I Found the Worst Thing About the Reds

I’m not really in the business of piling on. We know the Reds haven’t been very good, and we knew the Reds weren’t supposed to be very good. They are openly rebuilding, and while rebuilding teams don’t get to completely neglect the big-league product, it’s not really the priority. We all know how this works. And, say, wouldn’t you know it, but since the calendar flipped to July, the Reds have actually won more games than they’ve lost! Good for them. It would be nice to see the bad teams rise perhaps quicker than they ever thought possible.

There’s just something I can’t let go by, not without calling attention to it. The Reds, overall, have been bad. They’ve been bad in large part because their pitchers have been bad. Here are the month-by-month WARs for the Reds’ collective pitching staff:

  • April: -1.4 WAR
  • May: -1.3
  • June: -0.8
  • July: +1.8
  • August: +0.1

They don’t seem to add up so cleanly, but if you look at the full-season statistics, Reds pitchers have combined for -2.1 WAR. Unsurprisingly, that’s the lowest mark in baseball — the Angels are second-worst, at +3.0. It seems like the Reds might have last place sewn up. But let’s step beyond just 2016. Let’s look at forever? Here are the worst team pitching staffs since 1900, according to FanGraphs WAR and FanGraphs WAR alone:

Worst Team Pitching, 1900 – 2016
Team Season W L GS WAR
Reds 2016 45 65 110 -2.1
Athletics 1915 43 109 154 0.3
Royals 2006 62 100 162 0.5
Twins 1982 60 102 162 0.9
Athletics 1964 57 105 163 1.4
Marlins 1998 54 108 162 1.5
Padres 1977 69 93 162 1.7
Mets 1966 66 95 161 1.7
Athletics 1955 63 91 155 1.8
Padres 1974 60 102 162 1.9

WAR is just one measure. I know. It doesn’t get everything perfect. I know. It does do a lot more right than wrong. And according to WAR, these Reds could end up being the worst pitching staff in modern baseball history. No team yet on record has rated below replacement level. That’s where the Reds are, underwater by a couple of wins, and while July suggested they could pull themselves out of this and get a breath of fresh air, there’s work to be done. The Reds have 52 games to go, assuming they play them all. They don’t necessarily need to pitch well. They just need to pitch better, or else they could rank as the worst anyone’s seen. That’s something to avoid. That’s something to play for!

Homer Bailey has returned. That’s a plus for the Reds. Alfredo Simon is on the disabled list, and J.J. Hoover is in the minors, and those are both pluses for the Reds. Quietly, Anthony DeSclafani has been super effective. The Reds should have the arms they need. As I look, the Reds are projected the rest of the way for +3.7 pitching WAR, which would get them out of…the…red, so to speak. But if nothing else, just know what’s already happened. The Reds pitchers have been historically lousy. You might’ve suspected that to be true, but it always helps to confirm. Or, maybe, it helps nothing at all.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Jeff…thank you.