The Reds Actually Did It

Some time ago, in another InstaGraphs post, I mentioned something that could potentially become true about the 2016 Reds. We spend a lot of time writing about things that could potentially become true, and inevitably, a lot of those paces fall off. There are reasons for that, and that would be a subject for another post. But the 2016 numbers are official now, dammit. There’s no more “on pace for;” there only is. Here is something that is:


That’s bad! Boy, it gets worse. Here are the worst team pitching staffs since 1900, by our version of WAR:

Bottom 10 Pitching WAR
Team Season WAR
Reds 2016 -0.5
Athletics 1915 0.3
Royals 2006 0.5
Twins 1982 0.9
Athletics 1964 1.4
Marlins 1998 1.5
Mets 1966 1.7
Padres 1977 1.7
Athletics 1955 1.8
Astros 2013 2.0

To be absolutely clear about what we have here: By our numbers, the Reds just became the first pitching staff in modern history to finish with a negative WAR. It’s only slight, sure, and the difference between them and those 1915 Athletics is less than one win, but that negative symbol is conspicuous. It pushes the digits over to the right, so they can stand out. The Reds, as a collective, featured a major-league pitching staff that was a worse-than-replacement-level pitching staff. That’s almost unfathomable, is what that is.

Did the Reds really have the worst pitching staff ever? I mean, hell, I don’t know. Their pitching staff had one of the biggest home-run problems ever. By actual runs allowed, they were a little bit better than replacement-level, but you know where we stand on all that. There’s no way to actually compare across seasons or eras, not with the desired level of precision. We just don’t understand pitching that well yet, and we understand it even less the further back we go into history. We can say this: If you wanted to talk about the worst staffs of all time, you might use FanGraphs WAR as a starting point. It couldn’t make the Reds look any worse.

Reds pitchers, month by month:

  • April: -1.3 WAR, 30th place
  • May: -1.1, 30th
  • June: -0.6, 30th
  • July: +1.9, 20th
  • August: +1.0, 26th
  • Sep/Oct: +0.2, 30th

The first half is what did the Reds in. In the second half, they accumulated 3.2 WAR, good enough to edge out the Twins, Braves, and Diamondbacks. In each of the last three months, the Reds’ staff finished in the black. Yet it’s appropriate that, in the final stretch, they were dead last again. All they needed were one or two more good games, to avoid finishing in the…red. But a league-worst September and October locked the Reds into place. They had a chance to run away from history, but instead they suffer its embrace.

A negative WAR. It’s not that there weren’t some success stories. Anthony DeSclafani was pretty good. Dan Straily was all right. Raisel Iglesias adjusted well to the bullpen. Brandon Finnegan got stronger in the second half. But let me tell you: 32 Reds pitchers pitched. Twenty of them finished below 0.0 WAR. Alfredo Simon allowed more runs in 58.2 innings than Jon Lester allowed in over 200. J.J. Hoover allowed more runs in 18.2 innings than Zach Britton’s allowed the last two years combined. For the Reds, 2016 was never going to be about winning. Yet it also definitely wasn’t supposed to be about this.

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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7 years ago