Okay, so after 16 games, the Reds have a record of 9-7. They've scored 95 runs, though many of those came while beating up on the Brewers and Astros. But still, since they've only allowed 75, you'd expect them to have won more than they've lost--which is true, barely.
But let's focus a bit on that pitching.
There's one obvious problem: Nick Masset. In 8-1/3 innings of relief, he's walked 8 and given up 13 hits, allowing 7 runs to score. That's good for a WHIP of 2.52 and an ERA of 7.56. Not good, obviously.
But the relief pitching has been pretty good other than Masset. He and Matt Maloney are the only relievers to have given up home runs--though Maloney allowed all three of his in one particularly horrible outing. Maloney has been downright Volquez-esque, in fact: pretty much the same ERA and WHIP as Edinson Volquez in aggregate, but almost all of that is due to one 1-2/3-inning outing when he allowed 7 ER, including 3 HRs.
To look at ERA--which is an admittedly imperfect way of comparing relievers to starters--the Reds relief corps as a whole has an ERA of 3.31. Starters, on the other hand? ERA of 5.24.
Let's look at those starters, keeping in mind that it's a very small sample for each starter: a maximum of four starts. But we might still be able to see some patterns in how they've performed so far.
Starters have thrown a total of 89-1/3 innings, necessitating 54-1/3 innings in relief.
A couple of things jump out at me from that table. First, Volquez has allowed a ton of HRs--but so has Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo, as usual, appears to be extremely lucky given his WHIP and number of HRs allowed. He's also way over his career averages for HRs allowed, so hopefully that number will come down over time. He has been playing with mono, after all.
The only starters who have handed over the ball to Dusty after allowing an average of fewer than three runs? Arroyo and Sam LeCure. Neither is likely to sustain the ERA he's posted so far, but they've produced solid results.
Fay quotes Dusty as saying:
“The pitch count is extremely high for our starters. You certainly can’t go to the bullpen in the fourth or fifth inning. The bullpen is spent. We need more innings from our starters.”
So, sure. More innings are needed from the starters. Even the starters who have pitched well have been averaging less than 6 innings per start. And yes, they've been throwing quite a few pitches per inning, but overall they haven't thrown a ton of pitches--whatever Dusty says. Sometimes this is because they've gotten in trouble, but mostly Dusty seems unwilling to let them go too far into games. This might change as the season progresses. Or maybe he's just been counting incorrectly so far?
On the flip side to the overperformers, we all have to hope that Volquez can figure out whatever's going on and start posting an ERA well below 6.75. But I have to think that, given the way Volquez has pitched after the first inning, the team would actually be inclined to keep him starting whenever Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto return. Going on the limited evidence so far, LeCure might deserve a shot to stick around with Wood and Leake heading out. Though I doubt that will happen, these guys need to make improvements if they want to avoid being shipped to AAA whenever that time comes.
And I haven't even touched on whatever's going on with Mike Leake; who knows how that will affect the rotation?
Regardless, though, the Reds need to find some way to consistently give this offense a chance to win games. Allowing an average of well over three runs per start--and then handing it over to an overworked bullpen for an average of more than three innings--isn't going to cut it.