Capping off the 2000-2009 decade on the Cincinnati Reds farm system, we’re looking at the best season from a relief pitcher. There was some interesting competition here, but for me, the nod went to former Major Leaguer Robert Manuel for what he accomplished in the 2008 season.
Robert Manuel was an undrafted free agent signed after going undrafted in 2005 by the New York Mets. The Cincinnati Reds acquired him in a trade the following May in exchange for David Willams. In 2006 and 2007 he would see time in A-ball, pitching for the Dayton Dragons and Sarasota Reds, splitting his time between the bullpen and the rotation.
But when 2008 began for Robert Manuel he was a full-time reliever. His season began back with the Sarasota Reds – his 3rd season in a row where he would see time in the Florida State League – but that stint didn’t last very long. The right-handed reliever made just four appearances over a span of 11 days for Sarasota, striking out 11 batters in 7.2 shutout innings before being promoted to Double-A Chattanooga.
Once in the Southern League, Manuel picked up right where he had left off. The new Lookouts reliever began his stint with Chattanooga by tossing 16.0 consecutive innings of no earned run baseball, striking out 20 batters. On May 13th he would finally give up his first two earned runs of the season against the Carolina Mudcats.
In back-to-back outings on May 31st and June 2nd he would give up two earned runs in each appearance. It would be another month plus before he’d give up another earned run. From June 3rd through July 9th he would throw 19.2 innings with just one unearned run charged against him while picking up 23 more strikeouts for the Lookouts. In most seasons, the stretch from July 10th through 19th would be a solid showing as he gave up three earned runs across 8.0 innings – but those three earned runs were half as many as he had allowed up to that point in the entire season in his previous 55.2 innings.
Despite his absolute dominance in Double-A, Robert Manuel would only see one appearance in Triple-A during the year. On August 4th he was called up and threw 2.0 shutout innings for the Louisville Bats before returning to Chattanooga to finish out the month and the season. He would allow just two earned runs across 16.0 innings for the Lookouts in his final eight appearances.
When the season was completed the then 24-year-old had held opposing hitters to a .174/.227/.228 line on the year with 103 strikeouts and just 19 walks across 86.2 innings. Six of his 19 walks were of the intentional variety. His ERA stood at 1.25 across three levels and his WHIP was an absurdly low 0.84.
Stacking up with the contenders
There were some strong seasons among the relief crew from 2000-2009. Some had better stats in certain categories than Robert Manuel did, but overall his season in 2008 just felt like the best one to me. Let’s take a look at some of the other standout seasons from this decade.
Innings totals were a big player in my final decision. Robert Manuel and Pedro Viola had a big advantage over just about anyone else on the list. And they both had an ERA+ just over the 300 mark. For me, it came down to those two guys for the top spot. Manuel got the edge because of his advantages in WHIP, levels played at, and strikeout-to-walk numbers.
The season’s in 2008 by both Aguido Gonzalez and Zach Stewart were outstanding – but both were functionally only half-seasons. Gonzalez began the year in BIllings in late June before moving up. Stewart was drafted in June before going on a tear for Dayton and Sarasota.
Let’s round up this article with some video of Robert Manuel facing off against Zack Cozart in the first “Futures” game that the Cincinnati Reds organization put on way back in 2009.
Here are the other winners for Season of the Decade:
|2010’s||Devin Mesoraco||Tony Cingrani||Donnie Joseph|
|2000’s||Adam Dunn||Travis Wood||Robert Manuel|
|1990’s||Jason LaRue||Curt Lyons||Victor Garcia|
|1980’s||Danny Tartabull||Mike Dowless||Clem Freeman|
|1970’s||Gary Redus||Keefe Cato|