The Reds' Pitching Staff May Be the Worst of All Time
The Cincinnati Reds are jockeying for pole position to land the number-one pick in the 2017 draft, with the Atlanta Braves, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Minnesota Twins on their heels.
With a team that's seen a breakout year from Adam Duvall, a solid bounce-back campaign from Zack Cozart, and Joey Votto reaching base on more than 50% of his past 100 plate appearances, the pitching staff has been the culprit in a disappointing 2016.
Unfortunately, it's the entire staff that's underperforming, and they may be a long way from turning things around.
Too Many Homers
Shown below are the 10 worst pitching staffs rated using skill-interactive ERA (SIERA), which indicates how well a pitcher is pitching by adjusting for aspects like park factor and strikeout ability while minimizing the impact of batted-ball randomness.
By any measure -- ERA, FIP, xFIP, or SIERA -- the Reds have the worst staff in baseball.
Their strikeout isn't far worse than anyone else's, but they are giving up a pile more home runs than anyone else on this chart, and their walk rate of 10.4% is the only mark above 9.5% in the Majors.
Their 1.65 home runs allowed per nine innings is worst all-time, outpacing the 1996 Detroit Tigers' staff (1.51). And while Great American Ballpark is sixth in home run park factor, according to ESPN, SIERA accounts for park, and they're still the worst in the Majors overall by that measure.
It's the Starters and the Bullpen
Many of the comments you will read discuss how bad the Reds bullpen is, but they aren't the only ones to blame. Below is a breakdown of both the starters and the relievers, ranked by SIERA.
First, the starters:
The Rangers' starters (4.86) grade out slightly worse than the Reds' starters (4.82) in terms of SIERA, and the Twins' starting rotation is worse by ERA (5.16 compared to 5.12), but the Reds offer the worst starting rotation by FIP and xFIP.
With Johnny Cueto getting traded last year to the Royals and signing this offseason with the Giants, Homer Bailey still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, and a poor start to the year (and injury) from Alfredo Simon, the staff has not lived up to their end of the bargain.
How about the bullpen?
While the starters are bad, the bullpen is even worse, grading out as the worst in the Majors by ERA, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA.
The Reds' bullpen started the year with some uncertainty at the closer position; J.J. Hoover started the year as the closer and struggled to the tune of 18.2 innings pitched and an ERA of 13.50; he currently resides in AAA Louisville. Others taking turns in the bullpen -- such as Caleb Cotham, J.C. Ramirez, and Ross Ohlendorf -- have struggled as well.
While the Reds have been bad, they aren't the worst staff, but they are pretty close.
Since 2002, as far back as SIERA dates, the Reds' 4.66 ranks 26th-worst among 450 individual team seasons. Their xFIP ranks them 15th-worst in that same span.
Their 5.39 FIP is 11th-worst of all-time and 5th-worst since 1970, though the four-teams with worse marks -- the 1996 Tigers (5.83), the 2000 Royals (5.54), the 1999 Rockies (5.52), and the 2000 Angels (5.46) -- came in an offensive era. The 1996, 1999, and 2000 seasons are the third highest seasons recorded in terms of total runs scored per game.
Meanwhile, the 2016 season ranks 18th in total runs scored per game. So while runs scored are down over one run per game from the 1996, 1999, and 2000 seasons, the Reds' 2016 staff still ranks amongst the top five worst FIPs of the last 36 years.
The Reds might be able to elude the tag of "worst staff ever," but their park-adjusted stats and current era don't shed much positivity on this dreadful season.