The Reds surprised many on Tuesday afternoon, acquiring former Royals closer Jonathan Broxton for two solid minor league arms, RHP J.C. Sulbaran and LHP Donnie Joseph. The reason for the surprise: Cincinnati already had the top bullpen in the majors. With Broxton added to the mix, a lot of people around Cincinnati are reminiscing about the 1990 season.
1990 was the last time the Reds went to the World Series. They swept the Oakland A’s and the team dominated throughout the season, never relinquishing first place the entire season, going wire-to-wire, and winning the NL West by five games over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The bullpen was led by three men, nicknamed “The Nasty Boys,” Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers. All three were 27 years old or younger, and all three of them were dominant out of the bullpen.
Norm Charlton was acquired by the Reds in 1986 from the Montreal Expos. He made it to the majors in 1988, when he started 10 games for Cincinnati. He was moved to the bullpen in 1989, pitching in 69 games and compiling a 2.93 ERA over 95.1 innings. He pitched in relief for most of the 1990 season before moving to the rotation in July. A lot of people forget that about Charlton, though. He went 6-5 with a 2.60 ERA in 16 starts for the World Champion Reds in 1990, while going 6-4 with a 3.02 ERA in 40 appearances as a reliever.
Rob Dibble was the fierce fireballer for the Reds in 1990. He put up an eye-popping 136:34 K:BB in 98 innings, posting a 1.74 ERA and 11 saves over 68 appearances. Dibble had dominated opponents in 1988 and 1989, as well, going 11-6 with a 1.99 ERA in 158.1 innings, compiling a 200:60 K:BB. Bill Mazeroski had this to say about him in the 1993 edition of his book on baseball:
“He’s (Rob Dibble) the hardest thrower in the league, bar none. Some people say his fastball doesn’t have much movement. Hell, how much movement do you need when you throw 100?”
Randy Myers officially held the closer title for the Cincinnati Reds in 1990. He went 4-6 with a 2.08 ERA, compiling 31 saves and a 98:38 K:BB in 86.2 innings over 66 appearances. Myers came to Cincinnati from the New York Mets when the Reds dealt John Franco to New York prior to the 1990 season. Myers would start games in 1991 (12 starts, the only games he started in his 728 career games pitched) before being traded to the San Diego Padres prior to the 1992 season.
It was interesting to look back at “The Nasty Boys” and see how many appearances they had with more than one inning pitched. You just don’t see that today, outside of Mariano Rivera, as the two-inning save seems to be a dead art form.
Also, looking back at “The Nasty Boys,” you can see how much the current bullpen resembles them. Charlton and Myers were left-handers, as are Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall. Jonathan Broxton, the recently acquired arm, would relate well to the blazing-armed Dibble.
The 2012 version of “The Nasty Boys” still have some work to do to match the success of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds, but the current “Best Team in Baseball” can rely on these guys quite a bit.
Sean Marshall has gone 4-1 in 38 games since the start of May, posting a 1.65 ERA and a 36:5 K:BB over 32.2 innings. He lost the closer role, but he is doing fine work as a setup man.
Aroldis Chapman should garner some Cy Young votes, and it is concerning to me that he has not received any hype on that front to this date. Chapman had a brief hiccup in June, but he still is 4-4 with a 1.39 ERA for the season, appearing in 48 games and compiling a 96:14 K:BB in 51.2 innings with 23 saves. At his current rate, he would finish with a 150:22 K:BB in 79.2 innings with 36 saves. Sickening. Opposing batters are hitting just .128 against him.
Jonathan Broxton only had a 2.27 ERA in 35 games, compiling 23 saves for the Kansas City Royals prior to being acquired by Cincinnati. Broxton used to strike out a lot more hitters (26:14 K:BB this year), but with an average fastball of 94.9 mph this year, he could be one of the best seventh- or eighth-inning pitchers in the history of baseball.
While Walt Jocketty confused fans by dealing for another bullpen arm instead of a leadoff hitter, the Reds were coming off of their first loss in 11 games after losing to San Diego on Monday night. Why fix what does not appear to be broken? With all of this winning occurring without their superstar, first baseman Joey Votto, it is scary to think of what the team is capable of upon his return.
The whole Reds team looks to be nasty this year, and the bullpen is a fun reminder to 10-year-old me as to what a championship ballclub should look like.