It’s remarkable that Cincinnati’s bullpen didn’t finish last in any meaningful statistical category last year. They were terrible, of course, and they ended up in the bottom five for just about everything—ERA, FIP, strikeout-to-walk ratio, total saves, home runs allowed—but there was no one spot where they landed dead last. Everything was awful, but it was never quite the worst.
Tonight, though, sure looked like the worst. The bullpen has a few fresh guys this season, but it’s thematically more or less the exact same as last year’s, and their performance got pretty damn nightmarish in the seventh inning of tonight’s game against the Cardinals. The Reds were already losing at this point, 5-4, and the inning opened with the major-league debut of Zack Weiss. He’d been a promising prospect before missing all of 2016 and a good chunk of 2017 to injury, and for his very first batter faced...
Okay, not great; shake it off, move on to the next batter:
Things got a little better for Weiss in that the next plate appearance did not end in a dinger, but a four-pitch walk still wasn’t that much to celebrate. Next came another walk, and then his debut was over—back-to-back home runs, back-to-back walks, zero guys retired. (And yeah, his dad was in the audience.) It was time for another rookie reliever, Tanner Rainey, to take over. The Reds’ situation did not improve from there.
Rainey walked the bases full, then walked in a run, then walked in another run. That was five straight walks for Cincinnati’s bullpen, in an inning where they’d so far allowed four runs and had yet to record an out. And there was damage still to come: a sac fly to score one run, a double to score two more, and then, mercifully, the end of the inning. From there, Cincinnati slid into what became a 13-4 loss. So: awful! The worst? Well, the bullpen still has time to set the standard there.