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What Should We Expect Out of the Rotation? Part Two – Alex Wood

Can Alex Wood be “The Pitching” we’ve been searching for?

Taj Simmons

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Raise your hand Cincinnati fans if you’ve heard this one before.

*Slowly raises hand.*

Agh.

Injuries suck. They suck on both a physical level for the player itself. They suck for the mental level of the fan who eagerly wishes to see players perform at full-strength. They suck for all the players who’s careers were shortened because of them, or maybe were quickly dismissed before they even had a chance. They suck for lost wages and blahblahblahblah. Point is they suck.

Anthony DeScalfani knows they suck, as does Brandon Finnegan last spring, former Red Rookie Davis might have a word about injuries, as does Homer Bailey. Raisel Iglesias can tell you all about that too.

You get it. They suck.

If you want to be an optimist, there’s always a next man up. Wally Pipp knows about that one.

But I digress. Unless it’s something major, we could see Wood back on the mound soon. As of now, there’s rumblings he could be back in mid-April. If he does return 100% healthy, Is he the real deal? Was this the type of pitcher we had in mind when Owner Bob Castellini assured us the Reds would “get the pitching”? Lets dig in.

Alex Wood

The first thing you may notice about Alex Wood, is his unconventional and funky pitching motion.

I mean that is the definition of rearing back and letting it rip. In the world we live in today with high speed cameras and smartwatches seemingly on every wrist, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of a discussion on maybe not trying to tip his pitch so often.

However unusual it may look, it is perfect metaphor for this whole Reds situation we find ourselves in. Unconventional ways of finding success.

More on Wood specifically, the trade you probably know about is the blockbuster offseason deal in which the Reds netted Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Kyle Farmer, and of course, Wood. However, he was also swapped from the Braves to the Dodgers in a 3-team trade involving twelve players. Some former Reds included in the deal featured Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos, and Jose Peraza.

Wood has consistently been an above average starting lefty in the Majors. Which teams like the Reds have been dying for the past couple of seasons if you haven’t noticed.

In fact, who is the last starting lefty you remember that pitched effectively for the home 9?

I mean who could forget the recent dominance we’ve been blessed to watch from lefties such as Cody Reed, John Lamb, and uh, David Holmberg? Go ahead, try and find one, I triple dog dare you.

Wood has been used as both a starter and a reliever in his career, amassing 129 games as a starter to go alongside a 3.30 era, as well as appearing in 43 games as a reliever with a 2.70 era. A.k.a numbers that are a sight for sore eyes for Reds fans.

Of course, not everything is without cons.

Although previously mentioned, it’s worth restating. The best ability is availability. Without a successful recovery, you can basically just trash this whole article (please don’t though, thanks 🙂 )

Another point worth mentioning is Wood is only signed to a one year deal, meaning either at the all-star break or the end of the season, it’s decision time.

The last con is the alarming velocity rate on display.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs

From this graph, you can see the constant dip in velocity in Alex’s game logs. He went from hovering around 95-92 on his fastball, to now sitting at 91-89. Obviously this is a cause for concern, but it should be noted that 91-89 is still big league stuff, add on top that Wood has learned to cut back on the fastballs and mix in his offspeed stuff more.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs

Lets just all pray for a speedy recovery, so we can watch that awkward delivery slice up some eyeballs for the Reds. That’s not too much to ask for right baseball Gods? I mean it’s not like we could get any worse on the injury front.

Having been born and raised in Cincinnati, eating Skyline Chili and rooting on the Reds have gone hand in hand. Free times are usually spent scouring the web on Reds information, playing OOTP or the The Show, and pretty much filling up a baseball addiction through any means possible. Personal favorite memories include Jay Bruce's walk-off clinching Central title, watching Joey Votto do his thing, and Jonny Gomes' at bat shenanigans

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Cincinnati Reds

What Should We Expect Out of The Rotation? Part Three – Tanner Roark

Taj Simmons

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Eight games. Seven innings. Nineteen earned runs. Earned run average of 13.50. Twelve walks. An ERA+ of 18 (An ERA+ of 100 is league average, so yeah).

Thirty Games. One hundred-thirty innings. Eighty seven earned runs. Fifty walks. Earned run average of 4.34. An ERA+ of 97.

A simple question: Who would you rather take?

Of course there are other factors to consider before making such a hasty pick, but do so anyway. For one, the sample size of both players are extremely different. Player A: has only seen seven innings of big league ball, so while we can get a picture of what his future career might look like, it’s an educated guess. Player B: on the other hand will be entering his seventh season, and you can except the level of performance in a player by that point. While money, future projections, and use of roster spots all had a hand to play in this deal, just looking at in in a vacuum, one could say the Reds came out with some value, as they went with player B, or Tanner Roark, over player A, Tanner Rainey.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the intangibles or the personalities or the millions of other traits of a player, we forget the statistics. Tanner Roark has never been a household name in the sport, but he’s done his job effectively and consistently, which makes me optimistic to have him on this rotation in dire need of such players.

Tanner Roark spent the first six seasons of his career with the Washington Nationals as a back end of rotations featuring star pitchers such as Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez; and has had a lot of success doing so. He has compiled a 3.59 ERA to go alongside a 17.5 bWAR in his time in D.C. Just looking at those stats are a sight for sore eyes for Reds fans. His 2.9 bWAR he managed to produce last year is about half the value the entire starting rotation managed to put together (6.1 bWAR).

When you really dig deep into it, you wonder how this trade went under the radar, because the Reds were able to steal a quality starter out of the Nats for nothing more than a fire-balling reliever who can’t find the strike zone quite nearly enough to be effective.

If one word could describe Roark’s game, it would be consistent. Nothing he does is really flashy, or is going to lead the league in any categories, but he’s going to get the job done. It probably is why he’s been so “low key” in his career for a guy who is nearing a 20 bWAR career; add in the fact that he’s also been in the shadow of the previously mentioned pitchers, you can see why he hasn’t made any national attention. In his 6 years of pitching, his highest season ERA was back in 2017 when it hit 4.67, which is still about league average. Essentially what we’re getting to, is at his worst, Tanner Roark is a cheaper Matt Harvey. Which is who Reds fans were clamoring to resign anyway.

Digging a little deeper into the stats, his ground ball percentage is average at 45% , his home run percentage is just as normal at around 11% , except in his four starts this year, it clocks in at 5%. Be on the lookout for a spike in homers soon, as pitching in GABP isn’t so healthy for those kind of stats. Back to the digging, his K to BB rate is standard among pitchers, you know what, I think you get the point here. He’s basically your run of the mill above average pitcher, which contrary to what you might think, is really valuable, ESPECIALLY to this team. If you put five Tanner Roark’s on last years team, it would be hard not to make a case for the playoffs, or at least contention for Pete’s sake with the way they were able to score runs last year.

Now that the season has started, we are able to get a small portion size of perhaps is what to come of Roark. He’s had some, dare I say it, GREAT SUCCESS in the early goings, posting a 3.6 ERA in 20 innings across 4 starts this year. Perhaps the only fault you could point out is his inability to pitch effectively enough to get deeper into ballgames. He’s never pitched more than 5.1 innings so far in a game. If that’s the only concern with my number 4 starter however, it’s a good problem to have. This team is equipped with the bullpen numbers right now, insisting on carrying 8 members up to this point, and all (except Zach Duke) have been pretty effective.

If Tanner Roark can keep this stretch of baseball going forward, bright days are ahead this season. (Just please score some runs)

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Rotisserie Pitching

Dave Pemberton

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During the Reds playoff window almost a decade ago the starting rotation was debatably one of the best in the National League during that time frame. Since 2015 however most of the starting staff has been a fill in the blank or a prospect we were trying to develop. This resulted in four straight 90 loss seasons. Finishing the 2018 season the Reds showed little promise at the end of yet another abysmal performance by the starting rotation. Even more scary was 2018 was supposed to be the finale of “The Rebuild”.

This offseason the Reds got aggressive on almost every front of improving the team. Namely locking up three new starting pitchers in Gray, Wood, and Roark. The 2015-2018 Reds starting rotation was record breaking in all the wrong ways. No longer will we be stuck using Google to find out information about the copy and paste pitching staff we’ve had to experience the past few years. No longer will we be stuck watching an entire staff of prospects struggle daily to pitch just 5 innings. The newly announced rotation of Gray, Wood, Roark, Castillo, and Disco seems on the surface to be a middle of the road rotation. Which is a big welcome for a team whos starting staff changed almost weekly for the past four seasons.

Gray seems poised for rebirth in Cincinnati. After a rough stint with the Yankees posting a plus 4 ERA with the team and struggling with the pressures of a big market team, Gray seems like he has a clean slate to become the pitcher many envisioned him to be when he played with the Athletics. For the A’s he posted a ERA of 3.42 and an ERA+114. If he is able to do that and consume 200 innings I’d have to consider it a successful season. A number 1 or 2 guy in the rotation who can be lights out at times. More importantly we got Gray on a team friendly deal unlike the last big starting pitcher we signed to a big deal in Bailey.

Wood fits the profile for what the Reds front office was looking for in a starting pitcher to acquire this offseason. A predominantly ground ball pitcher. More importantly his stats the past two seasons as a Dodger were outstanding by comparisons of what we are accustomed to these past two seasons. Wood posted a 2.72 ERA, voted an All-Star, and finished ninth in Cy Young voting for the 2017 season. In 2018 he still managed to post 3.68 ERA, 3.72 xFIP, and 151.2 innings pitched. Most importantly Wood is in a contract year making him poised for hopefully a career year to earn his next big pay day.

Roark is an absolute work horse. Roark has posted at least 30 starts in each of his last three seasons with at least 180 innings. His big concern is the uptick in his ERA that is north of 4 the past two seasons in a hitter friendly park. However I go back to the fact he’s in those prime years for pitcher turning 32 this season and also in a contract year. By no means a flashy pitcher with his stats but he’s a workhorse. I think he will be the quite surprise of this starting rotation.

Castillo is probably the most interesting person on the starting staff. Many believe Castillo has his breakout season this year. Castillo at times has shown the stuff of an ace or at worst a number 2 in the staff. His biggest issues is giving up walks and homers. Most of that seemed tamed after his epic rough start in April posting an 7.85 ERA. After fixing his mechanics and better controlling his pitching Castillo seemed to be the only consistency for the Reds staff last year. He led the 2018 starting rotation in innings, ERA, and WAR. You don’t have to squint to hard to see a potential ace in him. I envision Castillo finally becoming the pitcher on that fake Sports Illustrated World Series Champs front page.

Disco’s career has been plagued by injuries in recent years. When he started his career as Red in 2015 he showed great promise. Disco’s 2015 season he had a 4.05 ERA, 3.97 xFIP, and 184.2 innings. Since then he hasn’t played an entire season missing the entire year in 2017. His stats have seen better days as well. Disco posted a 4.93 ERA, 85 ERA+, and just 115 innings for the 2018 season. If Disco is able to overcome his biggest obstacle in staying healthy there is hope he can return to his former self and promise of being a mainstay in this Reds rotation.

The leftovers are players that seem to be poised for AAA but may still see some time because of injuries. Some of these are pitchers who haven’t been able to establish themselves during the rebuild. Mahle and Ramano seem to be the front runners for not making the Opening Day roster but still seeing substantial playing time because of injuries. Mahle showed promise for the first half of the season. An ERA of 4.02, 100.2 innings, and 98 K’s for the first half of 2018. He seemed confident, consistant, and able to strikeout almost anyone July did him in though with a 8.62 ERA, 15.2 innings in 4 starts, 5 HR’s, and 8 BB’s. Shortly after he was moved to AAA. With Wood seeming unable to go at the beginning of the season Mahle may get his chance early on to prove himself in 2019. Romano seems to be all over the place from start to start. The best examples of this are month to month ERA’s. April 4.65, May 7.45, June 3.90, and July 3.92. In late July he was moved to the bullpen where his numbers did not improve. Romano still feels as though he can contribute where ever the team needs him. I see Romano possibly getting a few starts but mainly used as a long reliever this season. His key to success will be finding his consistency.

Then there are the players on there last string this season. It’s either poop or get off the pot for Finnegan and Reed. Both of whom were acquired way all the way back in 2015 for Johnny Cueto. Reed has phenomenal talent. An overpowering left hander with great promise making his way up through the minors. The Reds brought him up as a starting pitcher in July 2016. He served as a hitting tee for the rest of the season. Reed posted a 58 ERA+, 67 hits in 47 innings, and just 10 starts. Reed’s 2017 was almost obsolete. However in 2018 Reed began to show promise out of the bullpen later in the season. Reed’s bullpen vs. starter stats are like Jekyll and Hyde. Reed’s bullpen career stats 1.98 ERA and 1.244 WHIP. Reed’s starter career stats 6.89 and 1.753 WHIP. He himself said in a recent interview “maybe my calling was in the bullpen.” I am confident he will get his chance there again this year. Finnegan showed serious promise after his arrival. His 2016 season showed signs he was going to be a potential 1 or 2 starter for this team with 31 games started, 172 innings, and 107 ERA+. The best part is he was only 23 years old. His 2017 was ended early on in April by injury. Many were hoping to see a breakout year from him in 2018. Instead Finnegan fell through the floor. He posted a 7.40 ERA in 5 starts. By mid May he was sent down to Louisville where his stats were almost identical for the rest of the season. Finnegan also stated frustration with management about his being sent to Louisville. I think his only shot is a change in attitude and possibly Derek Johnson the new pitching coach turning him around. If not he will be tacked onto a trade or dropped by the end of the year. I hope Finnegan’s best days are not behind him when he only turns 26 this year.

The last player I wanna talk about is Robert Stephenson. He was the first round pick for the Reds in 2011. He was a big part of “The Rebuild” plan initially. I won’t bother to waste your time with his lackadaisical Major League stats. Put simply the man is out of options. Has shown little to know promise as a pro. He’s been injury prone at times of opportunity. He will be remembered the same way we remember the infamous Brandon Larson. Stephenson will more than likely be DFA or claimed on waivers. I wish him the best.

In summation the Reds should have a dependable rotation for the first time in years. They are mostly middle of the road pitchers with a lot of upside. If they are able to keep them in most games for 6 innings stacked lineup should do the rest. They also manage to have some depth this season if and when injuries happen with guys who have to really prove themselves this season. Most importantly you won’t be stuck digging through the bowels of the internet to find out where the starting pitcher came from anymore.

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Votto Reporting In

Jeff

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He’s here and he’s ready to go!

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