Just over the halfway point of the 2017 season, the Cincinnati Reds sit in last place in the National League Central. At 9.5 games out of first place, it is almost certain that they won’t be participating in the postseason.
However, a look at the standings leaves a bit of room for optimism. The Brewers lead the division by 5.5 games. Aside from them, the remaining four teams are within four games of each other. No one expected the Brewers to be contending in 2017, much less leading the division of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs at the All Star break.
One extended losing streak by the Brewers and one winning streak by a division rival would shake up the standings in the NL Central. Why not the Reds? The obvious answer to that question is a lack of starting pitching, an extreme lack of it. Reds starting pitchers rank worst in the majors in ERA. They are also last in number of innings pitched.
The Reds currently rank second in the NL Central in runs scored this season. As for OPS, the team ranks first in the Central and fifth in the majors (behind the Astros, Nationals, Yankees, and Dodgers, all teams that are leading their divisions). The Reds’ bullpen is ranked third in the Central and tenth in the majors in ERA. Defense has not been a problem for Cincinnati this season either. They lead the NL Central and are sixth in baseball in fielding percentage.
These stats demonstrate how awful the Reds starting pitching has performed this season. All other facets of the team are producing. If the starting pitching can deliver at even a league average rate in the second half, the Reds could begin moving up in the standings. The rotation after the break will consist of (in no particular order): Feldman, Castillo, Romano, Adleman, and Bailey. Bailey has demonstrated a strong improvement over his last two starts. Feldman has taken the role as anchor of the staff this season. Castillo has pitched well in his few starts since being promoted from Louisville. Romano pitched well enough in his spot start that the Reds are planning to leave him in the rotation. Adleman continues to be a serviceable fifth starter, at least until DeSclafani is ready to return sometime in August.
Will the Reds have a couple hot streaks and end up winning the NL Central this season? It’s extremely unlikely, especially if they end up trading away players such as Zack Cozart, Drew Storen, or even Raisel Iglesias. However, hope is still there for the time being. The Reds just completed a 4-3 road trip against the Rockies and Diamondbacks, the two teams that are leading the NL Wild Card race. The future of the Reds, both in 2017 and beyond, depends on their starting pitching.