Any bullpen can have a bad
day week month. It has not been a good April for the Diamondbacks bullpen. That's a bit like describing Napoleon's march on Moscow as "a somewhat poorly thought-out idea." However, to save any suspense you may be experiencing with regard to the above question, the answer is "No." Well, at least, "not yet." Bad though this opening period of the campaign has been, it took five runs in two innings on the last day, before it cracked the top-five monthly ERAs in Diamondbacks bullpen history. Hell, they've done a lot worse and we still made the post-season.
After the jump, we'll list the worst months for the bullpen each year, look back in more detail at the times when our relievers blew even more chunks than the current crop, and also name and shame the ten worst bullpen arms in Diamondbacks history. Did you know that Robert Howry is an anagram of "O, worry: bet HR"?
|1998||4.80||April: 6.19, September: 6.12|
|2005||5.50||May: 6.45, June: 6.75, August: 8.10|
I think there's no doubt that the current crop will have to try quite hard to catch up with the 2005 bullpen - as in, deliver at least two more months at the present level of suckitude. Let's take a closer look at the five worst month in Diamondbacks bullpen history, and see how April 2010 fits in the rankings.
This was the month where Arizona fell apart; they entered June leading the NL West, and exited it in last place. The bullpen was a good part of the reason, though Brandon Webb suffering only the second winless month of his career (min. two starts) didn't help there. Jorge Julio was solid as closer (14 IP, 4 ER), and Juan Cruz contributed seven scoreless innings, but our effort to corner the market in Brandons failed, with Webb, Lyon and Medders all having ERAs north of five.
4. June 2005 - 6.75 [74.2 IP, 86 H, 56 ER. 36 BB, 58 SO]
Bullpen record: 1-2; overall record: 9-19
Worst culprits: Brian Bruney (6 IP, 8 ER), Matt Herges (8 IP, 12 ER)
Competence was at a premium here, with Jose Valverde (16 IP, 5 ER), the only reliever to work five innings with an ERA better than 4.50. The bullpen fell victim to the long-ball, allowing homers at a Petit-esque rate: better than one every five innings, with Herges (four) and Mike Koplove (three in 10 IP) leading the way. It was the mop-up guys who really stank, peaking in Edgar Gonzalez's 0.1 IP, 4 ER outing which left him only one of six NL pitchers since World War II with an actual season ERA above a hundred.
We probably don't need to rehash the coroner's report on April much, but the bad news is, we can't really blame bad luck for their performance, with a BABIP of only .302. The problem is not so much opposing batters hitting the ball (BA is up only 17 points on last year, at .281), but hitting the ball hard, with the pen's slugging percentage allowed being 100 points higher. 18.4% of hits against the bullpen have left the park, compared to the 2009 NL average of 10.4%, led by Bob 'Home-Run' Howry. Only one reliever in the majors (Trevor Hoffman) had more HR hit off him last month, and Howry gave up another yesterday, so seems intent on continuing in the same vein.
2. September 2002 - 7.79 [71.2 IP, 103 H, 62 ER, 35 BB, 59 SO]
Bullpen record: 3-5; overall record 14-13
Worst culprits: Mike Fetters (7 IP, 10 ER), Mike Koplove (16.1 IP, 13 ER)
The team may have been coasting, as they entered September six games up and with a record of 84-51. At least one person wasn't: Randy Johnson went 5-0 with a 0.66 ERA, and is basically the reason why Arizona had a winning record. In the bullpen, the list of relievers included Mark Grace - but four had worse ERAs in the month: Armando Reynoso (10.80), Fetters (12.86), Greg Swindell (16.62) and Eddie Oropesa, whose 27.00 ERA was largely because he became the only NL reliever since 1997 to allow ten earned runs in an outing.
1. August 2005 - 8.10 [80 IP, 109 H, 72 ER, 41 BB, 71 SO]
Bullpen record: 0-2; overall record: 9-19
Worst culprits: Lance Cormier (14 IP, 17 ER); Brian Bruney (7 IP, 11 ER); Brandon Lyon (6.1 IP, 13 ER)
They're baaaaa-ack! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2005 bullpen: undeniably the worst in Diamondbacks history to date. Over the course of the year, their collective ERA was 0.70 above any other season, but this month was the ultimate pits. Batters hit at a .323 clip off our relievers, with an OPS of .967. Oddly, they didn't get many decisions, but that was mostly because starters Brad Halsey, Javier Vasquez and (shudder!) Russ Ortiz combined for sixteen starts and a 7.93 ERA. Brandon Medders (8 IP, 2 ER) and, again, Jose Valverde (10.1 IP, 4 ER) could only provide so much competence.
Can the 2010 bullpen catch them? Well, they have certainly started off with good intent, produced the worst opening month to date, shattering the previous mark of 6.43, set in 2004. But it will take perseverance on the part of the bullpen members, and also some care, so as to be bad enough to continue in this vein, without being so bad that they merit a bus-trip to Reno. To give them something to shoot for, here are the ten worst seasons recorded by individual Diamondbacks relievers, with a minimum of 20 innings pitched.
Some items to note. More than three runs of Oropesa's ERA were due to his role in the 19-1 thrashing by the Dodgers, mentioned earlier. Bruney's ERA is the second-highest in NL history, by any pitcher who got ten saves [Mike Perez had an 8.71 ERA while somehow notching a dozen for the 1994 Cardinals]. Brian is just one of three members on the list from that 2005 bullpen, which solidifies my belief that it represents the worst to date, over an entire year. Looking at the track-record of relief pitchers named Scott , it appears we should decline trade offers involving Mr. Linebrink. But interesting to note the presence of Rauch and Lyon there: they didn't turn out quite so bad. If not necessarily for us...