Cincinnati Reds' Starting Pitchers: First Inning Blues
As far as numbers go, 404 looks pretty cool. Take away the parts that jut out of the fours and it would be 101—or binary for five. And five is a great number. One can do all kinds of things with five.
Unfortunately, 404 can also be looked at as a percentage.
So far this season, Reds' pitchers have given up at least one run during the first inning of 38 of their 94 games—or 40.4 percent each time their starter has taken the mound.
In the first inning of each of the 94 games played, the Reds' starting corps has a mind-blowing 7.30 ERA.
Yes, like all other teams, the Reds have given up some huge first innings.
Let's take away the four worst and four of the three up, three down innings, and see what we get. The ERA drops to 5.76, with a 1.66 WHIP, .292 opponent batting average (BAA), and a .372 opponent on-base percentage (OOBP).
Remember, BAA is batting average against or opponent batting average, and OOBP is opponent on-base percentage—they will be used a lot throughout this article.
Seven different pitchers have started games for the Reds this season: Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Micah Owings, Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey, and Matt Maloney.
Of the seven, four have started 10 or more games: Harang, Arroyo, Cueto, and Owings.
Not everyone is at fault. Or are they?
Let's take a peek at some individual numbers.
Of the four who have started more than 10, Harang easily ranks numero uno. In 20 starts, or 20 first innings, his 5.40 ERA leads the club—by 2.54 earned runs.
The major reason for his success is his control. Harang has walked only three in 20 innings.
Sure, Harang has given up 28 hits and is allowing a .329 BAA. But let's give him a break. At least he's letting opponents put the ball in play.
And since he has more than 10 starts, shall we give a brother a break?
Okay, let's take away his worst and best start and call it his "sample mean"—because that is it's official name in statistics.
Taking away a start that saw Harang face seven batters and give up four hits and three earned runs. His numbers now look like this: 4.50 ERA, .320 BAA, .346 OOBP.
Aaron Harang is easily making himself look like Tim Lincecum when comparing him to the other Reds' starters and their first inning efforts.
Hardcore Reds' fans will remember that Cueto got hammered for nine earned runs in a 22-1 loss to the Phillies. Counting that start, his first inning ERA is 8.68, while sporting a 2.20 WHIP.
Let's just forget that start and jump to his sample mean.
In 17 innings, Cueto has given up 23 hits and 10 walks. That's almost putting two runners on base per first inning—again, not including that 22-1 game.
Considering that, it is amazing that his ERA is only 4.76 in 17 starts.
Reds' fans not looking to go into a maniacal rage should probably stop reading right here, right now.
Sticking around? Okay, it's about to get ugly. Like Bearded Woman ugly.
In 20 starts this season, Bronson Arroyo has allowed 21 first inning earned runs.
His sample mean is not much better, 16 earned runs in 18 innings.
Respectively, that translates to a 9.45 and an 8.00 ERA. In 10 of his 20 starts he has given up a first inning earned run, good for a two wins versus eight losses.
When Arroyo has allowed two or more runners to reach base in the first inning, the Reds have one win and nine losses.
Saving the best of the 10-plus starters for last, let's give Micah Owings some credit.
Owings is the only member of the staff to hold a sample mean BAA of over .300 (.306) and an OOBP of over .400 (.405). All right, Cueto did give him a run for his money, but while he did allow a sample mean BAA of .311, his OOBP of .393 fell just short.
It is a tough call between Owings and Arroyo as to who holds the distinction of the worst Reds first inning pitcher.
Before Volquez hurt his arm, he was almost as bad as the others.
His BAA (.250) and OOBP (.333) were much better. Even though his nine games started really is not enough to deserve a sample mean, let's cut the dude a break since he pitched injured a couple of times.
His sample mean BAA is a respectable .241, as is his .324 OOBP. Not Cy Young Award material but nice enough—especially looking at the others.
So why say that he was as bad as the others? First inning 6.42 ERA—only half a point lower than his non-sample mean 7.00 ERA.
Not to get anyone's hopes up, but in the first inning Homer has been lights out thus far.
Through his first five games he did not allow a first inning hit. Then the Dodgers lit him up for three hits and two runs.
Granted, the sample size is small. Six games to be exact, but he is holding steady with a 0.87 WHIP, .158 BAA, and .273 OOBP.
All of which are much better than any other Reds' pitcher during any six-game span.
Pretty good first inning numbers in his three starts. Three innings pitched, 10 at-bats, two hits, walked a guy, hit a guy, and allowed one earned run.
• The Reds have allowed a first inning earned run in 38 of 94 games. Good for a 9-29 record, or a .237 winning percentage.
• They have allowed two or more base runners to reach in the first inning 45 times in their 94 games. They are 13-32 (.289) in those games.
At the very least, pitching coach Dick Pole needs to be fired and replaced by Reds' AAA affiliate Louisville's pitching coach, Ted Power.
While the Reds are firing people go ahead and get rid of Dusty Baker, Brook Jacoby, Chris Speier—just replace everybody. Get rid of them all. Replace them with Rick Sweet and the rest of the guys down at Louisville.
When a team has an entire group of starting pitchers who are this dreadful in the first inning it is a coaching problem not a player problem.
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