Compare & Contrast: A superficial glance at Starting Pitcher

Position: Starting Pitcher

2010 Innings breakdown: Bronson Arroyo - 22%

                                            Johnny Cueto - 19%

                                            Mike Leake - 14%

                                            Homer Bailey - 11%

                                            Aaron Harang - 11%

                                           Travis Wood - 11%

                                           Edinson Volquez - 6%

                                          Sam LeCure - 3%

                                          Matt Maloney - 1%        

2010 Composite pitching line (over 32 starts):

W

L

ERA

GS

CG

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

11

9

4.05

32

1

0

190.7

188

91

86

22

63

139

7

5

WHIP

BABIP

Opp BA

Opp OBP

Strand Rate

xERA

1.317

.284

.254

.319

72.2%

4.07

2010 Composite NL average starting pitcher pitcing line (over 32 starts):

W

L

ERA

GS

CG

SHO

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

HBP

WP

11

12

4.05

32

1

0

189.3

189

93

85

20

65

146

6

6

WHIP

BABIP

Opp BA

Opp OBP

Strand Rate

xERA

1.340

.291

.256

.321

72.2%

4.09

2011 Contract status:

Arroyo - $11M team option

Cueto - arbitration eligible (1st arb year)

Leake - not yet arbitration eligible

Bailey - not yet arbitration eligible

Harang - $12.75M team option

Wood - not yet arbitration eligible

Volquez - arbitration eligible? (1st arb year?)

LeCure - not yet arbitration eligible

Maloney - not yet arbitration eligible

Advanced minor league depth:

Matt Klinker - age 25, 3.79 ERA at AA, AAA

Daryl Thompson - age 24, 3.48 ERA at Rookie level, AA

Scott Carroll - age 25, 3.36 ERA at High A, AA

Tom Cochran - age 27, 2.81 ERA at AA, AAA

Travis Webb - age 25, 4.63 ERA at High A, AA

Ben Jukich - age 27, 3.90 ERA at AAA

Chad Reineke - age 28, 3.91 ERA at AAA

Relative win increase, 2010 vs. 2009: +2

Brief summary of 2010: You know how when you commit a serious crime in somebody else's house, and then you want to leave the crime scene looking like nothing really happened, but then you want to make sure the room doesn't look too perfect, because the cops will probably pick up on how something doesn't seem quite right?  That's pretty much how the Reds' starting pitchers operated in 2010 with respect to the league average.  If they got any closer to average, we'd probably start to get a bit suspicious and want to take a DNA sample. 

What's interesting and encouraging to me is that the starting staff, as a whole, didn't improve through injury reduction or pitching longer into games: The Reds used nine different starters for 962.7 innings in 2009, and they used nine different starters for 965 innings in 2010.  If we get more granular, there are other things that cancel each other out between the two years: Bronson Arroyo is Bronson Arroyo in "Constancy".  Aaron Harang basically filled the role that Micah Owings held last year, that of "has it been five days already?"  And Homer Bailey, net for net, probably held his value pretty steady over last year, as did Edinson Volquez in limited time each year.  We'll even call the bit players a wash: trading Kip Wells and Matt Maloney's spot starts from last year for similar outings from Maloney and Sam LeCure this year probably didn't do much for changing the team's fortunes. 

We're left pointing, then, to a hot youth injection of Mike Leake, Travis Wood, and Johnny Cueto.  Cueto pitched last year, of course, but he took the all-important Next Step Forward.  Leake and Wood combined for 241 innings, which is pretty similar to the 227+ innings provided by Harang and Justin Lehr last year, but the effectiveness was about a full run better per nine innings.  Leake/Wood is simply a more talented combo at this stage than Harang/Lehr, and they accounted for roughly ¼ of the starter's innings, and this was basically the difference between the two groups.  Simply put, it's a testament to the depth of this team's roster that the various injuries and ineffective stretches that always happen did not destroy the team's pitching effectiveness.

Way too early knee-jerk outlook for 2011: As noted above, this team has youth on its side.  Harang has certainly pitched his last innings in a Wishbone C, and Arroyo will eventually stop being so damn dependable.  One name not yet mentioned in this profile is Aroldis Chapman.  He throws fast pitches.  Barring a trade, the Reds have seven viable rotation candidates heading into the spring, which for Dusty Baker will be a nice but consequential problem to have.  With the possible exception of Travis Wood, all of these options have bona fide pedigrees, being high-ranking prospects or draft picks at one time or another, and all Wood has done is pitch well at every level he's faced.  Young pitchers are to fickle as election cycles are to interminable, but I think you have to look at this group favorably heading into next year.

Bottom line: Despite the encouraging signs, this is still a volatile group.  The staff has talent, but lacks (as of yet) a true ace that can act as both stopper and playoff intimidator.  Although gains have been made in this area, the group still strikes out fewer batters than average, which can become a significant problem in a home run friendly environment.  Still, for all the caveats: Leake disintegrated as the year went on, Volquez missed the first four months, they might add a guy who throws 174 mph, and their worst pitcher is gone.  There is room for growth here, possibly in a big way.   Buy, and save the receipt.  Some day you'll want to tell your grandkids about that one time the Reds had a promising young pitching staff.

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