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The best signs of the Reds’ rough 1-7 start to the season lies in the quality of their starting pitching. In the offseason, they acquired Alex Wood, Sonny Gray, and Tanner Roark in trades with the Dodgers, Yankees, and Nationals, respectively, and were able to shed Homer Bailey’s enormous contract in the process. Even though Wood is out for most of April, Gray and Roark have already proven to be positive and solidifying additions to the rotation.
But, again, they’re 1-7.
That has everything to do with the offense. The Reds are dead last in runs scored (16!), hits (42!), and OPS (.509!). It’s a really small sample, of course, and given the quality of offensive talent — including, but not limited to, Joey Votto (who’s still hitting like Joey Votto) and Yasiel Puig — unlikely to stay bad for a very long stretch.
The only question is when the Reds do finally start clicking if they’ll be able to make any headway in the NL Central. The Brewers and Cardinals and Pirates will already have a head start of sorts on them, and the Cubs figure to dig themselves out of their hole (2-6) fairly quickly. The Reds have what it takes, though, to get it going because of this starting pitching. It’s not going to be the 2011 Giants, but it’s going to keep them in most games.
Last year’s Reds offense had a .763 OPS in the 4th-6th innings. Especially once Scooter Gennett returns, figure that their lineup can post similar damage in 2019. If they’re backed by a starting rotation that can keep the other team off the board or limit the damage in the early going, they’ll find themselves in a lot more games late. Don’t ask me to prognosticate about their bullpen, but even then, figuring a bullpen out in the middle of a season is far more preferable than having a shambles of a rotation.
Tanner Roark gave up three runs in five innings along with 7 hits (1 home run) and three walks — not great. However, before today’s game (his second start of the year for the Reds), he was part of a rotation that featured five starters with no FIP higher than 3.09 (Sonny Gray).
Last year, their lowest rotation FIP was Luis Castillo at 4.32. For some context, Derek Holland’s 3.87 FIP was 27th-best out of all starters. Is FIP better than ERA? It’s just a matter of perspective. It takes into consideration only the events a pitcher has the most control over — no hits, but home runs. Walks, but not intentional walks, hit by pitches, and strikeouts. Wood, Gray, and Roark all have sub-4.00 career FIPs.
The Reds have the worst offense in baseball right now, but at the moment, they’ve allowed the 6th-fewest runs (27, tied with Minnesota) and they’ve actually allowed the fewest home runs (3). As alarming as the offense’s small sampling is, the pitching’s is exciting.
FIP, of course, isn’t everything, and the Great American Ballpark is inhospitable to even the best pitchers, but the Reds did have success this decade with starting pitching. It’s not an impossibility that they can get by with a solid, experienced trio (once Wood comes back healthy). They just... you know... really need to start scoring runs. And soon.