With his fastball velocity down a full 2 mph from 2017, his slider velocity down over 2.5 mph, more total walks than strikeouts on his ledger, and nearly as many runs allowed as innings pitched, the 2018 season has not been kind to Brandon Finnegan thusfar when he’s taken the mound. Add-in the shoulder injuries he’s been slow to overcome, and it’s been a grind for the 25 year old lefty, one that is beginning to draw into question whether he’s still deserving of one of the five coveted spots in the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation.
152 MLB pitchers have logged at least 20 innings so far in the 2018 season. By ERA, Finnegan ranks as the 5th worst among that group at 8.27. By FIP, it’s even worse - his 7.12 mark ranks 3rd worst in all of baseball, which on the surface would suggest that it’s just about time to stop trying to depend on him to pitch effectively deep into games for the Reds every fifth day.
The issues with the concept of demoting Finnegan are twofold, really. First, there’s his age, as he just turned 25 years old and the purpose of the 2018 edition of this awful rebuild was to let the younger players on the roster take some lumps, learn from them, and develop into more grizzled veterans for future success. That’s certainly still the hope for Finnegan, who is still in the rotation largely due to the ability he flashed in a solid-enough 2016 season before getting hurt. Second, and perhaps more glaring at the moment, is that someone has to pitch innings for the Reds, and the potential competitors for rotation spots haven’t exactly kicked down the door.
If you tab back over to that FanGraphs’ FIP list I linked to a second ago, you don’t have to scroll too much further down from Finnegan to run into Sal Romano, whose 6.02 mark ranks as 9th worst in baseball. Then, you’ll quickly find Homer Bailey, too, as his 5.67 mark ranks as the 16th worst. Scroll just a tad bit further on the first page of this illustrious leaderboard and you’ll even run into Luis Castillo, as the would-be ace of the Reds checks in at 26th on the list. Down in Louisville, Cody Reed still hasn’t made it past 5 IP in any of his 3 starts, Robert Stephenson is still walking nearly everyone in sight (6.5 BB/9), Jose Lopez has been knocked around in his first taste of AAA (5.26 ERA), and even Justin Nicolino - who has over 200 innings of big league experience under his belt - is skating by with a 4.00 ERA despite allowing an uncanny 11.0 H/9.
Really, the only obvious candidate for a rotation spot is Amir Garrett, who has been dazzling in the bullpen and is back on the roster after a brief stint on the bereavement list. With Garrett, though, there are a pair of mitigating factors in play. For one, he’d need to be stretched out a bit to take over a rotation spot right this moment, as he’s thrown just 18.1 IP in his 15 relief appearances so far this year. Secondly, it appears clear for some set of reasons that I cannot comprehend that the front office isn’t inclined to move Garrett back to the rotation at all anytime soon, since he pretty well earned a spot based on his Cactus League play and has clearly looked improved - and healthy - for several months now. If that hasn’t been enough to earn him a promotion, I’m not sure that Finnegan’s struggles alongside most every one of his rotation mates is enough to change that odd course of decision-making.
All that is to say that it was wholly unsurprising to hear manager Jim Riggleman’s comments after yesterday’s outing, ones that seemed to indicate that Finnegan isn’t about to lose his rotation spot anytime soon, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reported. While Riggleman was hardly complimentary of his lefty’s performance thus far, saying “He’s better than this. I know that,” is a semi-endorsement of a few more chances to prove that saying correct.
The fact is, the Cincinnati Reds again boast the worst starting pitching in baseball. Their entire pitching staff, really, has been awful once again, though fortunately there is no Yovani Gallardo there to drag down every major statistic for the rest of the year. It hasn’t just been this year, though. It’s been a multi-year slog of awfulness that just continues and continues to manifest itself, and has been more historically awful than any other stretch of pitching from any other franchise in modern baseball history.
Gross. Just, gross.
In other news, Redleg Nation has grown increasingly convinced that the Reds should move Raisel Iglesias this summer, and it’s a compelling argument. Not only is “the Reds are 8-26 and no team that awful needs a closer” nearly argument enough, but the recent trends of doling out huge contracts to free agent relievers and/or trading high profile prospects for proven bullpen arms both seem to suggest it’s an idea worth exploring.
Over at RedsMinorLeagues.com, Doug Gray noticed that Nick Senzel - who’s been out for a handful of days thanks to another bout of dizziness that may be related to the vertigo issues that ended his 2017 campaign - is feeling better and might well be back in the Louisville lineup as early as today. That’s a welsome relief.
Finally, The Enquirer’s John Fay spoke with both Bob Castellini and GM Dick Williams about the club’s efforts on improving their international signings - both in the quality of players they scout and sign and in how they develop the players they get. Given how few players the Reds have actually seen reach the big leagues after being signed and developed in their own system, I’d say that’s certainly a valid point of emphasis.