David Kohl/Associated Press
Cincinnati's bullpen has been a major disappointment, mainly because of injuries, but the relievers have been turning it around lately.
The bullpen started the season without Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall. One by one, they started to come back. The bullpen no longer had to rely on guys such as Trevor Bell and Curtis Partch.
At one point, the bullpen's earned run average was the worst in the majors by quite a bit. Now, the earned run average has dropped below 4.00 and is working its way up the rankings.
With Mat Latos' return to the rotation, Marshall went to the disabled list and Tony Cingrani shifted to the bullpen. Marshall had a 7.71 ERA in 15 outings this season and clearly wasn't right, so he and the team decided that it would be best for him to try to get his left shoulder to 100 percent.
Cincinnati's bullpen is getting back to being the dominant bullpen it has been for the past few seasons. Chapman and Broxton have both pitched at All-Star levels. After starting slowly for the second consecutive season, J.J. Hoover has gotten it together in June. Sam LeCure has been strong for most of the season, minus a few recent hiccups.
As good as the bullpen has been lately, there are still some weak spots. The biggest weakness has been the team's left-handed middle relief work. As mentioned above, Marshall has been very shaky. Manny Parra had a solid 2013 season, but he has not been reliable this season.
Parra has a 4.64 ERA and a 1.500 WHIP in 30 outings this season. Left-handed batters are hitting .275 off him after hitting just .167 off him last season. He has also allowed four of the 16 runners he has inherited to score, which is just one fewer than he allowed in nearly twice as many chances last year.
If the Reds insist on using Tony Cingrani as a long man rather than a setup man or left-handed specialist (has held left-handers to a .208 average in 2014), they may need to look at adding another southpaw to the bullpen.
The Chicago Cubs could look to move southpaw James Russell at the deadline. Depending on the asking price, the Reds may look into putting together a package to help bolster the bullpen.
Cincinnati may also look at acquiring some arms for the future bullpen. Logan Ondrusek has been inconsistent this season, and Alfredo Simon is aging and will be a free agent after the 2015 season. Bringing in a young arm or two via trade and giving them some action in September could benefit the team in the future.
The Reds could try to fix their left-handed need by letting Cingrani serve as a left-handed specialist, but if they don't, a trade may be necessary in order to help solidify that part of the bullpen.