The interview with Robert Stephenson last week in the Louisville Courier-Journal about his sort-of dismissal of walks as a problem got people talking. As it should have. In there he notes, however, that he’d like to limit the walk number.

On April 25th, and in the following start on May 1st, Robert Stephenson walked 11 batters in 6.1 innings pitched. Eight walks came in 4.0 innings on the 25th. He walked three more in 2.1 innings the 1st. Since then, in four starts, things have been very different for the right hander.

Yesterday afternoon he took the mound in Indianapolis and allowed one run, on a solo home run, in 6.0 innings (highlights below – including his RBI single). Robert Stephenson walked just two batters and he had nine strikeouts. That put his walk total in the last three weeks and four starts at seven. Seven walks in 24.0 innings where he’s also struck out 31 batters and posted an ERA of 2.25.

There have been stretches of control from Robert Stephenson before. Last season between June 15th and July 17th he walked five batters with 37 strikeouts in 31.1 innings. He then joined the Cincinnati Reds rotation for the rest of the season, walking 37 batters in 60.0 innings.

The Cincinnati Reds rotation is currently having all kinds of struggles. The ERA’s of the current rotation members are as follows: 6.21, 5.62, 5.61, 4.53, and 2.57 (Matt Harvey and his three starts). Anthony DeSclafani will be making a rehab start in Louisville on Friday. Assuming he remains healthy on his way back, he will likely take a rotation spot from someone upon his return. However, beyond that, if Robert Stephenson continues to throw strikes, and the current rotation members don’t show improvement, is it time for him to move back to Cincinnati and see if he can keep it going? How long would you like to see the control continue to show itself in Triple-A before you would make that kind of move?

38 Responses

  1. Bro_hio

    As you noted that start that he walked 8 – not once did that include a visit from the pitching coach, which seems to me he was “working” on a mechanical adjustment and they were allowing him to find himself. Can anyone identify if there are any changes in delivery, slot or release point? Just looking at the video above – he appears to have changed something. Gifs for reference from pitcherlist.com (http://www.pitcherlist.com/robert-stephenson/)

  2. kevinz

    Bring him up now for Bailey have him sink or swim see what can become.
    Disco should come out of the Pen he had his chance to start couldnt stay on field healthy.

    • Wes

      Maybe go check those era’s of starters again- disco could be ace of staff by July….

      • kevinz

        Thats true Wes but go Check how many starts Disco was able to make in past 3 years lol

  3. Jim Delaney

    I would like to see Stephenson kept in Louisville barring injuries to starters until August 1st. If he shows thiss control for 2 more months then its time, call him up and give him the rest of 18 and all of 19 in rotation to see if he can make it. Stepehnson reminds me of Carlos Carrasco, great.stuff, maybe rushed too soon overcame adversity and becane a strong number 2 type starter.
    I think its time Reds cut Bailey and eat his contract. Bailey cant pitch out of bullpen and since returning last year he has made i beleive 29 starts wuth ERA over 6…

  4. Wes

    Homer bailey is arguably the worst player in baseball. Bobsteve should get his next start and stay up as long as he produces. Nothing left for him in minors.

    Prob bout late call up- shows lack of confidence in him and a lot more meaningless baseball played then. Bring him up when everyone is trying to win and see what he can do.

  5. Jer-B

    I could see both Romano & Mahle being sent down in favor of Stephenson and Disco. They will give Homer a little longer leash. I’d say 2 or 3 more lackluster starts before an “injury” puts him on the DL and the best performer in AAA gets called up.

  6. The Duke

    If Romano gets blown up again in his next start I think he is the first one down. He’s had some solid starts, but his control and his 3rd pitch have been anything but consistent this year. If his breaking ball is going to be a fringe pitch, the control can’t waver like it has been so far this season. I think Disco takes his spot relatively soon.

    Castillo isn’t going anywhere, we’ve seen the flashes from him more and more as this season has progressed and I think he is close to righting the ship and finding some consistency.

    Harvey is a temp, but he’s a temp who is throwing well right now, so I don’t see him being displaced as long as he is performing. You can’t flip someone in a trade if they are riding the pine, so he’ll get a bit of leash as well.

    Bailey shouldn’t be in the rotation. Bailey makes $20+ million dollars. I don’t know if the Reds have the stones to just eat the mistake/misfortune (injuries) and just move on though.

    Mahle has had some of the same inconsistencies that Romano has had, just not quite as many. He likely gets sent down if Bob Steve forces his way up (assuming Disco takes Romano’s spot and stays healthy, big IF), but i’d kind of like to see him get to work through this at the MLB level. I don’t know if AAA would be a big challenge for him and the best long term results would be to stick it out in the bigs.

    What I think the rotation will be 2-3 weeks from now:

    Castillo
    Bailey
    Disco
    Harvey
    Mahle

    What the rotation should be 2-3 weeks from now:

    Castillo
    Disco
    Harvey
    Mahle
    Stephenson

    • Norwood Nate

      Good thoughts Duke, I agree. I also like your piggyback idea you posted below about Stephenson and Romano. Unfortunately I don’t think the Reds will get that creative, but it would be an interesting experiment and a great season to try it out.

    • Tim Phillips

      I like it. Bailey definitely needs to go to bullpen and Romano is not pitching well.

  7. Billy

    It seems to me that Stephenson is either good, or he’s very, very bad. If you bring Stephenson up, which I think you probably should, you just need to be prepared than once every 4-5 starts, he’s going to have a game where he gives up 10 hits and walks 8 batters. If he puts you in position to with the other 3-4 games he starts, you can work with that – at least on this team. Hopefully he finds some consistency, and once every 4-5 starts can become once every 9-10 starts in future years. When he is having a good game, he’s very good.

    • Wes

      This year w yanks and sabathia- they pull him right away when he looks like he may get rocked. He has a low era and whip bc he only goes 4/5 innings on average. I’m becoming a big fan of this strategy and it works w bobsteves inconsistencies. Be a great roll for big sal long term if he can’t stick in rotation.

      • The Duke

        Or maybe even try a tandem for just one spot. Have Bob Steve go 4-6 IP, and plan on Romano coming in for long relief and go 3-5 IP. Might be worth a try, and you could use it to save the rest of the bullpen for that start.

      • wes

        I think it would be more like a new defined role. Just don’t leave anyone in who looks like they are gonna get rocked. Castillo has been giving up his runs later in games vs first few innings as well as Mahle to a lesser extent. Big Sal knows hes going to play twice a week and pitch the 5th and 6th of a game- I think it relieves pressure and creates consistency.

        A long reliever comes in after someone gets rock through like 2/3 innings- this would be a completely different role and wouldn’t plan to use the same guy in both roles. But if Sal could keep an ERA around 4 and pitch 2 innings twice a week when you pull a guy early- then you should stay in more games.

  8. SteveLV

    Of the pitchers who might start in 2020, Stephenson has a higher ceiling than anyone other than Castillo. Reds need to keep giving him shots in the majors every time he looks ready until there are 5 pitchers who are clearly ahead of him.
    Plenty of options to pull out of the rotation. Probably very hard for Reds to do, but Bailey needs to go. Some kind of Phillips/Mesoraco move would be good for everyone involved.
    Harvey has made things interesting. I didn’t like bringing him in, but letting it play out seems to make sense now.
    So I’d bring up Stephenson, send down Romano. Make room for Disco by doing something with Bailey.
    Mahle has been pretty mediocre, but I’d let him pitch until it’s clear Romano deserves the spot more than he does. I wouldn’t employ the “send him down for a month to get a year of service” strategy unless it made current baseball sense to do it, but it wouldn’t hurt if it made sense.

    • ohiojim

      I think it might be getting close to making baseball sense to give Mahle a respite in AAA; but, it is a tough and close call because he isn’t outright bad like Romano has become.
      The issue is would he get the work done despite his likely ability to dominate at AAA without tightening up. That’s sort of been Bob Steve’s issue at AAA. Over the last 2 months of 2017, he was arguably better than Romano in the MLB rotation; but was shipped out this spring because he didn’t seem to be getting his work done. For the first month at AAA he just skated by on raw ability. Now he seems to have gotten the message and is responding.

  9. SultanofSwaff

    Very interesting interview with Theo Epstein this morning on the radio here in the chicago area. The thrust of his comments about rebuilding is that they had to make 8 big bets for the rebuild to succeed. These came from the draft, trades, and international spending. He said because of the huge variance in projecting pitchers that they emphasized acquiring position players and would supplement the pitching thru trades and free agency. He noted that since their competitive window opened, they lead the majors in ERA.

    Now I understand the Reds don’t have the financial resources to fully implement this sort of strategy, but it’s nearly the polar opposite of the stated goals of the Red’s front office–rebuild with pitching.

    Regardless of what your opinion of how the Reds develop pitchers, do you think the emphasis on pitching is the right strategy?

    • Tom

      It’s hard to argue with Epstein’s results and he’s right about betting on young pitchers is a tough game. There is no doubt their position players have worked out well.

      Every team wants Kershaw or Bumgarner out of HS and it just isn’t a safe strategy. Kolek, and Pint and many others are far more common.

      I like getting the top 1 or 2 college pitchers as a strategy, however.

      With pitching these days, the ultimate rule is health. So, with Mize, I think you’re seeing teams flinch – as they absolutely should.

      With Singer, you can’t ignore the problems recent Florida aces have had as well.

      Greene was a consensus “generational” talent, so I have a lot of hope for him. Great mechanics, body type, attitude. It should all work out.

      For acquiring pitching, as things stand I think you look at the 1 or 2 or 3 most historically healthy and productive pitchers and sign them during FA. No former Tommy John’s at all. No shoulder problem types at all. This year that guy was Jake Arrieta. Next year it is Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez.

      The Reds need to spend on one of these types like the Cubs did with Lester.

      Honestly, for the sake of the rebuild, they need to sign Dallas and Gio.

      Then they can hold onto all the talent in the pipeline until they sort themselves out, meanwhile providing excellent depth.

      Players like Scooter and Iglesias that are good starters are still worth trading at this apex of their career during this part of the rebuild.

    • Stock

      A. I don’t think the Reds can afford the Cubs strategy.
      B. If you are going to model your rebuild after another team why not choose the Astros. No big FA signings. Good drafts (Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh, Correa, Springer, Bregman and Altuve), great trades (Verlander, Cole, Peacock, Gonzalez, McCann and Devenski), good trades (Gattis) and smart but cheap FA signings (Morton, Gurriel and Reddick)

      • Tom

        Affordability becomes a question for sure, but with Iglesias, Hamilton and Bailey off the books in 2020 more money would be available.

        The players I’d look to trade are young vets with 2-3 years of control that become redundant or worth more in prospects than on the field.

        By spending in FA you don’t lose any prospect value, you only create depth and bring players up when they are truly ready rather than developing rookies in the majors. Think more Votto and Frazier, less Bailey and Bruce. Sign CJ Wilson, don’t trade the future for Mat Latos.

        What the Reds did after 2011 was a mistake. They restructured for a good 3 year push, but had a bad plan to continue beyond that. Their depth was depleted by 2014, far sooner than it would have if they still had Boxberger, Alonso, Grandal, Wood, Gregorious, and a few others.

        Houston and Chicago were bad for quite a long time. Especially Houston. 8 years of losing in a row. Midway through they brought in smart people from St. Louis. The Cubs had Epstein.

        Reds fans are wincing at the idea that this rebuild is not looking ready at ALL for 2019. In fact I see folks here looking at 2021 or 2022 as a target. And yet the strength in the system still isn’t pitching for the foreseeable future.

        Votto won’t be happy about a 2021 launch date.

        And this is really all about handling Votto’s remaining prime years.

        Trade him now or start making moves this off season to sign real quality pitchers.

        Remember, everyone wants to be Chicago or Houston, but no one wants to be San Diego. 10 of 11 losing years. 8 straight at the moment. No end in sight. Rebuilds fail some times. The Reds’ is on life support at the moment. Their rotation is historically bad. Unlike 2007, there isn’t even a single Harang or Arroyo on the staff. Nothing of the like in sight. Trading prospects to get into contention is years and years away, IMO. If the Reds want to serve the fans a winner next year or 2020 at the latest, they absolutely must spend money on top tier pitching.

  10. Thomas J

    At least a month longer, and only it great numbers continue unabated in that time; probably a couple of months – grow into the ability to repeat the delivery(-ies) and adjust on days that the feel is missing at the start.

    Also, Doug, wouldn’t you want to see him going 7+ innings almost every time out to know that the pitch effectiveness is translating into pitch efficiency that can carry to the big league level?

    • Grover

      The Reds don’t have a single starter going 7+ innings. Why is the bar always higher for Stephenson? He pitched effectively last year as a starter in the Majors and other than a couple starts has pitched effectively in the minors this year. Get him up here and let him pitch all year. I don’t see any pitcher on the team doing anything to block him.

      • Michael Smith

        Great question. A grand total of 34 pitchers had over 180 innings. Let that sink in people. The day and age of pitchers going deep into games is dying. Why is that? Because relief pitchers are normally far better than a starter going thru the lineup for a 3rd time.

      • Thomas Green

        Should a strong minor league prospect pitch 7+ innings when he is going well in order to project to be successful in the big leagues? Getting hitters out – and therefore being more pitch efficient – is easier in AAA than in the majors, so it may be important to show this length in order to be a strong candidate to make it in the show.

  11. Thomas J

    At least a month longer, and only if great numbers continue unabated in that time; probably a couple of months – grow into the ability to repeat the delivery(-ies) and adjust on days that the feel is missing at the start.

    Also, Doug, wouldn’t you want to see him going 7+ innings almost every time out to know that the pitch effectiveness is translating into pitch efficiency that can carry to the big league level?

  12. HavaKlu

    Granted he has been injured. But even in Bailey’s brief appearances over the last 4 years, he has been terrible. Pitching to date since 2014, he has thrown 183.1 innings, giving up 238 hits and 129 earned runs for a 6.34 era.
    In that time he has been paid 68 M with 23 M due next year. There have been no signs of him getting much better and the Reds have to seriously consider eating the remaining money so that someone else gets an opportunity.

    • Tom

      If you can hold onto the string on Bailey until 2019 and beyond, if he stays healthy he might figure something out at some point like a Liriano or Volquez type career. Very up and down. A trip to the bullpen might turn into another 6 or 7 years on his career. Might allow him to flourish there or bounce back into the rotation. No reason to spend 43 million on nothing. I think you keep him around and help him into the next phase.

  13. Michael B. Green

    For INT League SP’s with 40+ IP, Stephenson leads the league in SwStr%. However, he is in the bottom 3 in BB%. He has the 4th lowest AVG allowed in the league but also the 4th lowest BABIP. He has the 4th lowest GB/FB ratio and 4th highest FB% but he is in the middle of the pack re HR/FB.

    This all spells excellent swing-and-miss stuff but a problem with missing up in the zone. That is not a great fit in GABP.

    Nevertheless, unless Stephenson suddenly moves to a two-seam fastball down in the zone, he is who he is. That makes him either worth the next shot for a rotation spot or as a power reliever.

    I show that he has one (1) option left, so this is his sink-or-swim year. I’m looking forward to see what he can do in CIN and he is lined up to pitch on the same days as Bailey. That’s writing on the wall.

    Once DeSclafani is activated and can serve as the “veteran” in the rotation, I think we’ll see Stephenson get called up and Bailey will go to the DL for something.

    Teams typically make moves right at the end/beginning of a month, so if Bailey’s next start is not memorable and Stephenson holds form, we might see Stephenson get the nod in SD on or about 06/02.

  14. wes

    Seattle 29-19 and won 5 straight! Bet their trigger happy GM has ants in his pants !

    Scooter and Schebler for Lewis, Rodriguez and Elledge.

    • Ryan

      All due respect Wes, that would be a disastrous trade for the Reds. Take a look at Fangraphs take on the Mariners farm system and then take a look at the Reds just for contrast. The top 3 Mariner prospects would’ve been ranked in the 9-20 range had they been Reds farmhands. The Reds were around the 10th best system.

      Scooter is too valuable for the Mariners, unless they deal ML guys. The Reds should get a top 100 prospect plus some.

      • Wes

        I agree w what your saying about talent return; Lewis is ranked 65 on mlb. I honestly don’t think Lewis is going to be successful in mlb but a lot of folks do still and if he is- fantsitic grab for cincy. High risk/high reward. Reds where suppose to be linked to him somewhat when they took senzel

        When guys rake AA they are typically close to ready. Long is 23 in August and is on pace for show around his birthday. You also got blandino and senzel. System is deep so why not take the risk ?

  15. Stock

    Stephenson should be kept in Louisville 2-4 more starts as a means of sending a message. BB are not acceptable. If he can keep his BB/9 under 3 the next 4 starts bring him up.

    The right thing to do would be to replace Bailey and Romano with Disco and Stephenson. It would be very good if next year’s rotation included Stephenson, Disco, Castillo and Mahle. However, the Reds are clearly out of the playoff picture for 2018 so consideration should be taken to years of control. I have never considered Romano a SP in the majors so I don’t care if the Reds gain a year of service time with him or not. When Disco is ready I would send Mahle down. His value for 2024 has to be greater than 2018. Then three weeks from now if Stephenson is ready and Castillo is still pitching poorly I send Castillo down too. A 2024 rotation with Castillo and Mahle seems much better than a 2024 rotation without them.

    I really like the idea of Castillo, Mahle, Santillan and Greene being in the rotation from 2022 – 2024. This would be the window where the Reds could be very good.

    C Barnhart/Stephenson/Clementina
    1B Votto
    2B Senzel
    3B Suarez
    SS Jeter/Garcia
    LF Trammell
    CF Siri
    RF Long/Fairchild/Sugilio/Friedl
    SP Castillo/Mahle/Greene/Santillan/(Singer/Carter Stewart/Mize)
    RP Rainey/Herget/Weiss/Reyes/Lopez/Mella/Others

    I know 2022 is a long time but this rebuild was messed up from the day they got nothing for Chapman/Cueto/Leake/Frazier.

    • Grover

      If walks are not acceptable then the entire Reds starting staff should be in Louisville