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Cincinnati Reds: Bullpen Crippling Team's Progress

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Cincinnati Reds: Bullpen Crippling Team's Progress
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The reason why the Reds are three games below .500 and six games back of the first place Milwaukee Brewers has little to do with offense. According to the numbers, the Reds are just under par when it comes to National League offenses.

They're near the bottom of the NL in terms of cumulative runs scored (No. 13), but top seven or better in several other categories.

The team batting average (.249) is No. 7 in the NL, in front of both Milwaukee and St. Louis. Their OBP (.321) is No. 4 in the NL, in front of every NL Central rival. In terms of strikeouts, only one team in the NL strikes out less than the Reds.

They are on the low end of extra-base hits (89), but they're just 11 short of Milwaukee (100), and the Brewers are tied with several other teams for the fourth most extra-base hits in the NL. 

So while the offense isn't great by any means, it's not barren. And the early portion of the schedule has been littered with exceptional opposition pitching. The difference so far in this young 2014 season is the Reds bullpen.

Some daunting numbers plague a facet of this team that has traditionally been a staple. The Reds bullpen sits at 2-8 with a 4.40 ERA. That's officially tied for the worst win/loss bullpen ratio in baseball. In fact, just one team has more bullpen losses than the Reds.

The 4.40 bullpen ERA is No. 25 in baseball. The ERA might be that large because of the Reds' bullpen inability to strike batters out. At just 65 strikeouts on the year, the Reds' bullpen is officially dead last in strikeouts (No. 30).

Opponents are hitting .258 off this bullpen, which is the sixth worst opponent batting average in baseball. That's just partially why the Reds' bullpen WHIP is the second worst in MLB. With a WHIP of 1.33, only the Houston Astros are worse.

WHIP can be described as a measure of stress, which might explain why Reds fans have been so stressed whenever the ball is turned over to the 'pen. It's the amount of walks and hits allowed per inning. The above means the Reds have not experienced a lot of easy innings under the bullpen.

The bullpen is probably in its current state due to massive preseason injuries to both setup men, Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton, as well closer Aroldis Chapman. These three injuries produced a chain reaction that ended with the Reds relying on guys like Nick Christiani (4.91 ERA), Logan Ondrusek (6.48), J.J. Hoover (9.31) and Trevor Bell (67.50).

And even though guys like Ondrusek and Hoover were in the blueprint, they probably wouldn't have been pitching in favor of Marshall, Broxton and Chapman late in close games. And the Reds have had plenty of those, having already lost an MLB-leading 11 one-run ball games.

There is hope, though. Despite poor numbers, the Reds bullpen has pitched in just 73.2 innings. That is remarkable, considering the next bullpen to throw the least amount of innings is Atlanta, a bullpen that has pitched in just over 87 innings.

Bullpen innings pitched is a significant stat. Last season, just two of the top-10 teams in bullpen innings pitched made the playoffs. In 2012, just three teams in the top 10 teams in bullpen innings pitched went on the postseason.

In 2011, zero. In 2010, just twoone being the Reds, who were steamrolled by the Phillies in a first round sweep. 

The low amount of innings pitched is a faded silver lining to an overall disastrous problem. Given the starting pitching, the offense doesn't need to boast big numbers. The Reds are in a strong position to win baseball games because of their ability to limit runs scored against them. For now, that changes as soon as the bullpen gate opens. 

All stats courtesy of ESPN.com

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