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!
- 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!
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