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The Walking Dead: Diamondbacks bullpen edition

It has been a pretty strenuous road trip for the D-backs bullpen, and we're only half-way through the 20 games in 20 days stretch, which will take us to the break. Let's see who will survive, and what will be left of them.

The D-backs relief corps shambles off to the bullpen
The D-backs relief corps shambles off to the bullpen
Denis Poroy

Usage pattern

Here are the number of pitches thrown by each Diamondback reliever, over the ten-game road-trip since our last day off, on June 24.

Date Jun 25 Jun 26 Jun 27 Jun 28 Jun 29 Jun 30 Jul 01 Jul 02 Jul 03 Jul 04 Total
Brad Ziegler 10
17 12
20 89
Chaz Roe

17 9
28 54
David Hernandez

19 12 84
Heath Bell

18 13 62
J.J. Putz


5 33
Josh Collmenter
22 18

32 25

27 124
Tony Sipp 6

6 17 13 21

20 83
Will Harris 19

12 21 20
10 93
Zeke Spruill 13



Obviously, it has been a brutal series in New York, with Ziegler, Roe, Hernandez and Bell used in three out of the four games, and everyone else pulling double-duty: that's a total of 20 relief appearances over the four-game series. No surprise to see that Collmenter, and his amazing rubber arm, has seen the most work so far: he has appeared in half the games and averaged 25 pitches per appearance. However, would you have guessed that Will Harris would be the next most-"abused" reliever, with six appearances in 10 days, and and total of 93 pitches? And it doesn't seem to have hurt him, as he looked pretty nifty this afternoon.

The question is, what will the D-backs need to do, to get through the home-stand. Praying for no more 15-inning monstrosities might be a good place to start. Getting starters to go deep into games would also be helpful: That hasn't been too much of an issue: in the first 10 games, the starters have combined to throw 59 innings, which is right on National League average coming into today (5.93). It is, however, below the Arizona average this year, which after Ian Kennedy's seven frames of work this afternoon, is at 6.09 innings per start. That does vary: tomorrow's starter, Tyler Skaggs, only worked 16.2 innings in his three starts, so we'll be hoping for better.

It would not surprise me if we see Tony Campana and Roe both optioned down to Reno tomorrow - one, to make room for Skaggs on the roster, the other to allow a fresh bullpen arm to be called up. It can't be Zeke Spruill, as he has not yet been down in Reno for ten days, so I'm thinking the most likely candidate could be Charles Brewer, who is tomorrow's scheduled starter for the Aces. That would leave poor Reno, having to struggle to replace two starters in a row [Garrett Mock got the unenviable task of starting in Colorado Springs this evening!], but that's what a farm system is for.

Otherwise, we'll be stretched pretty thin. Putz should be available, having thrown only five pitches today, and Harris might be able to throw again. But if it's a close game, things are going to be more than a bit dicey, with both Hernandez and Bell having thrown on Wednesday and Thursday. They each have been used three days in a row once this season, though the results were mixed: Hernandez allowed two hits and a walk on Apr 24, blowing the save, but getting the win, as we beat the Giants 3-2. But Bell completed a trio of saves on May 9, closing out a 2-1 victory against the Phillies, around the inevitable one-out double.

Bullpen performance

Here are the stats for everyone in the bullpen, over the same ten-game period.

Brad Ziegler 6 5.0 8 5 4 3 2 0 6.00 27 89
Chaz Roe 3 3.2 4 2 2 6 2 1 4.91 20 54
David Hernandez 5 4.1 6 6 6 0 4 1 11.57 21 84
Heath Bell 5 4.2 3 1 1 0 4 1 1.93 17 62
J.J. Putz 3 1.2 3 1 1 1 0 0 5.40 8 33
Josh Collmenter 5 7.0 7 2 2 5 5 0 2.57 32 124
Tony Sipp 6 3.2 4 3 3 3 3 0 7.36 18 83
Will Harris 6 5.0 5 0 0 4 5 0 0.00 22 93
Zeke Spruill 2 2.0 2 1 1 1 3 0 4.50 9 32

Put that all together, and you get the following line:
Bullpen: 37 IP, 42 H, 21 R, 20 ER, 23 BB, 28 K, 3 HR, 4.86 ERA
Definitely room for improvement, but a lot of that is down to Hernandez - if you take him out, the rest of the bullpen has an ERA that's a full run lower, at 3.86. Obviously, small sample sizes apply to all of these, but there are a few points to ponder. Roe walks far too many people - 30% of all batters he has faced, have trotted down to first. Sipp seem to have struggled putting people away on this trip, with his average PA lasting 4.6 pitches: I would be curious to see how many of those he has faced have had the platoon advantage.

Surprises? Bell hasn't sucked, with today's home-run the first tally he has allowed on this road-trip. That continues a theme: overall this year, Bell's ERA at Chase is 7.71, while everywhere else, it's 2.33. As we're coming home for a bit, might be wise to hope Putz is ready to take over closing duties, and his fastball today (in an admittedly brief appearance) seemed better, at around 92-93 mph. Harris, again, is quietly impressive, and it's worth noting that he has allowed four runs in 23 appearances, covering 19.2 innings, with a K:BB ratio of 24:7. Not bad for someone waived by Oakland, and who only got a roster spot because of Putz's elbow.

It is going to be a flaky couple of days for the bullpen, as they get back into town, wheezing from their efforts in New York. It's up to the rest of the team, both starting pitchers and offense, to carry them, respectively by going deep into games and scoring enough that our relievers have an adequate margin for error. Considering we have just one victory by more than two runs during the last 26 games, going back almost a month, I suspect the torture for the bullpen may not be over yet.