COMMENTARY | The Cincinnati Reds are 36-24 and are 2.5 games behind first place in the National League Central division. Starting pitching has been good (3.24 ERA, second best in the NL) and so has the offense (279 runs, third best in the NL). So what's the problem with this team? Not much. If the Reds do have a problem, 60 games (37%) into the season, it might be the bullpen.
Last season, the bullpen was really good. The 2012 Reds' bullpen was first in ERA (2.65), first in batting average against (.215), first in strikeout percentage (26.2%), second in WHIP (1.22), and second in home runs allowed per nine innings (0.68) in the NL.
Is the 2013 Reds' bullpen actually bad?
This season, the Reds are eighth in ERA (3.55), third in batting average against (.221), first in strikeout percentage (25.0%), fourth in WHIP (1.20), and last in home runs allowed per nine innings (1.27) in the NL. Clearly, home runs are inflating the combined ERA of Reds relief pitchers.
The Reds' bullpen is underperforming.
The bad news is that the Reds' bullpen is underperforming. The good news is that each relief pitcher will probably settle closer to his career numbers. Among the regular relievers, only Alfredo Simon, Sam LeCure, and Sean Marshall have an ERA below (better than) their career ERA.
The underperformance of the bullpen has nothing to do with how it is being managed and everything to do with players making pitches. Recently, the Reds' relief pitchers haven't been making good pitches and have been giving up (home) runs. Baseball is a game of ebbs and flows.
Andrew J. Roth studied journalism at Lehigh University and received his Master's from the University of Illinois. He has been following the Reds and Major League Baseball since he met Barry Larkin in 1993. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJohnRoth.
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