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Thursday, September 13, 2007

August 2007 Reds Review Part 3: Pitching

As good as the Reds' hitting was in August, their pitching was a disaster, posting an August ERA of 5.73 and an FIP of 5.34, the latter mark being the worst of the season. Think about that -- even in the absurdly horrid month of May, Reds pitchers put forth a better performance than they did in August. The problem spread across the entire staff, with both the rotation (5.87 ERA, 5.44 FIP) and bullpen (5.30 ERA, 4.79 FIP) posting poor numbers.

Let's look at the individual performances:
A. Harang 37.7 8.6 1.0 2.1 0.199 3.34 3.34 4.84
B. Arroyo 33.0 7.9 1.6 2.2 0.343 4.91 4.91 5.20
Livingston 23.3 5.0 0.4 1.5 0.333 6.57 6.18 4.54
M. Belisle 23.0 7.4 2.0 2.0 0.357 5.48 5.48 5.39
E. Ramirez 16.3 4.4 4.4 2.8 0.295 7.73 7.73 7.65
J. Burton 15.3 8.8 2.9 0.6 0.195 1.18 1.18 3.04
Weathers 14.0 2.6 5.1 0.6 0.187 3.21 3.21 5.46
M. Stanton 13.7 5.3 3.3 1.3 0.361 8.54 8.54 5.21
Dumatrait 13.3 4.7 7.4 1.4 0.471 14.21 14.21 6.55
Majewski 12.0 3.0 0.0 0.8 0.326 6.00 6.00 3.84
T. Shearn 11.3 4.0 3.2 1.6 0.243 4.78 4.78 5.65
M. Gosling 11.0 5.7 4.1 1.6 0.379 4.91 4.09 5.62
B. Bray 7.7 9.4 3.5 0.0 0.333 2.34 2.34 2.26
Guardado 6.7 2.7 2.7 2.7 0.414 14.78 14.78 7.80
Coutlangus 3.0 12.0 3.0 0.0 0.375 3.00 3.00 1.50
K. Saarloos 2.7 3.3 3.3 3.3 0.250 3.33 3.33 8.36
T. Coffey 1.0 18.0 9.0 9.0 0.500 27.00 27.00 18.17

The Good

Burton and Bray

The biggest positive development on the pitching side of the ledger in August was the crystallization of Jared Burton as a force in the 8th inning. While technically he made his splash in July, his awful peripherals that month (most notably a 7.0 bb/9 rate...SEVEN) didn't give me much confidence that he'd really improved. But in August, he put together the most dominant month we've seen from a Reds reliever since Todd Coffey's April and May of '06. Let's just hope his performance doesn't go the way Coffey's has since then. I really hope he's a good one.

Bill Bray also put together a fine month after finally getting called up. His walk rate was a touch high, but his ability to avoid the long ball kept him from allowing any big innings.

The Lucky and Unlucky

Bobby Livingston
Livingston was looking like he'd be this year's Elizardo Ramirez, solidifying the back end of the rotation with consistent even if unspectacular outings. His ERA had taken a bit of a beating in August, but his peripherals don't indicate much change from prior months -- maybe a few more home runs, but he continued to strike out an adequate number of hitters while refusing to walk anyone. After Vern Ruhle's passing, Livingston's injury is probably the most tragic news the Reds received in '07. While one can never say never, as others have pointed out, the chances of recovering from shoulder surgery--especially when the player is a marginal pitcher to begin with--aren't great.

David Weathers
His 3.21 ERA indicated another fine month for the Reds closer, but his 2.6 k/9 and 5.1 bb/9 peripherals indicated some serious struggles. Now, I've been harping on his peripherals for a year now, of course, and the guy keeps on trucking. And this is by far his worst performance of the season. You just can't walk twice as many as you strike out for too long and expect to keep being successful... I have a feeling that Krivsky's going to regret not moving Stormy at the trading deadline. Hope I'm wrong.

Gary Majewski
I'm not sure what to make of Majewski's month. On one hand, he didn't walk a single batter in his 12 innings of work. On the other, he only struck out 3 k/9, which is far from inspiring and doesn't lead me to be particularly optimistic about the guy. Majewski has to be considered the biggest disappointment of Wayne Krivsky's tenure as a general manager. Yes, The Trade was an awful deal. And yes, Majewski's peripherals and BABIP indicated at the time that he may have been a bit lucky to that point in his career. But he should have been an adequate reliever. And he's been anything but adequate.

The Ugly

The Starters
Here's a fun stat: in August, Reds' starters gave up 1.99 home runs per nine innings! The only guys who gave up less than 2 hr/9 were Livingston (out for season and maybe career with shoulder injury) , Dumatrait (who managed to walk 11 in 13 1/3 innings), and Shearn (the oldest starter to debut with the Reds since...who?). Harang, Arroyo, Belisle, and Ramirez all gave up homers at an alarming rate. All are fly ball pitchers, and they all got tattooed in August.

Fortunately, hr/9 is a far more prone to random or temporary fluctuations than the other pitching peripherals. And by those other measures, Harang, Arroyo, and Belisle all look superb. That's particularly good to see from the latter two, who will be very important to any success the Reds have in 2007. With Harang...he just keeps on truckin'. I hope he can keep it up long enough to pitch in the postseason with the Reds, 'cause I'd love to see him start in a postseason series. He can match up with just about anyone.

In case you're wondering, the home run park factor at Great American Ballpark in 2007 is currently 1.35, second only to Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park. And the ball was flying in August...

Stanton and Guadardo
The two veteran lefties in the Reds pen had a miserable August. On the season, Stanton continues to put up peripherals that are comparable with his prior seasons, and a big chunk of his 5.98 ERA might be attributable to that 0.361 BABIP he's experienced this season. But at the same time, one has to wonder if a 4.22 FIP is outside the bounds of what we can hope to get from someone like Bill Bray or Jon Coutlangus next season. I was among the few bloggers who were positive about the Stanton signing, and I still don't hate it. But he's starting to look redundant with younger and cheaper options. That's a good thing, of course -- it means that the Reds actually have some younger and cheaper options! But it's going to be hard to get much in return for the guy, so he'll probably stick around through at least mid-next season if he can at least be moderately effective.

As for Guardado... well, he's a 36-year old trying to come back from reconstructive elbow surgery. He hasn't looked good, that's for sure. But who knows? Maybe he'd be worth an invite to spring training next year, just in case the extra time results some additional healing? I think we're talking about a non-roster deal though. Unfortunately.

Phil Dumatrait
Unfortunately, Phil Dumatrait had a month that was very much in line with the sort of performance that I projected when he came up. I'd expect that he can be a little better than he did. He's never had great control, for example, but he shouldn't be walking 7+ bb/9. But I just don't see him as being an effective starting pitcher at the major league level--not now, and not in the future.

Anyone missing Kyle Lohse right about now? I know I am. Though I'm sure he's going to be far overpriced in this offseason's pitching market.

Tomorrow (hopefully), I'll post August fielding splits for the Reds. Hopefully there'll be some nice things to talk about in there somewhere that's consistent with the improvement in DER in August.

Photos by AP/Al Behrman (Belisle), AP/Tom Uhlman (Harang, Dumatrait)