The past three years
On March 19th Kirk Gibson announced that Addison Reed would be the team’s closer to open the season.
Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) March 20, 2014
When the Diamondbacks traded highly-touted third base prospect Matt Davidson to the Chicago White Sox on December 16 of last year, it was widely assumed by many that this automatically made Reed the team’s new closer going forward. While the narrative coming from the front office, Kirk Gibson, and the players would indicate that was not the case, it nonetheless ended up being true.
Addison Reed managed to compile a very respectable number of saves (40) in 2013 despite playing for a 99-loss Chicago team. Such an eye-popping counting stat is hard to be ignored, even under the grossly inaccurate definition of a save and the ease in which some are earned. At the very least, the number gives an indication of how often Reed was used in the higher leverage situation of pitching in the 9th inning. With the White Sox only recording 63 wins last year, my quick table napkin math indicates that Addison was in some way responsible, in a measurable sense, for 63.5% of those victories. That’s an awfully big show of confidence from a team looking desperately for something, anything, resembling success to hang their hat on.
Those saves did not come without their fair share of warts however. A closer look at Reed’s numbers reveal a few things that should probably be watched for as he begins the Diamondback era of his career. Reed is yet another flyball pitcher (in Reed’s case an extreme flyball pitcher) attempting to transition to Chase Field. While he has seen overall success in keeping the ball in the park, suffering only a 6.8% HR/FB rate in 2013, it isn’t the home runs that are terribly troublesome in the spacious confines of Chase Field, it’s those copious doubles and triples.
When Reed came onto the scene in 2012, his fastball velocity sat at a very solid 94.8 mph. Last season, Reed’s fastball velocity averaged a still respectable, but less dominating 92.5 mph. There could be any number of legitimate, non-worrisome reasons for this drop in velocity, but given that Reed’s fastball is his bread-and-butter, it bears watching. Reed also sports a power slider and an occasional change, but neither pitch is considered by most scouts to be even average, as he suffers control issues with the slider, and the change simply isn’t used enough to be effective even when he can manage to locate it.
While no closer is reasonably expected (fandom notwithstanding) to be perfect, Reed’s 40 saves in 2013 were also accompanied by eight blown saves. That number is one more than Heath Bell and three more than J.J. Putz, though obviously less than the two combined for over the course of the season. Still, an 83% success rate on save attempts is not terribly special, in fact, it is a success rate substantially less than the likes of Street (94%), Frieri (90%), or even Neftali Feliz (84% the last season he was a closer). This success rate was largely dictated by a 2+ year ERA north of 4.00. Granted, reliever ERAs are usually taken with a grain of salt, but such a high ERA from a man designated to be the team’s best bullpen option, is simply a bit too much to be completely ignored. Certainly, given the steep price the Diamondbacks paid for Reed, they are hoping for improved results in 2014. Good thing for them, there are some relatively strong reasons to expect that Reed’s performance will improve.
The most obvious reason to expect improvement from Reed is that he is transitioning from the AL to the NL. While the ninth inning will regularly feature pinch-hitters instead of pitchers at the plate, the reality is, the lineups are almost certainly going to be somewhat softer.
Here, I need to give many thanks to shoewizrd for doing a bit of my research for me. Examining RA9 (average), actual RA-9, and FIP the numbers indicate that Reed by-and-large faced a tougher degree of opponent, in tougher parks, with lesser defense behind him. If all of these are indeed true, then there is real reason to expect some positive influences on Reed’s ERA and H/9.
As a flyball pitcher, Reed is going to be reliant on the Diamondbacks’ outfield defense to protect him in Chase Field’s vast expanse. Lucky for him (and the Diamondbacks) they have one of the best defensive outfields in baseball (Trumbo notwithstanding) with Parra in right and Pollock in center. The Diamondback infield isn’t exactly defensively shabby either, anchored by 2013 Gold Glove winner Paul Goldschmidt. The much-improved defense and move to the Nation League should only serve to help mitigate factors that stacked heavily against Reed in 2013. If Reed can rise to the occasion and take advantage of the change in his situation, then the Diamondbacks will soon be looking to extend Reed before those arbitration years coming in 2015-17 make Reed one of the richest relief pitchers in the game, not a bad problem for the team to have.