This is not a hyper-analytical piece. It’s going to have very, very few statistics at all. None, technically, depending on your views on the modern advancement of baseball research on player value.
In fact, were it not for a certain word threshold that we’re supposed to cross when we write these things (hi boss!), I might well have just embedded a tweet, had a laugh and a beer, and chuckled my way to hitting post on this thing.
The topic of this brief chucklepiece revolves around the pitching staff of the Cincinnati Reds. Namely, how bad, hittable, awful, bad, hittable, awful, and poor it has been for the last few years. It also includes the newest addition to the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff - namely, one Tanner Roark, the 32 year old who came to the Reds last week in a surprise move at the MLB Winter Meetings after a handful of largely excellent seasons with the Washington Nationals.
I’ve rambled long enough. Just read this.
Here's some fun with a) how wishy-washy WAR calculations can be and b) just how bad Reds pitching has been for awhile now.— Red Reporter (@redreporter) December 18, 2018
Since the start of the 2016 season:
- Tanner Roark: 9.8 bWAR
- the entire Cincinnati Reds pitching staff: 9.2 fWAR
See, the chuckle-inducement comes from the fact that a pitcher we weren’t even bothering to consider as a viable target for the Reds because he wasn’t ‘top of the rotation’ caliber has, over the last three years, been pretty much as valuable as the entire flock of pitchers rolled out by the Cincinnati Reds instead. And while comparing Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (bWAR, or rWAR in some citations) with FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) is far from a one-for-one comparison, the entire concept of WAR itself has enough moving parts and variations that comparing bWAR to other bWAR sometimes has one scratching their heads.
For the record, Roark’s 7.7 fWAR in that 2016-2018 timeframe listed above is almost within the margin of error to consider it equal to the 9.2 fWAR from the Cincinnati staff. Almost.
Also for the record, the Reds totaled 10.7 bWAR in that 2016-2018 timeframe listed above, and that, too, is almost within the margin of error to consider it relatively equal to Roark’s work with Washington. Almost.
None of this is to suggest that Tanner Roark is now the ‘ace’ of the Reds staff, or that at 32 years old he’s going to continue to produce the way he has in the past. The fact of the matter is that Roark has been a pretty damn solid pitcher for Washington while operating as roughly their #4 starter for the last handful of seasons, and if Tanner Roark is the 4th most valuable pitcher on a team’s pitching staff, odds are that’s a pretty damn stacked pitching staff.
Yes, Washington has had quite a fine pitching staff.
Tanner Roark, even if he just replicates his previous form, looks to be the clear anchor of this current iteration of the Reds pitching staff - for now. If Tanner Roark is the best pitcher on a pitching staff, though, odds are that their pitching staff isn’t going to help a team win a ton of games.
Reds pitching has been pretty bad on the whole. Tanner Roark, on the other hand, has been pretty damn decent. And while his addition came at little to no cost and looks to be a solid addition, even the fact that his previous 3-year value has been roughly equivalent of every single thing the Reds had to offer doesn’t mean he’s improvement enough.
Man, we’ve watched a pile of baaaaaaaaaaaad pitching over the years.