The Reds are trying to find out this year. After a disappointing 2011 campaign, Walt Jocketty and company have made some shrewd moves this off-season and have addressed the team's biggest issue; pitching. As a team, the 2011 Reds were on the wrong side of league average in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, HR/9, and K/BB. They didn't have a much trouble scoring runs (2nd in the NL in runs scored per game), but the whole run prevention thing proved to be a little tricky for the Redlegs. Now, in addition to the Mat Latos acquisition (which we discussed here), the Reds have a two-headed monster at the back end of what was already a pretty decent bullpen.
Sean Marshall was acquired by the Reds in a four-player trade that sent left-handed starter Travis Wood and two prospects to Chicago. Marshall, also a southpaw, has been one of the more dominant relief pitchers in the game the last two years, posting sub-3 ERAs in 2010 and 2011, with the peripherals to back it up; 10.13 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, 0.24 HR/9, .303 BABIP (all 2-year averages). Defense-independent pitching statistics, if you are into that kind of thing, absolutely love the guy as well (1.86 FIP, 2.50 xFIP, 2.20 SIERA in 2011). Marshall is not a lefty specialist either, he can be used effectively against both left-handed batters (a nasty 1.22 FIP vs. LHB in 2011) as well as right-handers (2.20 FIP vs. RHB). Whichever way you slice it, the guy is a stud.
Marshall will likely be the primary set-up man to the newest member of the Reds, Ryan Madson. This one-year deal was a major coup for the Reds, and Jocketty played it perfectly. Instead of jumping into the closer market in the early off-season when dollars were flying around like a night with Pacman Jones at the strip club, Walt waited patiently until the market crumbled and there were more closers left than available positions. Much like Marshall, Madson boasts a high K/9 (9.20), doesn't walk a lot of guys (2.37 BB/9), limits home runs (0.30 HR/9), all with a very sustainable .315 BABIP. I'm willing to bet that Madson wishes he would have taken the 4/$44 million deal that was purportedly on the table in Philly, but he should be able to pad his save numbers this year in Cincinnati, and be able to hit the open market again next year.
These two moves put the Reds on the short list for the best bullpen in the Senior Circuit. It may not be as top-heavy as the Braves, but it is very deep. With Aroldis Chapman moving into the rotation (whether in Louisville or Cincinnati), the Reds' bullpen will feature above average pitchers from the bottom to the top. Here they are with their 2011 ERA+ numbers:
With Latos now in the fold, the Reds have a decent top three in their rotation with Latos, Cueto and Mike Leake. The new and improved bullpen should be able to pick up the slack in the back side of the rotation that will feature dinger-happy Bronson Arroyo and either Homer Bailey or Aroldis Chapman, who both are question marks with some upside.
Now if only Jocketty could find a Left Fielder...