Diamondbacks 2013 Trends: Relief Pitching

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona used 17 men in relief roles this season, ranging from Joe Pateron's 2.1 innings to Josh Collmenter's 92 frames of work. Who delivered, and who was found wanting?

Statistics

Rk W L ERA SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1 Trevor Cahill 1 0 0.00 0 4.0 2 0 0 0 1 2 0.750
2 Matt Reynolds 0 2 1.98 2 27.1 25 7 6 2 5 23 1.098
3 Zeke Spruill 0 0 2.08 0 4.1 4 1 1 0 3 5 1.615
4 Brad Ziegler 8 1 2.22 13 73.0 61 20 18 3 22 44 1.137
5 J.J. Putz 3 1 2.36 6 34.1 26 9 9 4 17 38 1.252
6 Will Harris 4 1 2.91 0 52.2 50 17 17 3 15 53 1.234
7 Charles Brewer 0 0 3.00 0 6.0 8 2 2 0 2 5 1.667
8 Josh Collmenter 5 5 3.13 0 92.0 79 34 32 8 33 85 1.217
9 Joe Paterson 0 0 3.86 0 2.1 2 1 1 0 0 2 0.857
10 Chaz Roe 1 0 4.03 0 22.1 18 10 10 3 13 24 1.388
11 Heath Bell 5 2 4.11 15 65.2 74 30 30 12 16 72 1.371
12 David Hernandez 5 6 4.48 2 62.1 50 33 31 10 24 66 1.187
13 Tony Sipp 3 2 4.78 0 37.2 35 22 20 6 22 42 1.513
14 Matt Langwell 0 0 5.19 0 8.2 8 5 5 1 5 6 1.500
15 Joe Thatcher 0 1 6.75 0 9.1 12 7 7 1 6 7 1.929
16 Eury De La Rosa 0 1 7.36 0 14.2 13 13 12 5 5 16 1.227
17 Randall Delgado 0 0 9.00 0 2.0 4 2 2 1 0 3 2.000
Team Total 35 22 3.52 38 518.2 471 213 203 59 189 493 1.272

[Stats are only for relief appearances]

down_medium Heath Bell

The signing of Bell was one of the more perplexing moves of the off-season. Though we got the Marlins to pay almost half the salary remaining, he was still a highly-paid reliever coming off a year with an ERA above five, and even a good year would have made him among the league's most expensive set-up guys. The year started badly, Bell retiring one of six batters faced on Opening Day, and this began the Heath Bell Experience. Some days he was great; others, he was utterly rancid. The bottom line is a 4.11 ERA: he may have been one of the league's most expensive set-up guys, he was not not among the most effective.

Equals_medium Charles Brewer

Brewer became the first Arizona native drafted by the D-backs to play for the team [he was also the first D-back to have gone to school with the SnakePitette!] He had a couple of spells with the major-league team, making his major-league debut vs. the Dodgers in June. Brewer worked three other games, allowing two earned runs over six innings on eight hits.

Equals_medium Trevor Cahill

Cahill's first relief outing since July 2008 in Double-A was an emergency four-inning outing in Philadelphia, coming in for the 15th after we ran out of relievers. He worked four scoreless innings to close out the game, allowing two hits and getting the W. I'm pretty sure he's the only reliever in Diamondbacks history to have won every appearance he made out of the bullpen!

Up_medium Josh Collmenter

When Collmenter was dumped into the bullpen at the end of April 2012, it seemed like it could be the beginning of another Enright-esque fall from grace for a fleetingly-good starter. But Collmenter has thrived in the position since, and was positively indispensable for Arizona this year, sucking up extra innings like a ShamWow. He worked 29 innings beyond regulation: that's more than seven entire teams this year. Collmenter's four relief outings of four or more innings was the most in the National League, and his ERA of 1.42 in those games shows his effectiveness as well as his durability.

down_medium Eury de la Rosa

Injury helped open the door for de la Rosa, who made his major-league debut for the Diamondbacks in the last game before the All-Star break. Early signs were promising, and he had an 0.82 ERA at the end of August, holding opponents to four hits and two walks in 11 innings. But September was horrible: he allowed at least one earned run in every outing, as batters hit him around to the tune of .450/.522/1.300 and an ERA of 27.00, as Eury closed out his season. Tipping his pitches? Could be: whatever the cause, he'll need to sort it out quickly if he wants another crack at left-handed relief work in 2014.

Equals_medium Randall Delgado

Delgado made just the one relief outing, allowing two runs on four hits over two innings on June 3 in his debut for Arizona. He moved to the rotation to replace Ian Kennedy during his suspension, stuck there the rest of the way, and will probably not be back to the bullpen again.

Up_medium Will Harris

In early April, Harris was claimed off waivers from the A's, who had claimed him from the Rockies just three days prior to that. While his major-league stats with Colorado were bad, he had a high K-rate in the minors (around 13 per nine innings), and this time round, Harris was able to translate that into sustained success, albeit mostly in low-leverage situations. He struck out more than a batter per inning this season, with a K:BB ratio of 53:15. Though he flagged somewhat in September, the only month where he allowed more than three runs, he still ended with a sub-three ERA and FIP. Not a bad little freebie at all.

down_medium David Hernandez

I don't know what went wrong with Hernandez in June and July this year, but whatever it was, I didn't like it very much. He came in to the game on June 11 with a 2.63 ERA. Less than two months later, he was sent to Reno with an ERA almost three runs higher, having allowed 22 earned runs in 21 innings, one of the worst sustained spells by any reliever in team history. The good news is, when he came back in September, he pitched much better, with a 0.64 ERA, holding opponents to a .405 OPS. I sincerely hope he has been cured of whatever ailed him - and it may have been personal issues - because a solid Hernandez would be a big help to the 2014 bullpen.

Equals_medium Matt Langwell

Expectations for Langwell should be tempered based on the fact that he was received from the Indians in exchange for Jason Kubel. On that basis, eight hits, five walks and five earned runs in 8.2 innings - somewhere around replacement level - is about what you'd probably expect. He'll likely open next year in the Aces bullpen, as part of the relief depth there.

Equals_medium Joe Paterson

I'm increasingly convinced that Paterson offended someone in the D-backs organization. He put up excellent numbers in Reno (his 1.89 ERA was the lowest in the PCL by anyone with 50+ innings), but even after Reynolds got hurt, was all but ignored for the likes of de la Rosa. He got a token two appearances this season, and I suspect there won't be many more next year.

Equals_medium J.J. Putz

Started the season as closer, and you'd think a 2.36 ERA would indicate an excellent season. However, his only save after April came as 'closer of last resort' in a 16th-inning outing, He blew four of nine opportunities in April, then missed almost all May and June with an elbow strain, blew his first save when he came back in July, and was removed from the role. He did pitch well in the second half, with a 1.10 ERA after the break, but also spent more time on the disabled list, missing 22 games with a dislocated finger. Though generally effective when healthy, Putz has had just one season with fewer appearances or innings since his rookie year of 2003.

redcross_medium Matt Reynolds

What might have been... Reynolds pitched well into May before allowing his first run as a Diamondbacks, putting up 17.2 scoreless innings to start his career with Arizona. Obviously, that couldn't be maintained for ever, but less than a month later, he was done - not just for this season, but in all likelihood, for the next one as well. Initially, it was hoped that rest and rehab would be enough to allow his ailing left elbow to recover, but just when it seemed we might see Reynolds in late action, a setback resulted in the decision to have Tommy John surgery. We'll see how he recovers from that, probably in spring 2015.

Equals_medium Chaz Roe

Roe was signed as a free-agent last winter, and arrived in July - as a minor note, he batted in his major-league debut, the third Arizona reliever to do so (Max Scherzer and Troy Brohawn being the others). He was largely a low-leverage operator, only six of his 21 appearances saw him come in to a game with a margin of less than two runs, but was competent enough in those performances. Got most of the work in late August and September, and will likely be bullpen depth in Reno to kick off the 2014 campaign.

down_medium Tony Sipp

Sippin' ain't easy. Coming in to the season, it was generally hoped that Sipp and Reynolds would provide the Diamondbacks with a solid 1-2 punch of left-handed relief options, something the team hadn't had in a very long time. Though he seemed okay as a backup, Sipp didn't appear to step up his game after Reynolds went down, being tagged for a 5.89 ERA the rest of the way. Though small sample size applies, he actually performed better against right-handed batters, southpaws hitting him at an .859 OPS clip over the whole year, with a mediocre 16:10 K:BB ratio.

Equals_medium Zeke Spruill

Part of the Upton trade, we already covered Spruill's two starts in our earlier piece. Though the sample size here is basically negligible, at 4.1 innings, his four relief outings went rather better, as he allowed one run on four hits with five strikeouts.

down_medium Joe Thatcher

Acquiring Thatcher from the Padres, in exchange for Ian Kennedy, made a good deal more sense seven weeks later, after the news of Reynolds' surgery was announced. The trade gives the D-backs an alternative as a front-line left-handed reliever for next season, but Thatcher's performances for Arizona so far have been underwhelming, although with close to so little data as to merit no down-arrow. Left-handed batters went 7-for-19; perhaps most concerning, they walked six times, with only three strikeouts. While Joe's career numbers suggest he is a lot better than that, I think we'd all be a lot more comfortable when he starts performing up to them.

Up_medium Brad Ziegler

The last season Ziegler had more than one save was 2009: but, thrown in to the unfamiliar closer's role after both Putz and Bell had failed, Ziegler really delivered. After picking up his first save on Independence Day, Brad appeared in 33 games, and allowed six earned runs in 33.2 innings, a 1.60 ERA. He also kept left-hand batters, previously a but of an issue, in check, holding them to a .647 OPS. Oddly, Ziegler did it without the same volume of double-plays as in previous years. Despite a career high of 78 appearances, his double-play rate halved, in part because he allowed more fly-balls. Still, a heck of a good season overall.

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