Though the offense is seemingly everyone’s favorite topic when talking about the miserable season that 2014 has been, the bullpen may be the most crippling facet of this team that isn’t being discussed. That is not to say that the Reds offense is good; rather, it’s to suggest that the Reds offense is good enough to compete in the current landscape of MLB.

While the Reds have only scored 526 runs on the year—third worst in all of the sport—the Atlanta Braves, currently tied for the NL’s second wild-card spot, have scored even fewer runs. Furthermore, the St. Louis Cardinals, who are currently sitting on top of the NL Central now, rank just ahead of the Reds in runs scored (536). 

The Cardinals are the fourth-worst scoring team in baseball, and yet, the Milwaukee Brewers, the No. 3 offense in the NL, is now looking up at the birds. 

If offense is what really matters here, what are we missing?

On, you can follow the downward trajectory of offense by the dwindling amount of runs scored per year. From 2000 to 2009, the best offensive NL team would routinely have 800-plus runs scored. That hasn’t happened for five years now.

This year, on September 5, there is only one team that has over 600 runs, and they’ll be doing the same thing the Reds will be doing this September.

The point is, if you’re talking about offense when discussing the Reds, you’re talking about the wrong topic. Offense is the red herring of baseball.

A prolific offense is fun, but it’s not indicative of a competitor in today’s game. So naturally, if not offense, the focus shifts to pitching.

The Reds have the No. 5 starter ERA in baseball. The ability of this starting core is unquestioned. The bullpen is an entirely different story. With an ERA of four and an abysmal record of 10-27, I maintain that if anything has been the agent of chaos this year, it’s the bullpen.

That’s the story on the season. Not the offense. The injuries, while significant, weren’t enough to keep the Reds just 1.5 games out of first in the NL Central at the break. So with that mind, it’s promising that the Reds will have a new-look bullpen next season.

Anchoring the back of the bullpen will be the under-utilized closer, Aroldis Chapman. That much is certain, especially with the trading of Jonathan Broxton. As of September 5, Chapman has logged just 44.1 innings of work. While utterly depressing, that’s a topic for another rant.

Setting up for Chapman will be a close-up man who doesn’t cost $9 million. Jumbo Diaz has proven himself worthy. In 26.1 innings of work, Diaz has 27 strikeouts and has allowed just nine earned runs. He can hopefully instill the same confidence in himself that people had in Broxton.

The alternative to Diaz in late-innings will be the other multi-million set-up arm, the elusive Sean Marshall. Per, Marshall will command $6.5 million next season. Hopefully, he’ll return to health and be the left-handed specialist the Reds thought they stole from the Chicago Cubs.

If not Marshall, what about Ryan Dennick? His one major league inning of flawless work aside, he did have an impressive Triple-A season. Per, in 49.2 innings of work, Dennick allowed just 13 earned runs. This lefty might be a capable option if Marshall doesn’t recover. 

Manny Parra will most certainly be back next season. Per, he’ll be making $3.5 million. In 33.2 innings of work, Parra has struck out 34 batters, a promising metric. Less promising are the 35 hits allowed in the frame, a .269 opposing batting average and a 1.51 WHIP. Parra struggled with back stiffness mid-year, so hopefully that can be attributed to those poor numbers.

The right-handers will look familiar. Per, Sam LeCure will make $1.85 million next season. This has not been a good season for LeCure. Batters are hitting .301 against him. In 46.2 innings of work, he’s allowed 55 hits, good for 20 earned runs. 

Logan Ondrusek is arbitration eligible next year, so he’ll probably return as well. Batters are hitting .278 on Ondrusek this year, which has led to an ERA of 4.30 in just 37.2 innings of work. His 1.46 WHIP instills virtually no confidence.

Unless J.J. Hoover has an amazing spring, it’s less likely we’ll see him next year, and more likely we’ll see the Cuban right-hander Raisel Iglesias. Although he could even end up starting should a starter be dealt this offseason, it’s more likely he’ll continue his role in a relief capacity, considering how awful the right-handed arms in the Reds bullpen currently are. 

Mark Sheldon of asserts the Reds want him to eventually start. And while that’s true, the bullpen is in dire condition, and he might best be utilized, at least for next year, in the bullpen.

Tony Cingrani might be the first choice to replace any starter, considering that was predominantly his role this season before getting injured. 

Carlos Contreras may be the next right-handed arm, maybe in an early relief capacity. He has not fared well in the majors this year, albeit with very little exposure. He’s allowed 14 earned runs in 18 innings. At the same time, he’s struck out 18 batters in that time. lists Contreras as the Reds’ No. 7 prospect. 

So would this bullpen inspire more confidence in 2015?

CL: Aroldis Chapman
SU: Jumbo Diaz
SU: Sean Marshall / Manny Parra
RP: Sam LeCure
RP: Raisel Iglesias
RP: Ryan Dennick
RP: Logan Ondrusek
RP: Carlos Contreras

The right arms on this list, minus Diaz and Iglesias, really leave much to be desired. The Reds might consider addressing the right arms in this bullpen before getting a left fielder.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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