Tyler Mahle

This Cincinnati Reds’ season feels like the old comedy approach: “This team is so bad.” “How bad are they?” Well, there are a lot of ways to answer that question, from the Reds’ overall 7-24 record through Wednesday (last in MLB) to their 3-22 start to the season (the worst in franchise history) to their MLB-low OPS+ of 76. But the team’s biggest problem might be their pitching; through Wednesday, they have a team earned-runs-average of 6.65, well below the 4.81 ERA of the second-last Pittsburgh Pirates (the Colorado Rockies and Washington Nationals are also close to Pittsburgh, with numbers of 4.79 and 4.77 respectively), as well as MLB-worst numbers in walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) of 1.64 and ERA+ (70). And that raw ERA number is particularly remarkable, with Joe Posnanski calculating that it would take the Reds 102 scoreless innings to pass the Pirates and be 29th instead of 30th in ERA. Here’s more from Posnanski’s piece on how bad the Reds’ pitching has been (and how bad the Detroit Tigers’ offense has been):

The Reds, as of this moment, have a 6.65 team ERA. This would be remarkable at any time in baseball history — only the 1930 Phillies have ever had a higher ERA than that for a full season.

And, look, the 1930 Phillies’ 6.71 ERA was obviously atrocious, but they were also playing in the craziest offensive season in modern baseball history — the ENTIRE LEAGUE hit .303 and slugged .448, both records. Then add in that those Phillies played in an absurdity called the Baker Bowl, which was roughly as big as an Apple Store. By ERA+, which put ERA in context, there have been dozens of teams that pitched as badly as those Phillies did.

In context, no team in modern baseball history has ever pitched as badly as these Reds. See, you may have heard something about this — offense is way down this year. The baseballs are deader. The hitters are flailing. The MLB-wide batting average is .233, which is the lowest in history — even lower than the 1968 Year of the Pitcher — and home runs are down from the past few years, so it’s harder for hitters to launch-angle their way out of this one.

UNLESS … they’re facing the Cincinnati Reds.

…How about 75 consecutive scoreless innings? Nope. That would drop the Reds’ ERA to only 5.18 — still way worse than the Pirates.

Here’s your answer: The Reds would need to pitch ONE HUNDRED AND TWO consecutive scoreless innings to get out of last place in ERA.

This comes after the Reds have won four out of their last six games, too. So even the slight turnaround still has them in quite dire straits. And that’s notable considering the things that have already happened around this team this year, including team ownership being blasted by former players Zack Cozart and Nick Castellanos, and president Phil Castellini asking disappointed fans “Where you gonna go?” and then doubling down with “You can hate on us all you want, we’re not going anywhere”  before finally apologizing. Even with this recent improvement, this team is still historically and remarkably bad, particularly at pitching.

And the pitching doesn’t seem to show a lot of potential for improvement. Posnanski goes into some detail on the four players who have made four starts for the Reds so far this year: Tyler Mahle (1-4, 6.46 ERA), Hunter Greene (1-5, 7.62 ERA), Vladimir Gutiérrez (0-5, 8.65 ERA), and Reiver Sanmartin (0-4, 13.78 ERA). Of those players, Mahle (seen above during an April 12 game) the only one who seems to have much potential (his Fielding Independent Pitching average is only 3.52), but he’s being mentioned as a trade target (along with Luis Castillo, another capable pitcher, but one who only made his season debut Monday thanks to a previous injury). If Mahle and Castillo both wind up traded, this could get even more dire. But even without those trades, the Reds are an excellent bet to finish last in ERA this season.

[Joe Posnanski on Substack; photo from Sam Greene/The Cincinnati Enquirer, via USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.