GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES
by: Scott A. Horstmeier
They say that good things come in threes. They also say pitching is the most important commodity in baseball. Well if both of these statements are true, the Cincinnati Reds are lucky. They had three young pitchers make their Major League debuts this season, and all three contributed very well for the Reds. First we will explore the season for starting pitcher Vladimir Gutierrrez.
Guiterrez is a hard throwing right-hander from La Habana, Cuba. He began his career in the Cuban National Series and won the Rookie of the Year there in the 2013-2014 season. Representing Cuba in the Caribbean Series in 2015 he defected from Cuba to the United States.
Later that year he signed with the Cincinnati Reds and began pitching in their minor league system. He began the 2021 season pitching for the Reds AAA affiliate, the Louisville Bats. He had a record of 2-0 and a 2.65 ERA when he was called up to the Reds, for an injured Wade Miley, and made his MLB debut on May 28, 2021.
He got off to a great start, retiring the first five batters he faced at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs. In his debut he pitched five innings, gave up two hits and two walks, with three strikeouts, and one solo home run. The Reds lost the game 1-0. Not a bad first start. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Reds manager David Bell had this to say about Gutierrez and his debut, “Just confident, a quiet confidence I would say. He’s talented and has the arm and all that.”
For the season, Gutierrez pitched in and started 22 games. He ended up pitching 115 innings and ended the season with a 4.74 ERA, a 1.412 WHIP, and a 1.8 WAR. He had 88 strikeouts and averaged 6.9 strikeouts every 9 innings. His batting slash line against was .263/.336/.469. (stats from baseball-reference.com)
He fared a little better against lefties, even though they hit for more power off of him. His batting slash line versus lefties was .255/.336/.514 with 13 homers against 241 batters faced. His batting slash line against righties was .271/.336/.427 with 7 homers while facing 255 batters. (stats from fangraphs.com)
As the season wore on it was evident that Gutierrez got tired and/or that hitters adjusted to him and his pitching as shown by his stats on fangraphs.com. During the first half of the season he posted a 4.29 ERA with a batting against slash line of .238/.324/.429, while in the second half he had a 5.09 ERA and a batting against slash line of .282/.345/.500.
Gutierrez showed a lot of promise and potential in his debut season and should compete for a spot in the Reds starting rotation for 2022. Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo, the Reds top pitching prospects, may not be fully ready to start the 2022 season with the Reds, so Gutierrez is a real nice surprise for the Reds and their fans. The question moving forward will be how does he adjust and train this offseason. It was obvious that during the second half MLB hitters adjusted to him and hit him better and/or he got tired as the season wore on.