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Who'll Lead The 2011 Diamondbacks Bullpen in ERA?

After the horrors of last year, I think we'd all settle for a Diamondbacks bullpen in 2011 that was simply mediocre. After the announcement that Mickolio has beaten Vasquez for the final position,. there are only two survivors from the relief corps that broke camp with the team at this point last year: Heilman and Gutierrez. The others consist of one free agent (Putz), two trade arrivals (Mickolio and Hernandez), a mid-season acquisition (Demel) and a Rule 5 pick (Paterson). But which will perform best over the course of the year?

Single-season Champions (min. 30 IP)

  • 1998: Gregg Olson, 3.01 ERA
  • 1999: Bobbie Chouinard, 2.68
  • 2000: Vincente Padilla, 2.31
  • 2001: Brett Prinz, 2.63
  • 2002: Byung-Hyun Kim: 2.04
  • 2003: Jose Valverde, 2.15
  • 2004: Greg Aquino, 3.06
  • 2005: Brandon Medders, 1.78
  • 2006: Luis Vizcaino, 3.58
  • 2007: Jose Valverde, 2.66
  • 2008: Juan Cruz, 2.61
  • 2009: Blaine Boyer, 2.68
  • 2010: Blaine Boyer, 4.26

Goes something to show the volatility of relievers, that only a couple of names appear on the list more than once. I'd probably have guessed Valverde, but would you have got Blaine Boyer as the man with the best ERA out of the Arizona bullpen the last two seasons? I know I wouldn't have. That's why this category is the biggest crap-shoot of all the areas we are looking at, with Demel, Mickolo and Paterson having 62 ML innings between them. Certainly, we're hoping for improvement. The median "best ERA" previously is 2.66, which (yet again!) shows you how bad last year's bullpen is, that the best number there was all the way up at 4.26.

Sam Demel. Best ERA: 5.35 (2010). Last year: 5.35. Career ERA: 5.35.
This former Athletics third-round pick came to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Conor Jackson, and made his debut with Arizona in June last year. He had a healthy K-rate for a rookie of eight per nine IP, and the ERA was bloated by almost a run due to a 0.1 IP, 5 R outing against the Padres.

Juan Gutierrez. Best ERA: 4.06 (2009). Last year: 5.08. Career ERA: 4.71.
The "veteran" of the Diamondbacks pen enters his third season, having showed fleeting glimpses of promise, but that career ERA is higher than you'd like. An abysmal first half last year was followed by a much improved performance later on, but his last couple of spring outings were very wobbly.

Aaron Heilman. Best ERA: 3.03 (2007). Last year: 4.50. Career ERA: 4.25.
Having lost out to Armando Galarraga for the rotation spot, Heilman returns to the bullpen, where his role is yet to be established. He was used as a closer for some of last season, but has historically struggled a bit in high-leverage situations. Might he be used as long relief, after having been stretched out in the pre-season?

David Hernandez. Best ERA: 4.31 (2010). Last year: 4.31. Career ERA: 4.93.
After an impressive set of spring performances. Hernandez could end up being the eighth-inning guy for Arizona - or, potentially, even the closer, if Kirk Gibson feels (or discovers) that Putz is not up to the task. Maybe a few too many walks in the pre-season, but seemed to cut down on those as he warmed up.

Kam Mickolio. Best ERA: N/A. Last year: N/A. Career ERA: 4.32.
Being "Kevin Towers' guy" - he came from Baltimore in the Mark Reynolds trade - might have helped Mickolio snatch the final spot from Esmerling Vasquez, who also had an impressive spring. Not much record to go on here: even though this will be his fourth season in the majors, he has only thrown 25 innings. At least I get to use my picture.

Joe Paterson. Best ERA: N/A. Last year: N/A. Career ERA: N/A.
...though that's still 25 more than Paterson who, by making the roster, I think has become the first Rule 5 pick in franchise history to be with the team that Opening Day. One of the two guys picked ahead of him, José Flores, has already been returned by the Mariners to Cleveland. Yeah, I got nuttin', prediction-wise. Obvious, isn't it?

J.J. Putz. Best ERA: 1.38 (2007). Last year: 2.83 . Career ERA: 3.19.
I know Putz said he doesn't need many outings to get ready, but will the - count 'em - four batters retired in Cactus League play be enough? For a man whose health has caused problems over the past few years, let's just say, I'm hoping he gets some nice, three-run leads in the first week.