We continue Red Reporter's player-by-player look at the 2015 Cincinnati Reds. We'll profile every player who got time for the Reds this year, and will imagine their tenure with the Reds going forward.
By the Numbers
67 G, 64.1 IP, 8-2 W-L, 2.94 ERA (73 ERA-), 1.17 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 1.0 bWAR
In 2014, J.J. Hoover was really bad. Well, there was that stretch for nearly two months with a 2.22 ERA, but overall he was really bad. So, despite having strong seasons in 2012 and 2013, he was a big question mark coming into 2015. Would we see the reliable late-inning reliever we'd seen before, or had the league seen his deceptive delivery enough times now that a very straight 93 MPH fastball was no longer deceptive enough to get swings and misses? Had the league figured J.J. out?
2015 in Review
Turns out: no. Hoover turned in one of the better seasons of his career. Going into September, Hoover had an ERA of 1.74 and WHIP of 1.04. In the last month, he appeared to simply run out of gas, and saw his ERA almost double, but for five of the six months of the season, Hoover was arguably the most effective reliever in a bullpen that also featured Aroldis Chapman. From April 24 to June 27, he put himself on the Reds historical leaderboard by going 30 consecutive games and 28.2 innings without allowing an earned run. He broke some impressive marks he himself set back in 2013 (23 games and 26.1 innings). Hoover also continued to be a workhorse in the bullpen, missing no time with injuries and topping 60 IP for the third consecutive season.
There were a few troubling signs from last season, however. Hoover's K rate plummeted from his usual stellar levels, and his walk rate remained uncomfortably high. Some of this may have been the result of a decision to change his approach, as he easily set the best mark of his career in GB% (which was still quite low at 40%). But if Hoover eschewed strikeouts in favor of groundballs consciously, it's hard to argue with the results. Granted, they were results also aided by a .215 BABIP, which is low even by Hoover's standards.
If he wants to replicate his very solid 2015 campaign, he's probably going to have to rediscover his strikeout stuff to some degree, because it's not likely that the BABIP will stay so low again. As always, it would be nice if he could get his walks more under control as well, but he's been living on that knife's edge his whole career, and so far he's mostly been able to escape. For a bullpen that looks very wide open in 2016 (especially if Chapman is traded), the Reds likely view Hoover as one of the few reliable relievers to be counted on all year. While the pieces around him maybe be in constant motion, Hoover will be working somewhere in the 7th-9th innings.
Chances of making the 2016 Reds roster: 92%