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The Reds’ ace - in 2020

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In which this humble bloghole writer is staring unblinking at the Facebook comments

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The All-Star Game is tonight and the Reds will be proudly represented by Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. Which is fantastic and all, but honestly it could just as easily have been Tanner Roark or Amir Garrett. The staff is absolutely loaded. I wouldn’t blame you if you chose to sleep through the last half-decade of Reds baseball, but if that is the case, you will have to excuse the rest of us as we wipe up all the brains that just came out of our ears. “The Reds’ pitching staff is absolutely loaded” is right up there with “president Donald Trump” and “the guy who made Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary won an Oscar” on the list of Rip Van Winkle brain melters.

To add to that, Alex Wood, perhaps the most talented and accomplished pitcher acquired this past winter, will be making his Reds debut (God willing) in a matter of weeks. The rotation of Castillo, Gray, Roark, Tyler Mahle, and Anthony DeSclafani has been so consistent and good and healthy that they have made all but one start of the season thus far. To be honest, there isn’t an obvious candidate to bump when Wood makes his way back.

Barring injury, I think the odds-on favorite for bumping is Mahle. He is the youngest and is being paid the least and he still has options and you could not-unreasonably make the argument that he could work on stuff down in Louisville. Not a one of them deserves to lose his spot in the rotation, but somebody has to go, and my guess is that it will be Mahle.

And that’s too bad, really. I mean, it’s a really good problem to have for the Reds, but it’s a bummer for a kid like Mahle. But whether he gets demoted to AAA or the bullpen or not, I’m confident it won’t be for long. Because this kid is a stinger.

Numbers!

some good pitchers and Tyler Mahle

PITCHER ERA XFIP K/BB WHIP
PITCHER ERA XFIP K/BB WHIP
Clayton Kershaw 3.09 3.46 5.69 1.051
Geman Marquez 4.45 3.59 4.46 1.225
Luis Castillo 2.29 3.78 2.34 1.085
Tyler Mahle 4.47 3.84 3.96 1.241
Aaron Nola 3.74 3.84 2.82 1.301
Cole Hamels 2.98 4.05 2.77 1.204

Few would argue that these fellas are not among the better starting pitchers of the National League. Mahle is the exception on this list, and if you are smart enough, you’ll probably divine that this is intentional.

Here’s more numbers!

more pitching numbers

PLAYER HR/FB bWAR / fWAR
PLAYER HR/FB bWAR / fWAR
Kershaw 16.30% 1.6 / 2.1
Castillo 13.60% 3.7 / 2.3
Marquez 16.70% 3.2 / 2.8
Nola 17.40% 2.3 / 1.8
Hamels 10.70% 3.0 / 2.3
Mahle 20.70% 0.9 / 1.1

I think this here really gets to the heart of it: what separates a merely averagish starter like Mahle from the next level is his penchant for giving up home runs. Home run rate is up across the entire league this season, but Mahle has been especially allergic to mashed taters. For a good while, the average home run / fly ball rate has been around 10%, but this year it’s north of 13%. Mahle’s is above 20%.

And there is good reason to believe that this is kind of a fluke. As everything else here shows, he is good at just about everything else. He is particularly good at generating strikeouts and limiting walks. But home runs are pretty much the worst outcome for pitchers, and he has given up a lot of them.

I’ve always been bullish on Mahle, so I will admit some bias on my part. But that said, the numbers aren’t going to lie to us. Maybe he is the kind of pitcher who misses in the zone too much and so will always give up a ton of dingos. That’s possible, I suppose, but I’m more of mind that the home runs are more a function of bad luck and lack of experience than anything else. He has shown stretches in his young career when he can avoid the home runs and post solid months with an ERA in the 2.50 range. If I made better than bloghole money, I’d bet on Tyler Mahle turning those solid month-long stretches into season-long reigns of dominance. He isn’t yet 25, you know.

I’m going to bookmark this so next season when Tyler Mahle is getting the All-Star call I can remind you all of how cool and smart I am.