The Little Red Army

Fourteen months ago, the Florida Marlins’ collection of natives from atop beanstalks inspired Eric Seidman to write about the tallest rotations in the Retrosheet era. The Cincinnati Reds’ rotation might just be the antithesis of the Marlins. Right now, the Reds are running Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez, and Travis Wood to the mound. Here are the listed heights for each:

Cueto 5’10”
Leake 6’1”
Arroyo 6’4”
Volquez 6’0”
Wood 5’11”

With the exception of Arroyo, you will note that the rest of the pitchers stand well below the league average height of 6’3” – a number provided by Mike Fast last week. In a world where the archetypal pitching body stands at least 6’4” with the ability to add muscle, it is rather unusual to see a collection of guys tall enough to be considered for Nicolas Sarkozy’s bodyguard positions rather than admission into the Imperial Guard.

The most captivating question is whether the Reds actively target shorter pitchers to acquire. Probably not. This is the same team that chose 6’2” Bradley Boxberger in the supplemental phase of the 2009 draft’s first round, as well as Donnie Joseph (6’3”) and Zach Stewart (6’2”) within the first three rounds the last few years. The one shred of proof that maybe Walt Jocketty has an affinity for little pitchers is the fifth round of the Reds’ drafts under his control. They’ve yielded three right-handed pitchers with a max height of 6’1”, although who knows how much say Jocketty even has.

Most of the modern day rotation was assembled by the previous regime anyways. For comedic purposes, though, it’s only fitting that the Reds also have two of the tallest pitchers in baseball, 6’8” Logan Ondrusek and 6’7” Aaron Harang, along with the shortest person to throw a pitch in the bigs this season, 5’6” Danny Herrera.

Of course, one can throw all the trivia and jokes aside if a rotation isn’t worth its weight. It certainly feels like the Reds’ rotation gets its fair share of credit for their impressive season, but if you go by FIP, their rotation is middle of the pack, only a slightly in front of the Milwaukee Brewers. Only one of those squads will be pitching in the playoffs, and for now, it seems like the Reds are just tall enough to board the ride.

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10 Responses to “The Little Red Army”

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  1. Omar says:

    There’s no way Leake is actually 6’1, I have testicles bigger than that guy.

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    • jirish says:

      I think that too 6’1″ seems wrong for Leake.

      I will give the Reds and their scouts credit for taking a chance on pitchers that don’t fit the ‘ideal’ body type. It’s possible they don’t go looking for these guys, but they also are willing to draft and attempt to develop them when other organizations just pass them up-maybe that’s why they seem to have more of them. Or it’s just coincidence.

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  2. exdodgerfan says:

    Volquez looks about 5’10”

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  3. exdodgerfan says:

    When Pedro is elected to the HOF he will be the first pitcher there less than 6′ tall going all the way back to the beginning

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    • jirish says:

      Don’t forget the little lefty closer Billy Wagner. I’m not sure he’ll be a hall a famer, but he certainly deserves consideration.

      He stands all of 5’10”-maybe.

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    • Daniel Andrews says:

      Plenty of 5’10” and 5’11” pitchers listed as 6’0″ in the Hall of Fame.

      Besides Maddux should officially be the first under 6’0″ since he’s 6’0″ with cleats on concrete.

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    • Carligula says:

      Not quite. Three Finger Brown’s listed as 5’10”. It is amazing how many HOF’s were supposedly exactly 6’1″ though.

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  4. CircleChange11 says:

    Well, two of the Reds best players ever were undersized. If anyone could or would understand, it’d be them.

    The big knock on undersized amatuer pitchers is (1) their potential to improve, and (2) durability issue when exposed to much greater workloads.

    While “filling out the uniform” likely has some aspect, taller pitchers generally present better pitching angles, better leverages, etc.

    There’s been a lot of good college pitchers go without a shot because they don’t fit the profile. It can be circular reasoning by drafting only tall pitchers and then use it as evidence that major league pitchers are tall.

    It also goes back to scouting … Wanna get a lot of attention in HS? Be 6’4 at age 14. Your name will be on a lot of lists just because of what you might become.

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  5. Brandon T says:

    There’s a perception that tall pitchers are better/have more potential/have less a chance for injury than short ones. This means that players might be undervalued due to this perceived potential. However, just off the top of my head I can name several great pitchers who are 6′ or so or less: Pedro, Maddux, Billy Wagner (very underrated, compare his numbers to Mo’s sometime, he’s not better but he’s in the conversation), Lincecum, Trevor Hoffman. To succeed as a small market team, you have to identify and take advantage of biases — and this may be one of them.

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