What Can We Say About This Reds Bullpen?

It’s important to remember that most everyone is trying their hardest. (Goodness, is this a sad start to a blog post about professional athletes). Disgruntled fans are quick to accuse Player X who’s making a ludicrous Y number of dollars to “play a kid’s game” of “just going through the motions,” but almost always, every player on a major-league baseball field is either giving it his all, or at least something that’s very close to maxing out his physical capabilities at that moment. They’re all making good money, some even unthinkable money, but we’re all motivated by the prospect of more money, and if not that, we’re at least motivated by the prospect of success, or of not feeling ashamed of ourselves in front of our peers and tens of thousands of onlookers, or at the very least, of not totally embarrassing our family. Nobody is out there trying to lose, individually.

The Reds bullpen is trying its damnedest to get batters out. They really are. Even if the front office isn’t motivated to field a competitive team, these guys all want to eventually earn a contract that sets their family up for life, and they want the spotlight, and they want to not get booed, and they want their loved ones to be even more proud of them, beyond the pride that comes with achieving their dream of making it to the highest level of organized baseball. Each and every one of them. It’s just, well:

Reds bullpen stats and ranks, 1961-present

  • ERA: 6.44 (1,476th out of 1,476)
  • FIP: 6.09 (1,476th out of 1,476)
  • HR/9: 2.04 (1,476th out of 1,476)
  • BB%: 11.6% (1,390th out of 1,476)

What the Reds can hang their hats on, at this moment, is that they don’t have the single worst walk rate of any bullpen in the post-expansion era. Just the 1,390th-best! Beyond that, though, they’re running literally the worst bullpen ERA ever, literally the worst bullpen FIP ever, mostly because they’re running literally the worst bullpen home-run rate, ever. Since baseball is currently going through an extremely pitcher-friendly run environment, things get even worse when you adjust the numbers for era, but they’re bad enough as is, so let’s take it easy on Cincinnati.

In fact, let’s take it even easier on Cincinnati. This is a rebuild year, so it’s not like the losses to which the bullpen is contributing are really hurting the franchise in any way. In the long run, it might even be for the better. It’s not the wins and losses that matter in a rebuild, it’s the potential seen. This year is all about finding out which players on the roster might be a part of the next winning team in Cincinnati. It’s hard to see much potential in a 6.44 ERA and 6.09 FIP through 38 games, but there’s got to be something in here worth rooting for, right? It feels like piling on to write a negative article about something that’s so obviously negative, and these guys are all trying their hardest to succeed, so let’s ignore the nasty numbers for a minute and try to find some glimmers of hope in the Cincinnati bullpen. Everyone has redeeming qualities!

Tony Cingrani

  • Who is he? A 26-year-old left-handed pitcher, currently serving as the closer for the Cincinnati Reds. A third-round draft pick in 2011. Lots of promise, dating back to his rookie year! (2.92 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 104.2 innings, mostly as a starter.)
  • What are his numbers this year? 3.18 ERA! Don’t worry about the rest.
  • Redeeming qualities? Fastball velocity is up two ticks from last year, when he was also serving (almost) exclusively as a reliever! Is also throwing a slider 21% of the time — a career-high rate. When Cingrani debuted, scouts had concern that his lack of, well, any other pitch beside the fastball would limit his upside. He’s attempted to incorporate, and subsequently scrapped, a changeup, so he’s still a two-pitch pitcher, but he’s throwing the slider more this year than he’s ever thrown any one secondary pitch in the past, suggesting increased confidence. And it’s getting whiffs on nearly half its swings! Good pitch!

Blake Wood

  • Who is he? A 30-year-old right-handed pitcher, currently serving as a late-inning reliever for the Cincinnati Reds. A third-round draft pick way back in 2006. Is on his fourth team in the last three seasons.
  • What are his numbers this year? 3.00 ERA! Lots of ground balls! NO DINGERS! And some other stuff, too.
  • Redeeming qualities? NO DINGERS! The Reds bullpen has given up 31 dingers in 137 innings, and Blake Wood is responsible for zero of them. Fight the power! He’s also getting the largest velocity separation between his fastball and his changeup of his career, and he’s throwing a (now harder) slider more than ever. The repertoire looks different, is the point.

Ross Ohlendorf

  • Who is he? A 33-year-old right-handed pitcher, currently serving as a late-inning reliever for the Cincinnati Reds. A fourth-round draft pick way back in 2004. Was very recently suspended.
  • What are his numbers this year? Has struck out more than a quarter of all batters faced! Don’t go poking around for anything more.
  • Redeeming qualities? This awesome windup! Veteran experience! Third-best whiff rate of any slider in baseball! Really, really fun windup! Come on down to the ballpark and watch Ross Ohlendorf pitch like Bob Feller*!

*Results not guaranteed.

Caleb Cotham

  • Who is he? A 28-year-old right-handed pitcher, currently serving as a middle reliever for the Cincinnati Reds. A fifth-round draft pick in 2009. Came to the Reds this offseason in the Aroldis Chapman trade.
  • What are his numbers this year? Last year, you mean? Last year, he struck out 11 batters and walked one in 12 relief appearances!
  • Redeeming qualities? Trains at Driveline Baseball, is “hooked on knowledge” and made an excellent appearance on Mike Petriello’s podcast! Easy to root for. Go Caleb!

J.C. Ramirez

  • Who is he? A 27-year-old right-handed pitcher, currently serving as a middle reliever for the Cincinnati Reds. Is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds.
  • What are his numbers this year? Hasn’t walked that many batters. Final answer.
  • Redeeming qualities? Throws his fastball at an average velocity of 96 mph and hits 97! Wow! That’s a fast fastball. “A set-up role in the bullpen would not be out of the question,” said Marc Hulet, in 2010.

Steve Delabar

  • Who is he? A 32-year-old right-handed pitcher, currently serving as a middle reliever for the Cincinnati Reds. Was substitute teacher in 2010. Was also assistant high-school baseball coach, until he realized he should actually be a major-league baseball player, instead.
  • What are his numbers this year? It’s not a big deal, really.
  • Redeeming qualities? Works well with children.

Layne Somsen

  • Who is he? A 26-year-old right-handed pitcher, currently serving as a long man for the Cincinnati Reds.
  • What are his numbers this year? Huh?
  • Redeeming qualities? Has options remaining.





August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.

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ccoville
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ccoville

Sounds like a fine group of gents.

Yirmiyahu
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Find something nice to say about JJ Hoover.

SongsOhia
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SongsOhia

He’s not on the MLB roster anymore?

No…that’s the nice thing to say.