The Reds' pitching this year has osculated between "terrible" and "that feeling when you take a seat and realize that it is still warm from the last person that sat there and they probably farted a whole bunch into the cushion and now you have a bunch of stranger fart flecks soaking into the seat of your pants." But let's be real: we saw this coming. This is a rebuild, so most innings are being thrown by youngsters earning their stripes (ie Brandon Finnegan) and oldsters just trying to hang in (ie Alfredo Simon).
So it shouldn't surprise that this team is well on its way to setting the Major-League record for home runs surrendered.
But come on, we saw this coming. 2016 was never going to be about winning games, but rather about evaluating all the young arms and trying determine the who, where, and how it will all fit together.
In light of all that, I was intrigued to see in last week's #heyBARtender that CTrent and Zach "The Cannon" Buchanan brought up the idea that the Reds could use both Rasiel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen as old-school firemen. It is not a new idea, but it has really fallen out of fashion in recent years. In fact, since 2000, only five different pitchers have broken the 100-inning mark while pitching exclusively from the bullpen (and three of them are named "Scot[t]"). The last to do so was Scott Proctor 10 years ago. Good ol' Scott Sullivan did it for your Reds in both 2000 and 2001. But contemporary bullpen usage relies far more on platoon match-ups and strict adherence to roles like "mop-up guy," "setup man," and "closer." High-leverage long relievers just aren't deployed anymore.
But both Rasiel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen have been kinda-sorta used as such this season. Iggy began the season as a starter (he started on Opening Day, remember?) and Lorenzen began the year on the disabled list, so neither will reach that auspicious innings count. Iggy has thrown multiple innings in 16 relief appearances so far, and Lorenzen a dozen times. And most importantly, they both have pitched spectacularly well. At this kind of pace and quality, they could dramatically change the composition, deployment, and effectiveness of the entire bullpen.
Probably the most important variable in all of this is the uncertainty at the helm of the ship. Brian Price's contract expires after this season. The Reds have not publicly committed either way on him. He could be back or they could go with someone else. There was a lot of hope at the beginning if his tenure that he would initiate these kinds of changes with the likes of Aroldis Chapman, but then nothing changed and Chapman was used exclusively as a traditional closer. So who knows if Price is really on board with all this. He might be all about it and is using Iggy and Lorenzen like this because he feels like he has nothing to lose. Or maybe the front office is pressuring him to experiment like this against his wishes and he is going along with it to try to ingratiate a bit. (It is worth noting here that in our meeting with assistant GMs Sam Grossman and Nick Krall a few weeks ago, Sam stated outright that getting 100-120 relief innings from Iggy may be the way to get the most value out of him, so at the very least we know it is a topic of conversation upstairs). And of course, a new manager could do any, all, or none of the above.
Still, the fact that they have been used like this is not nothing. Personally, I absolutely love it. The contemporary conventional wisdom on bullpen usage is grotesquely inefficient. The most talented arms are most often used in the least important of situations, which is completely dumbshit. I think bullpen reform is the Next Great Market Inefficiency and I would be delighted to see the Reds on the vanguard. They have amassed an enviable stable of fine young hurlers and not all of them will fit or survive in the starting rotation. This could be the perfect way to get the most production out of this crop of talent.