The Cincinnati Reds finished the official midpoint of the 2014 season in style, winning eight of their last nine games including a 6-1 record on the road.
While the Reds’ bats have come alive after a dormant first half, the Reds’ rotation has remained the primary reason for the team’s success. Over the past nine games, only once has a Reds’ starter not completed at least seven innings. In five of those games, the Reds’ starters have thrown at least eight innings, included a complete game shutout from Homer Bailey, who has struggled for most of the first half.
The strength of starting pitching is doubly important because stretched out starters allow the Reds’ to conceal their biggest weakness — their middle relievers.
While the back-end of the bullpen — Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman — have enjoyed outstanding, if not All-Star caliber years so far, the other relievers in the Reds’ bullpen have failed to live up to expectations.
Righties Sam LeCure and Logan Ondrusek have underwhelmed en route to posting first-half ERAs of 3.86. The sole lefty besides closer Chapman — Manny Parra — has recorded a 4.43 ERA and has created significant doubt that he can be the primary lefty out of the pen, now that Sean Marshall is done for the season due to shoulder issues. J.J. Hoover has had a disastrous year and has a 5.13 ERA to show for it.
As long as the Reds’ rotation with a healthy Mat Latos inserted continue to minimize the use of a bad bullpen, the Reds may not need to make a desperate move to acquire another reliever that could cost more in the long run than the short-term edge such a move would provide.
With ace Johnny Cueto and surprise success Alfredo Simon leading the way for Bailey, Latos and Mike Leake to follow suit, the Reds may end up producing the best rotation in baseball by the time the year is over.