It wasn’t long ago when Alfredo Simon and his 5.18 career ERA with the Baltimore Orioles were maligned across the region. Seemingly every time he entered the game, opponents’ win probability went up and Baltimore’s down. It was a predictable pattern; actually rather redundant. Yet they stayed with the big right-hander for four seasons before parting ways in 2012 when on April 3rd of that year the Cincinnati Reds claimed him off waivers.
At the time it was perceived a low risk acquisition with minimal chance to pay dividends for the Reds. Simon pitched poorly in his lengthy minor-league career with an unappealing 4.41 ERA and below-average 3.2 BB/9 and 7.0 SO/9. He’d mainly been used as a starter his professional career, but did see time pitching out of the bullpen, which predominately came late in his O’s tenure. The Reds, knowing very well the struggles Simon had endured as a starter, utilized him initially as a reliever.
To the surprise of many — some of whom were within the Reds organization — Simon was not just good that year, but he was great. In 61 innings of work, he compiled an impressive 2.66 ERA, a career-high 7.67 K/9, a BABIP at .337 which indicated he was actually the recipient of bad fortunate, and a sturdy 3.19 FIP. His slider was sharper than ever before, holding hitters to a paltry .148 average and .348 OPS. Further, the pitch struck 38.3% of batters out, hence the unusually-high strikeout total for Simon. The bad news, however, was he had an unsustainable 0.30 HR/9 ratio that year.
Surely, that total would not persist into next season. For one, it was way off from his career 1.16 HR/9 ratio, and the fact he did and would pitch half his games in the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ballpark didn’t help, either. Nevertheless, he was an interesting guy to watch the next year, and as it turns out, an enjoyable one, too.
Even though his workload increased in ’13, it did not deter him from flourishing out of Cincinnati’s bullpen yet again. His 2.87 ERA in 87 and 2/3 innings was brilliant, although this time through it seemed he was a bit lucky. His .236 BABIP guided him to prosperity, and due to his 3.96 FIP and 4.22 xFIP Fangraphs WAR actually assigned him as a -0.1 win player. This meant, by the standards of WAR, he hurt the Reds more than he helped them. Pro-Sabr or not, Simon did his job — though unconventionally — and prevented a lot of runs from scoring. Even without proper context on how he was achieving his success, Alfredo had worked his way into the starting rotation conversation when Mat Latos landed on the disabled list before the season commenced. Courtesy of his consistency the past two seasons and prior starting experience, Simon won the surmised temporary position. However, as we now know, it wasn’t a short-lived gig.
He pitched so well — at least in terms of traditional statistics — to this day he remains a starter in the Reds’ loaded rotation. Through 126 innings pitched, the hard-nosed pitcher sports a spectacular 2.86 ERA. But, like last year, Simon has done so in an unconventional and often times untenable manner. His BABIP of .245 this year likely will deviate towards his career .279 over time, his 87.2 LOB% (left on base percentage) will inch closer to his career 76.1%, and realistically his 4.33 FIP and 3.97 xFIP tells us more about the type of pitcher he actually is. This may not be a popular opinion — especially among Reds fans — but this seems to be the ideal time to move him.
Because of his low run prevention totals the past few seasons, his value is undeniably at an all-time high. He’s not getting younger at the age of 33, and along with the inevitable decline age quintessentially brings, Simon’s sub-par peripherals probably will turn him into a mediocre pitcher at best as early as next year.
The Reds’ recent 1-9 slide, turning their record to a pedestrian 52-53, gave Walt Jocketty, the Reds general manager, a much-needed wake-up call that his offense isn’t good enough to compete down the stretch. Cincinnati should turn their focus — even though their season is far from over — towards 2015 when Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips will be fully healthy, and the Reds will once again pose a threat to the formidable National League Central. This move also enables Tony Cingrani to move back to the rotation from Triple-A, and get increasingly acclimated with the nuances of major-league baseball and to show them what he’s got.
There’s no doubt in my mind they could acquire a game-changing piece for his services for the next year and a half of Simon’s. This is the time to strike, and cash in big on Simon’s aberration season.
Your move, Jocketty.