The Diamondbacks bullpen

Way too much of this in the 2013 season. - USA TODAY Sports

Off day today, so I'm just going to leave this pinned to the top here all day for open discussion. Random thoughts and statistics are below. Should there be a change of roles? A change of personnel? Or do we just grit our teeth and wait for things to ven themselves out?

That would seem to sum up the reaction in D-backs fandom. Personally, the three-run homer allowed by David Hernandez in the eighth inning seemed almost inevitable. When I saw "in play, run(s)" pop up on Gameday, I was pretty sure what had happened, even before the tidal wave of frustration broke in the Gameday thread. 10 blown saves in 28 games will do that to you. In 69% of the Diamondback's 13 losses, we held the lead at some point in the game - that compares to an NL average figure of 41%. For some reason, this bullpen just hasn't been very good at holding leads.

Which is kinda odd, because if you looked at the raw stats for the bullpen, they are not bad. Even after the disaster which has been this series - eight earned runs in six innings of work, with seven walks (five of which came around to score. Something something late walks) - our relievers have a collective ERA of 3.08, which is fifth-best in the National League. If you just looked at the individual stats, you would probably be quite surprised to hear of the recent problems.

Rk ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO
1 Matt Reynolds 0.00 14 14.0 6 0 0 0 1 11
2 Josh Collmenter 1.84 7 14.2 9 3 3 1 5 14
3 Brad Ziegler 2.81 17 16.0 12 5 5 2 6 9
4 Tony Sipp 3.00 13 9.0 7 3 3 0 3 10
5 J.J. Putz 4.26 13 12.2 12 6 6 3 7 17
6 David Hernandez 4.61 13 13.2 14 7 7 4 6 15
7 Heath Bell 5.91 12 10.2 16 7 7 2 3 16
Team Total 3.08 89 90.2 76 31 31 12 31 92

It's only when you break the numbers down more situationally, that you see what the problem has been. As I mentioned in the comments last night, our bullpen has been maddening, in that they perform perfectly fine when it doesn't matter, but then melt like a chocolate teapot when put into a situation where it counts. Compare and contrast the numbers below, which are our performance in save situations and non-save ones

Split IP ERA AB R H HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
in Sv Situ 29.2 4.85
122 16 37 6 13 31 .303 .370 .508 .879
in non-Sv 61.0 2.21
210 15 39 6 18 61 .186 .251 .319 .570

That's a massive chasm in performance. The bulk of it is down to the struggles of Hernandez and Putz. David's line in save situations this year is .324/.425/.588, a .1.013 OPS while JJ's is .324/.405/.622, slightly worse at a 1.027 OPS. Basically, all opposing hitters have turned into an unending line of Albert Pujols (career OPS 1.018), whenever they have faced our two front-line relievers. Now, I tend to the view that "clutch" pitching is as much a myth as clutch hitting, and those numbers should normalize going forward. But if they wouldn't mind hurrying up with the whole regression thing, that would be very much appreciated by D-backs fans.

We may also be getting a lesson in reliever volatility, which we've discussed before - the percentage of bullpen arms who are consistently good, year after year, is likely a lot smaller than for starting pitchers or position players. But Kevin Towers has spent a great deal more money on this year's model than last. The seven active members of the Arizona bullpen this year, will cost almost $18.2 million. The seven relievers who threw most for us in 2012 cost about $10 million, so there has been an 80% increase in cost. Was it worth it? You'd be hard pushed to find any fan who would think so this morning, even if, overall, team ERA has been two-tenths of a run better.

It's kinda ironic that, last year, the team couldn't buy a hit in late and close situations - now, their pitchers can do almost nothing but give them up in the same spot. By OPS, the Diamondbacks are ranked 14th, at .812 - that is a huge drop on last season, when the same figure was .680. And our number would be significantly worse, if it wasn't for the excellent performance of Matt Reynolds, who has a L&C line of .095/.095/.143. We're in the same spot, 14th, for OPS in situations considered high-leverage. And that's the problem: Reynolds, our best reliever thus far, has an average leverage index of 1.064, higher only than Tony Sipp. Hernandez and Putz are both over 2.0.

Finally, a historical note. It's not that long ago, the last time Arizona blew three saves in consecutive games (as they did in San Francisco). In fact, it was just late last seasons, from Sep 2-4: Putz was responsible for two, and Brad Bergesen the third. And you think this was a bad spell? April 14-16 in 2010, the Diamondbacks' bullpen were charged with five blown saves in three days. That bullpen had the previous record for most blown saves in the first 28 games, with seven. Slight comfort: the 1999 squad is next, with six; they won more games than any in Arizona history. The only side in history to match our 10 thus far were the 1997 Tigers: they finished with 79 wins.

So, the bottom line is, what can be done? That's what the comment section is for....

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