The Reds Bullpen is a Problem

Reds Bullpen
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Rebuilding a baseball team from the ground up is a hard thing to do. The Cincinnati Reds are smack dab in the middle of a full rebuild, and so far, it’s going well. Their starting pitching is emerging, spearheaded by three young workhorses. Plenty of high level prospects are ready to make their debuts as soon as this year. The one thing the Reds have refused to address though, is the bullpen.

Very Familiar Struggles

It’s no secret that the Reds’ bullpen is not very good. In the past, it hasn’t been great, and even in years that they play very well, the bullpen has been the center of attention, and not in a good way. In 2020, the Reds traded away one of the best closers in baseball, Raisel Iglesias. Amir Garrett crashed the party in the shortened Covid season, but he struggled mightily in 2021. He was dealt to the Kansas City Royals when the Reds decided to tear down to the screws and rebuild. There are two examples of two very good relievers who are no longer on the team due to “budget cuts”. Since the rebuild started, it’s been a revolving door in the back end of the bullpen.

Alas, there are a few bright spots in the bullpen, but they’ve been missing for the better part of two years. Tejay Antone, who was having a breakout season in 2021, is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery and isn’t expected to be back until after this year’s All-Star break. Another name is Lucas Sims. Sims has been a very good setup man since coming over from the Atlanta Braves in a trade, but he’s also dealt with a slew of injuries himself. Sims is expected back within the next two weeks though, as he ramps up in Triple-A Louisville.

Even Worse than 2022

We all knew the Reds would be bad across the board in 2022. Injuries, a bad bullpen, and a generally young staff had fans suffering through a 100-loss season. The bumps and bruises to the young starters was expected, but even when they did shine, the bullpen blew way too many leads. So far this season, its been the same story, but worse. In 2023, the Reds have had the lead or been tied in every single game they’ve played in. Of those seven losses, the bullpen has been charged with six of them. The starting rotation has been fantastic this season, and with a better bullpen, they could easily be undefeated or have only one or two losses on the year. For a young team, that’s a confidence killer, especially since the offense has fought tooth and nail to keep the Reds in every single game.

The only saving grace for this bullpen has been the closer, Alexis Diaz. Since making his debut in 2022, he has been very good, much to the surprise of Reds fans. The only problem with that though, is that Alexis Diaz cannot pitch every single day. The Reds need to find a reliable way to connect the starters to Diaz while holding a lead. So far this year, they haven’t done that.

How do They Improve?

There is one glaring issue the Reds’ bullpen needs to work on. Walks have become a huge issue within the Reds’ bullpen, and they have allowed opposing offenses to stay in the game. It’s a proven fact that if you throw strikes, you get outs. So far this season, the Reds’ bullpen has almost refused to do so. The use of the bullpen by manager David Bell also doesn’t help either. They have been used early and often this season, and it has backfired more often than not. Every single pitcher in the bullpen has talent, so it’s almost baffling to see them have a walk rate of 8.6/BB9. That’s unacceptable for a major league bullpen. Until they start throwing strikes and attack the zone, the bullpen will continue to fail.

The Reds’ bullpen has been nothing short of bad so far this year. Every time the Reds have a lead, it has been erased by the opposing offense. Hopefully the injection of familiar arms coming off the injured list will help, but the Reds’ bullpen also needs to help itself. Cutting down on the walks, attacking the zone and throwing strikes will definitely help this bullpen become better. In the meantime, Reds fans are covering their eyes and praying for a miracle once the starter is lifted from the game. Here’s to hoping the bullpen can get it together, and make this season interesting.

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