The Cincinnati Reds have done plenty of things wrong during the current rebuild. Trades that came too late, roster decisions that didn’t happen soon enough (cough Nick Senzel cough) and moves that came with raised eyebrows.
That last one brings us to the topic at hand in Amir Garrett. After blazing through the minor leagues and establishing himself as one of the Reds’ top prospects, Garrett dazzled in his debut against the Cardinals. But an injury, one he would not disclose until the end of the season – derailed his rookie season.
Upon returning this spring, Garrett was handed a bullpen role that left many questioning the Reds’ decision-makers. And while the question remains about whether Garrett’s future is in the bullpen, one we’ll address later, what is unquestionable is that Garrett has been dominant this season.
At his current pace, Garrett, in his second season, is on pace for roughly 125 innings, is striking out 10.35 batters per nine innings and has a FIP of 3.36.
The list of pitchers in their second season eclipsing 100 innings with a strikeout rate of 10 per nine innings and a FIP of 3.40 is lower is an exclusive group across baseball history. Only five pitchers have accomplished that feat – Mariano Rivera (1996), Pedro Martinez (1993), Bruce Sutter (1977), Billy McColl (1965) and Dick Radatz (1963).
Each one of those pitchers made at least one All-Star game and three of them – Rivera, Martinez and Sutter – are Hall of Famers. Garrett is currently striking out more batters per nine than both Martinez and McCool, something that has been his calling card this season.
After just 8.02 strikeouts per nine last season, Garrett is striking out nearly 2.5 more batters per nine innings. A higher rate than at any stop in his career dating back to his time in the minor leagues.
For relievers 26 years or younger this season, Garrett is sixth in the league in xFIP at 3.17. Of the five relievers ahead of him, only three pitchers have a high strikeout rate: Josh Hader, Edwin Diaz and Carl Edwards, Jr.
His biggest bugaboo this season has been the long ball, as he’s allowed just over one homer per nine innings. Under the same parameters of relievers 26 or under, Garrett is 31st out of 39 pitchers in home runs per nine innings.
The counter to that, though, has been his walk rate. Last season, Garrett 5.09 batters per nine innings and, since 2014 where Garrett moved to Single-A ball, Garrett had never walked less than 3.44 batters per nine innings. This season, Garrett’s walk rate is down to 2.78, ninth-lowest among relievers 26 or younger.
Where is Garrett finding success? He’s limiting hard contact this season compared to last year but the ability to come out of the bullpen and not hold anything back has led to a fastball that is three miles per hour faster than last season.
More than anything, though, Garrett’s slider has become lethal at the plate. After throwing it 22.3 percent last season, he’s upped it to 32.2 percent this season at the sacrifice of his changeup, which he’s thrown 11 percent less this season. Like his fastball, his slider is up three miles per hour more.
Only five relievers this season have had a slider worth more runs above average than Garrett. Of those, only Adam Ottavino has a fastball that’s also worth more than Garrett. His one-two combo of fastball-slider has given Garrett a dynamic arsenal to work with.
Not surprisingly, Garrett has forced batters to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone six percent more this season with a contact rate on out-of-zone pitches down nine percent with a swinging strike percentage of 13.5 percent up from 8.6 percent last season.
What does all this mean for Garrett’s future? Adding him to the bullpen alongside Raisel Iglesias and newly-acquired Jared Hughes has led to the Reds sporting one of the best bullpens in the league.
Since April 27, the Reds’ bullpen ranks 10th in the league in xFIP, ninth in FIP and 10th in ERA despite pitching the second-most innings in that span.
Is it worth sacrificing one of the few strengths the Reds have to allow Garrett to start? On a team destined for 90-plus losses and with a rotation struggling mightily, it might be. Garrett looked dominant in minor league ball, was brilliant in his debut and, by all accounts, is better this season.
To his credit, Garrett has stated he has no preference of starting versus relieving.
The compromise, though, might be taking a page from the Tampa Bay Rays’ playbook. Sergio Romo has started five games for the Rays’ this season who have turned to their bullpen to start games with a young staff that has struggled.
Coming into Tuesday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, the Reds held an 8.12 ERA in the first inning. With a pair of relievers in Michael Lorenzen and Garrett who have history starting games, giving them the ball to open the game could alleviate the burden on the young and battered pitching staff.
Or maybe the Reds hand the ball to Garrett later in the season. As it stands, Tyler Mahle and Sal Romano both are on pace for well over 100 innings and both have struggled at times this season. The Reds could limit innings for either of the two and give Garrett a spot start. Maybe he can bring his newfound success in the bullpen to the starting rotation?
Whatever the move ends up being, though, Garrett has not only proven he belongs in the league but has succeeded at a historical clip.
Phil Ervin Lifts Reds to Victory
A monster shot from one Phillip Ervin gave the Cincinnati Reds (53-69) a walk-off, extra-innings win over the San Francisco Giants (61-62) by a score of 2-1.
The winning run for the Redlegs, Ervin’s third home run of the year came in his second at-bat of the night.
WALK. IT. OFF. ⚾️🎇
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) August 18, 2018
Phil pinch-hit for Preston Tucker in the eighth inning. He grounded out in his first at-bat and then remained in the game in left field.
Coming into tonight, Ervin was 0-for-1 in extra-inning at-bats, reaching base once via walk and once via hit-by-pitch. It is his second career homer with the game tied, but the first time he hit a round-tripper leading off an inning. Despite only batting .238 against right-handed pitchers, this is his fifth career homer off one.
A Few Notes From Friday’s Game:
Ervin’s walk-off homer on Friday was the first of his career.
This is the 23rd game in which Phil has played that he did not strike out in.
Ervin is now batting .287 on the year with an OPS of .808
Phil and the Reds will face Madison Bumgarner and the Giants tomorrow night. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m.
Reds set for Three Against the Giants
Reeling from being swept at home by their in-state rivals, the Cincinnati Reds (52-69) welcome the San Francisco Giants (61-61) to Great American Ballpark.
The Reds will be glad to see the schedule move past the Indians. In the six games against their in-state rivals, Cincinnati allowed 50 runs. Yup…rub your eyes, shake your head, and check the numbers. The Cincinnati Reds allowed 50 runs in six games to the Cleveland Indians. See also, roller coaster season.
This is the time to really figure out what kind of depth the organization has. Yeah, Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker are on the DL. Yeah, Joey Votto is playing on one leg (don’t get me started on that). So now you find out what guys like Dilson Herrera, Brandon Dixon, Mason Williams, and my guy, Phil Ervin, got.
The problem is, they have an interim manager whose posture is one of auditioning for a job in 2019. That’s not an indictment, by the way. I mean, the man wants to get a paycheck past this season, it’s understandable, but figuring out what’s in the tank and winning games are not the same thing.
Both Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson threw 1.2 innings, apiece, in their last outings. Sure, they were pitching pretty terribly, but they need to learn what it is to fight through days when you don’t have it. Now, I hear you, and I agree with you, it was painful to watch, both days, but Sal said it himself “There’s nothing for me to take away from this outing.” That wasn’t him lashing out at Riggsy for pulling him so quick, he was just honest about the fact he didn’t have anything that day.
My point with all this is, even when things are tough, when the score is more of a hyperbole, leave the young guys in there to figure it out.
Anyway, enough ranting, let’s preview this weekend’s pitching matchups.
Anthony DeSclafani toes the rubber against Casey Kelly. Disco is coming off a superb outing against the Diamondbacks in which he struck out nine in seven innings of shutout ball. In fact, his last three starts look like this: two wins, 18.1 innings pitched, four earned runs allowed, and 16 strikeouts. These are the kind of numbers Reds fans want to see from Disco!
His opponent was supposed to be a sensational young pitcher named Dereck Rodriguez, but he was hurt in a benches clearing altercation with the Dodgers on Tuesday. In his place will be Kelly, the son of Reds bench coach, Pat Kelly.
A former first round pick of the Boston Red Sox, Casey Kelly has pitched in a pair of games this year for the Giants. He’s allowed one earned run on 6.1 IP while striking out three. He’s a straight-laced pitcher, serving hitters a steady diet of fastballs and curveballs, and has a sinker he mixes in, on occasion. His fastball velocity averages right around 93 with his curveball countering at around 82.
Game two will see Matt Harvey square off against Madison Bumgarner. Harvey’s season is a fitting parallel to the Reds season, as a whole. After putting together an abysmal stretch of starts following the All Star Break, the Dark Knight turned in an impressive performance against Arizona. In seven innings of work, he allowed a pair of earned runs, five hits, one walk all while striking out seven. There are precious few days before the end of the waiver-trade deadline, so if he is traded away, this may be the last start Harvey has in a Reds uniform.
Facing him will be a Giant, both in terms of the team he plays for and his position amongst professional pitchers. Bumgarner hasn’t pitched a lot this year, due to injury, but he has been his normal self. He currently has a 2.71 ERA in 79.2 IP with 67 K’s. He’s doing a good job of keeping the ball in the park, having allowed just six homers this year.
The finale will feature Luis Castillo pitching against Andrew Suarez. Castillo had a rough outing against the D-Backs, last time. He was saddled with the loss after allowing five earned runs on 5.2 innings of work. Castillo’s sophomore season has had lots of ups and downs, but his season ERA is inching toward the good, slowly as it currently sits at 5.04.
Suarez has put together a solid rookie year for the Giants. The 25-year old 4.40 ERA in 21 starts and has fanned 100 batters in 116.2 innings. He pitched six shutout innings at Dodger Stadium his last time out, but received a no-decision for his efforts. The Reds beat Suarez and the Giants back on May 16th when they scored five runs (four earned), on eight hits and a walk. Former Red Adam Duvall hit a three-run jack off Suarez in that game.
The Reds won one and lost a pair in that May series with the Giants. These will be the last three games they play against San Fran for the 2018 season.
As of this posting, Joey Votto had just been placed on the disabled list. Here’s hoping a speedy and full recovery for Joseph Daniel.
Keep tuned to Locked on Reds for your daily Reds fix and follow @JamesRapien and @jefffcarr on Twitter.
Reds Swept by Indians at Home
Despite making it dramatic in the ninth, the Cincinnati Reds (52-69) lost to the Cleveland Indians (69-51) 4 to 3. The Indians took the Ohio Cup 4 to 2.
The Rollercoaster Reds had runners on second and third but failed to score. The ninth inning saw Billy Hamilton make an interesting choice to run for home on a soft grounder to the first baseman for the first out, Scooter Gennett walk, Eugenio Suarez strike out (more on that later), and Curt Casali fly out.
The game was a struggle from the beginning.
Robert Stephenson didn’t get any better from his first start, he may have actually gotten worse. Dude had zero control of any of his pitches, erratically spraying the ball everywhere but the strike zone. Given a three-run lead from the first inning, Stephenson proceeded to come out in the second and throw first-pitch balls to the first four hitters, allowing two runs, and getting pulled before the end of the second.
Remember when he walked a Mets pitcher on four pitches? Yeah, he walked Indians pitcher Shane Bieber on four pitches, as well. Bieber had exactly three career at-bats before this game.
Cody reed, however, came into the game in the second and proceeded to insert his name into the discussion for pitching in the rotation the rest of the year. The box score will show a loss and two earned runs in 3.2 innings, but his night looked much better than that. He retired eight in a row before allowing a walk and a homer, consecutively, that gave the Indians a 4-3 lead. He worked quickly and confidently, the exact opposite of BobSteve.
Interesting Notes from Wednesday’s Game:
Despite being talked about in this space a bit, Jose Peraza is having a quietly good season. He had another multi-hit night on Wednesday, bringing his total to 33 multi-hit games. His average is now at .285. He’s hitting .288 from the leadoff spot with 57 hits and 31 runs scored.
Jared Hughes tossed an inning and 2/3 of perfect baseball. He struck out a pair in this appearance and managed to lower his ERA to 1.31. He has the second-best ERA among relievers with at least 50 IP, behind Milwaukee’s Jeremy Jeffress (1.29).
The Reds bench, as managed by one Jim Riggleman, was very active. In the bottom of the seventh inning Dilson Herrera pinch-hit for Hughes. This move left just Curt Casali on the bench…and there were still two innings left in regulation play. In fact, in the top of the sixth, Mason Williams was brought in as part of a double-switch when Hughes came in to pitch. He played for all of one out before Riggsy pinch-hit Brandon Dixon for him in the bottom of the sixth. Confused yet?
Eugenio Suarez had a night he’d just as soon forget. He struck out five times, twice on pitches that were, according to the Fox Sports Ohio strike zone, outside the zone. The fifth strikeout left Geno walking back to the dugout with a purely blank look on his face. Watch out for him on Thursday, man may hit 12 homers.
The Reds will get some rest on Thursday and be back at Great American for the weekend against the Giants of San Francisco.
Keep your eye on @lockedonReds and @jefffcarr on Twitter for all your Reds content.