Arms: Head and shoulders better
Reds insider: How crucial is good stuff? Just look at the 2005 staff
February 27, 2010
GOODYEAR, Ariz. - The Reds ended the 2005 season with the worst pitching in the National League.
The club was last in the NL in ERA, runs allowed, complete games, shutouts and saves.
Of the 19 pitchers who ended the season on the roster, 15 are out of baseball.
The starting rotation was Aaron Harang, Brandon Claussen, Eric Milton, Ramon Ortiz and Randy Keisler. Allan Simpson, Chris Booker and Jason Standridge were in the bullpen.
Five years later, pitching, and pitching depth in particular, are no longer a weakness. It's quite the contrary in fact.
"That's what going to be key for us," general manager Walt Jocketty said. "That's a strength we have that some other teams don't have."
The Reds saw signs of the improvement last year. The team ERA was 4.18 - the lowest since it was 3.98 in 1999.
And compared to 2005? The Reds finished last year seventh in the NL in ERA, eighth in runs allowed, fourth in complete games, second in shutouts and eighth in saves.
The Reds did that with a staff dotted with young arms.
Reds manager Dusty Baker has noticed the increase in live, young arms since he took over three years ago.
"Big time," Baker said. "They've had a good draft and good development of those drafts. That's where you learn you're trade and serve your apprenticeship in the minor leagues."
But the transformation goes back further than Baker's three years. And four general managers share in the credit of turning it around after years of patching things together under GM Jim Bowden.
Dan O'Brien had very good drafts in his two years at the helm and re-opened Latin America to the organization. Homer Bailey was drafted on his watch. Johnny Cueto was signed under O'Brien. O'Brien also drafted Travis Wood and Jordan Smith, two young pitchers who probably will make it to the big leagues.
Wayne Krivsky, who followed O'Brien, traded for Bronson Arroyo and Edinson Volquez and signed Francisco Cordero. Arroyo stabilized the rotation. Cordero stabilized the bullpen, and Volquez was the club's best pitcher before being derailed by elbow surgery. Krivsky also brought in Daniel Ray Herrera through a trade and got Jared Burton in the Rule 5 draft.
Brad Kullman, who served briefly as interim GM between Jim Bowden and O'Brien, made the trade for Aaron Harang.
Jocketty, the current GM, has continued to build. He added Nick Masset through trade and signed Arthur Rhodes.
His biggest move was to sign Aroldis Chapman, a 21-year-old Cuban left-hander.
Chapman has wowed people during camp.
The Reds have made a conscious effort to stock arms.
Pitchers like Mike Leake, the Reds' top draft choice last year, and Wood, last year's minor league pitcher of the year, will probably start the year in the minors but they're close to being big-league ready.
"We've got several guys," Jocketty said. "Leake, (Matt) Maloney, (Justin) Lehr, Wood on the verge of being able to pitch up here.
"We've got a lot of quality arms in the system."
You couldn't really say that in 2005.