Entering the 2010 baseball season, the Cincinnati Reds and their fans had lofty expectation for the starting staff. Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Aaron Harang, and Mike Leake have gone way above and beyond those expectations since, on April 24, manager Dusty Baker went "Bull Durham" on the entire team.
Yesterday Craig Simpson wrote an article titled, "Dusty Baker Goes Bull Durham, Cincinnati Reds Respond." Simpson explained that Baker chastised his team for it's lackadaisical play.
The old curiosity peaked and an investigation was in order.
Knowing that the starters were pitching better than they were at the beginning of their dismal excuse for a season, a team of experts was sent to delve deeper.
The findings are mind blowing.
Collectively, over the last 21 games, the starters are 12-3, with an ERA of 3.11, and a 1.11 WHIP.
The "quality start" stat used to be looked at as a joke. In recent years, it has become a pretty decent indicator of a staff's success, or lack thereof. In their last 21 games Reds' starters have amassed 15 quality starts. Boys and girls, that's a 71 percent clip.
From April 25 until yesterday, May 18, their ERA has dropped almost two full points—from 6.49 to a 4.55 spot.
Before the meeting only one starter, Leake, had an ERA under four.
Small sample sizes, yes. Bailey is the only guy with five starts—all others have four.
However, since the meeting Arroyo's ERA has dropped 2.65 points, Bailey's 2.26 points, Cueto is down from 5.33 to 3.67 (a difference of 1.66 points), Harang has seen his dip 2.29 points, and even Leake now sports a 3.09 ERA, 0.83 points better than before.
WHIPs since Dusty went Durham: Cueto 0.88, Leake 0.92, Arroyo 1.14, Bailey 1.16, with his 1.37 WHIP, Harang is looking like the chump of the bunch. But his ERA during the run is 4.01—very respectable.
The Reds have played 12 home games and nine away.
Great American Ball Park is a notorious home run stadium—that's putting it kindly.
During the three-plus week stretch the staff is letting only 1.03 balls leave the yard per nine innings.
The numbers go on-and-on: a 7.6 K/9 ratio, while allowing only 2.27 batters to reach via walk per nine.
How are they doing it?
Throw strikes, baby...Throw strikes! Getting ahead in counts while making hitters work down in the count allows the starter to work deeper into the ballgames.
In 19 of the last 21 games, the starting pitcher has thrown at least six full. Just once during the span has a starter been removed before completing five innings, and only once more before the pitching six full.
So Dusty must be abusing his starters again, right? Nope. Well, maybe.
Twice Baker has allowed a starter to throw more than 120 pitches. Both Bailey and Harang threw 121 in a start.
Cueto has thrown 113 and 118—that may be a bit distressing. He also needed 102 in his complete game, one-hit shutout.
Rubber-armed Arroyo has pitched 100-plus (never hitting 110) in three of his four starts.
Rookie sensation, Mike Leake, has been allowed over the 100-mark in just one of his last four starts.
Besides Dusty's Durham speech, much of the credit must be given to first-year pitching coach, Bryan Price.
No doubt, it has been a promising three-week run for the Cincy starters.
One that has The Queen City and it's surrounding regions all ready buzzing with a long forgotten playoff vibe.