman have been nice surprises, and Brandon Finnegan has managed to hold his own.

Here’s how the rotation rates alongside the rest of the league:

ERA: 25th
IP/G: 30th
WHIP: 30th
K: 30th
BB: 27th
HR: 28th
FIP: 30th

The ERA ranking considerably overestimates the group, considering that the pitchers are working in front of three potential Gold Glovers up the middle in Billy Hamilton, Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart. Granted, the corner outfielders aren’t much to speak of, but it’s a strong defense overall. The rotation has a 5.38 FIP. The only other rotation over 5.00 is Milwaukee’s at 5.07. Fangraphs has the Reds’ rotation under replacement level at -0.3 WAR. The next worst group is Oakland’s at 0.4 WAR.

The rotation, though, shines compared to the bullpen.

The Reds bullpen has given up 40 more runs than that of any other team. 40 runs in 44 games. Like, almost one run more per game than the 29th worst team in baseball.

The Reds bullpen has surrendered 17 more runs than those of the Mets, Nationals and White Sox combined.

The Reds bullpen has allowed 36 homers, nine more than any other team.

The Reds bullpen has walked 95 batters, which leads the league by 20.

The Reds bullpen has been worth -2.5 WAR, according to Fangraphs.

Let’s look at the culprits here:

Tony Cingrani: 3.48 ERA, 1.40 WHIP in 20 2/3 IP
Blake Wood: 4.43 ERA, 1.66 WHIP in 22 1/3 IP
Jose Ramirez: 4.76 ERA, 1.12 WHIP in 17 IP
Ross Ohlendorf: 4.79 ERA, 1.02 WHIP in 20 2/3 IP
Jumbo Diaz: 6.30 ERA, 1.70 WHIP in 10 IP
Caleb Cotham: 7.36 ERA, 1.82 WHIP in 22 IP
J.J. Hoover: 14.34 ERA, 2.34 WHIP in 10 2/3 IP

Hoover was handed the closing gig by manager Bryan Price over the winter and promptly imploded, less because of the pressure of the ninth (he was all of 1-for-2 saving games) than some mechanical troubles and a decline in velocity. Diaz figured to be the Reds’ most reliable reliever, but he’s been demoted to Triple-A twice. Cingrani is the other mainstay from last year, and he’s been decent despite control issues. Wood, Ramirez and Ohlendorf were all plucked off the scrap heap, and only Ohlendorf seems worth remaining patient with. Cotham was part of the Chapman trade and should be a decent sixth- and seventh-inning guy in time, though clearly not right now.

I don’t want to go without noting that the rotation also deserves blame for the bullpen’s issues for forcing it to throw so many innings. The Reds lead the majors in innings thrown by relievers at 162 2/3. The median bullpen is at 137 1/3 innings.

Obviously, the Reds were OK with being bad this year. They finally realized a little too late they weren’t going head-to-head with the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates and figured it made more sense to bottom out than to tread water. Still, I’m guessing they would have taken more preventative measures had they known it would get this ugly. Taking some pressure of the youngsters would have cost them money now, but it probably would have paid off in the long run.

White Sox lose after obvious interference call missed

correa
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It was 4-4 in the top of the 11th of Tuesday night’s game between the Astros and White Sox. George Springer singled with one out against Matt Albers and was looking to run with Carlos Correa at the plate. He took off on the 0-2 pitch, which Correa swung through for the strikeout. Here’s where Correa ended up after his swing.

correa1

correa

correa3

This was, by any definition, interference. It was Correa’s momentum from the swing that carried him through home plate, but that’s irrelevant, and while he did eventually make an effort to duck, it happened too late for Alex Avila to make the throw he wanted to make.

If interference had been called by home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo, Springer would have been out* and the inning would have been over. Instead, Springer was credited with the steal, Evan Gattis followed with a two-run homer and the Astros went on to win 6-5.

(The reason Springer would have been out is because it was strike three on Correa. If it had happened earlier in the at-bat, Springer simply would have been sent back to first base.)

It seems to me that umpires have gotten better recently about calling interference on these sorts of plays. It used to be that interference was hardly ever ruled unless the catcher hit the runner with the ball or with his arm on the follow through. Obviously, that shouldn’t be necessary to draw the call. Randazzo, though, seemed to be watching the steal attempt, rather than the clear case of interference in front of him.

2016’s hot new trend is batting the pitcher eighth

Madison Bumgarner
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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Tony La Russa started it with the Cardinals way back in 2007. Joe Maddon’s Cubs and later Bryan Price’s Reds gave it a try last year. It’s 2016, though, that is shaping up as the year of the pitcher batting eighth. Three of the six NL teams playing day games today are going that route:

San Francisco: CF Denard Span, 2B Joe Panik, C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence, 1B Brandon Belt, 3B Matt Duffy, SS Brandon Crawford, SP Madison Bumgarner, LF Angel Pagan

Milwaukee: RF Domingo Santana, SS Jonathan Villar, LF Ryan Braun, C Jonathan Lucroy, 1B Chris Carter, 3B Aaron Hill, 2B Scooter Gennett, SP Wily Peralta, CF Keon Broxton

Cincinnati: SS Zack Cozart, 3B Eugenio Suarez, 1B Joey Votto, 2B Brandon Phillips, RF Jay Bruce, LF Adam Duvall, SP Raisel Iglesias, CF Billy Hamilton

Even if none of the NL teams playing later tonight follow suit, just three pitchers batting is a huge rarity. It would have been unheard of before 2015. In the 40 years from 1958-1997, pitchers hit eighth a total of eight times. Even as recently as 2013, there were just three games in which a pitcher hit eighth (and only one of those was by an NL team).

But the pitcher batting eighth seems to make a lot of sense. No. 9 hitters in the AL, even though they’re considerably worse than No. 8 hitters, score more frequently and drive in about 97 percent as many runs (after taking homers out of the equation). In the NL, No. 9 hitters batting behind the pitcher won’t get those RBI opportunities. Still, with all of the quality bats following at the top of the order, ninth is simply the more valuable spot.

Interestingly, though, Joe Maddon, the man who really got this started by hitting his pitcher eighth 140 times last year, is planning on going back to the pitcher in the ninth spot this year. That’s because he thinks Addison Russell, last year’s primary No. 9 hitter, is simply too good not to be put into RBI situations, and he doesn’t feel anyone else would fit there.

5 p.m. EDT update: Make it four teams; the Diamondbacks are going with Zack Greinke eighth and Nick Ahmed ninth tonight.