The Cincinnati Reds have decided to bring back right-handed reliever Hunter Strickland. The 34-year-old has re-signed with Cincinnati, but he’s coming back on a minor league deal this year and has an invitation to big league camp. That brings the total for the Reds in Goodyear to 66 players.
After having a strong season in 2021 while pitching for three different teams – the Tampa Bay Rays, the Los Angeles Angels, and the Milwaukee Brewers – where he posted a 2.61 ERA in 57 games, Hunter Strickland signed with Cincinnati for the 2022 season. Things went in the wrong direction for the righty as he posted an ERA of 4.91 in 66 games for the Reds. His walk rate went up, and his strikeout rate went down, and those things happened alongside of him allowing more hits than he had in the previous year (46 in 58.2 innings versus 61 in 62.1 innings).
The splits for Strickland were all over the place. He had more success against righties than lefties – holding righties to a .753 OPS and lefties to an .837 OPS. But that came in a strange way as he walked nearly as many righties as he struck out (21 walks, 25 strikeouts). Against lefties he had 12 walks and 35 strikeouts. The big difference was that his BABIP against righties was .257, while against lefties it was .366.
When you look at his home and road splits, he pitched much better on the road. At Great American Ball Park he posted a 5.97 ERA and gave up six home runs in 31.2 innings. When he was outside of Cincinnati he posted a 3.82 ERA and allowed just two home runs in 30.2 innings. His OPS against was nearly 200 points (.882 to .686).
His first half and second half numbers were quite different, too. In the first half he posted a 5.40 ERA and had 21 walks with 29 strikeouts, while batters had an .813 OPS against him. In the second half his ERA was a more respectable 4.34, he had 12 walks and 31 strikeouts, and his OPS against was .763.
When you look at his season on a month-by-month basis he was very bad in April and in July. His ERA was 9.82 in April and 7.59 in July. April, in particular, was really tough as he walked 11 batters with just five strikeouts. He pitched well in the other months of the season.
What’s also interesting is looking at his pitch usage as the season went along. From April through July he threw his fastball 59% of the time and his change up 13% of the time. Over the final two months of the season he used his 4-seamer just 45% of the time, dropped his change up usage to just 6%, and started using a sinker a little bit (9% compared to just 1%).
From the start of May through the end of the season he posted a 4.25 ERA with 22 walks and 55 strikeouts in 58 games that covered 55.0 innings. That’s a solid big league reliever. There were a few tough outings in there, but overall you’re not going to be bothered by that line at the end of the season. April, of course, happened – but if Strickland can avoid that kind of month and perform like he did the rest of the season, then things could work out well.
As it goes with almost all minor league signings, there’s little risk in bringing a guy in on a minor league deal. And with Hunter Strickland there may be a little bit of upside there.