Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE
The Diamondbacks announced this morning that J.J. will be back next season as Arizona's closer.
Poor, Jim! All that work, and 10 minutes after his story about the options on J.J., the team announces on Twitter that they are indeed exercising the $6.5M option on closer J.J. Putz. This comes as no surprise; Kevin Towers and Derrick Hall both indicated in recent weeks that they would bring J.J. back. Jack Magruder has reported that the team is talking to J.J. about an extension past next year; KT even went so far as to say that he hopes Putz ends his career in a Diamondback uniform.
In 2011, his first season with the Diamondbacks, Putz saved 45 games in an incredibly strong season en route to winning the NL West division title. This year was a bit different. Putz struggled early on; his ERA was as high as 9.00, on May 9th, after an outing in which he allowed four runs in two-thirds of an inning against the St. Louis Cardinals. At the end of May, he was 0-3 with three blown saves, 11 saves, and an ERA of 6.35 - 12 earned runs, including four home runs. He had as many hits as strikeouts (20).
But J.J. drastically turned it around June through October. His ERA the rest of the way was a staggeringly low 1.21. He had nearly eight times as many strikeouts as hits (45 to 6) and did not allow a home run. At one point, he'd converted 17 straight save opportunities, and he had a 23.2-inning scoreless streak going from the end of June to September.
J.J.'s ended the 2012 season with statistics about even with his line from last year, and considering his horrible April and May, that he was able to turn it around was tremendous. His ERA was only about a half-point higher; his hits-per-nine was about a whole point higher. He had better K/9, BB/9 and K/BB ratios this year than last. Despite his early struggles, Kirk Gibson put his faith in J.J. - he finished exactly the same number of games as last year, appearing in only three games fewer. Of course his total saves were down because the team wasn't in that position as often this season. Interestingly, J.J. had as many fewer saves (13) between the seasons as the Diamondbacks had fewer wins.
There is no doubt that having a closer the calibre of J.J. Putz stabilized the bullpen after a rocky 2010 season. He is a reliable anchor - an "Easy Button" if you will - at the end of games. His position as closer is set; everyone else can fall in line behind him.