On December 6th, 1989, the Cincinnati Reds traded closer John Franco and Don Brown to the New York Mets. In exchange, Cincinnati received Kip Gross and closer Randy Myers. Paired with Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble, these three would form a bullpen trio that would wreak havoc over the entire National League in 1990. The group was later given the nickname, “Nasty Boys”.
The future Nasty Boys combined for a 2.46 ERA, 278.2 innings, 327 strikeouts and 26 saves in 1989. Myers joined the Reds in the ensuing offseason, and the deadly reliever trident was formed. In the 1990 wire-to-wire season, they pitched 339 innings and had a 2.19 ERA with 351 strikeouts and 44 saves. Those numbers are a bit inflated due to Charlton moving to the rotation in the latter half of the year, but they were absolutely lethal, and followed up on the potential they showed the previous year. Similar to the 2018 Reds pitchers, the 1989 Reds’ pitching staff finished near the bottom of the National League in hits, earned runs and walks.
29 years later, the Reds are looking to get back into the postseason, and they are looking to put a little more nasty into their bullpen again. The trio of Amir Garrett, Jared Hughes and Raisel Iglesias were a bright spot in an otherwise bleak 2018 season for Reds pitchers. They combined for a 2.87 ERA, 213.2 innings, 210 strikeouts and 37 saves. Garrett already gave fans an all-time nasty moment when he struck out Javy Baez and celebrated in his face last year.
What changed in that 1989-90 offseason? The Reds had let go of Pete Rose as manager and hired Lou Piniella, who brought on Stan Williams as pitching coach. Through trading Franco for Myers, the Reds wanted to get younger and improve the bullpen. The breath of fresh air helped to give those players confidence, and you can reasonably argue that all three of the Nasty Boys had their best career season in 1990. They were able to pass the ball off to each other and combine to become a force in the National League. There are a few parallels between that offseason and this one with the hirings of manager David Bell and pitching coach Derek Johnson from the NL Central-winning Brewers. Zach Duke was also brought in recently to give the Reds a left-handed bullpen option. What can we expect to see from the trio of Garrett, Hughes and Iglesias this year?
In Garrett’s first full year out of the bullpen, he pitched 63 innings and recorded 71 strikeouts for a 26.9 strikeout percentage. He did have some trouble with walks, giving up 25, and had a 4.29 ERA off of 30 runs and 8 homers. His velocity is great, and he only needs to improve more on his command to be a lights-out reliever. This season Fangraphs projects Amir to have a 25.9 K%, a LOB rate of 74.8% and a groundball rate of 43.3%. He’s more reliant on his fastball, but has greatly improved his slider.
In a recent article from the same site, Christian Tinory pointed out that Garrett’s slider velocity jumped 4.2 mph from 2017 to 2018, averaging 83.6 mph. That improvement is similar to Andrew Miller’s 2012 season, where the then-Red Sox pitcher had a 4.6 mph improvement on his slider. You can see in the gif above that his 2-2 delivery was clocked at 84 mph. I wouldn’t even waste a swing on that ridiculous drop. If Derek Johnson can improve his command, Garrett could be preparing for a career season out of the pen.
Hughes was a remarkable pickup for the Reds last year. Without his arm in the 8th, we might have been looking at a win total under 60. He pitched 78.2 innings and racked up 59 strikeouts for a 19.8 K%, a LOB rate of 85.1% and a 1.92 ERA, all career bests. He also had a 1.2 WAR, good for second on the pitching staff. Fangraphs projects Jared to have another good year in 2019, saying that he will have 18.2 K%, a 79.1% LOB rate and a 57.4% groundball rate.
The pitch in the gif above is a knee-buckling 92 mph sinker. He’s primarily a sinker pitcher, throwing that pitch 78.3% of the time in 2018 for an average velocity of 92.3 mph, which is absolutely disgusting. If the sinker isn’t working, he can pull off an 86 mph slider as well. There’s a possibility that Hughes’ age starts to slow him down this year, but if he can rely on command and the other two guys in this trio to carry more of the load this year, he should have another great season.
My favorite bullpen pitcher is Raisel Iglesias. He’s an incredibly underrated closer in the league, and when he’s on his game, I will sit back and laugh at how foolish he makes hitters look. Iglesias appeared in 66 games last year and collected 30 saves on a 2.38 ERA with 80 strikeouts, good for a 27.5 K%. He did have four blown saves last year and gave up 12 home runs, but a save percentage of 88% is still good for a closer headed into his prime. Fangraphs projects Iglesias to get 33 saves this year with a 27.4 K%.
In the gif above, Raisel strikes out a hapless Dodger with an 88 mph sinker to earn a save. His sinker is rarely used, but it can tail off at the end to look like a slider. He can also get his fastball up to 99, and has movement on his changeup and true slider are filthy. He has more pitches in his bag than most closers, and should be ready for an even better year with hopefully more run production and better starting pitching As an extra treat, I’ll give you another gif from that Dodgers series where he throws 97 mph inside cheese that makes Max Muncy look silly.
The Reds made their big pitching acquisitions this year in the rotation, and they will play a big part in how this season goes for our comrades (shoutout r/Reds). If Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark and Alex Wood can give the Reds more quality starts, these three guys will be waiting in the bullpen ready to shut down any fool that decides to step to the plate. Garrett in the 7th, Hughes in the 8th and Iglesias in the 9th to close the door? Sign me up daddy. Also, they should recreate the iconic Nasty Boys picture at Great American this year, Seagram’s ad and all..