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Countdown to Arizona Diamondbacks Opening Day: D-32, Enrique Burgos

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One of our ex-future-closers struggled in 2016. Can he turn it around in 2017?

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at San Francisco Giants Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We asked you to rank the 40-man roster along with the 16 non-roster invitees to spring training, and every day between now and the eve of Opening Day, we’ll have a profile of one of those Diamondbacks.

D minus 32: Enrique Burgos

  • Date of birth: November 23, 1990
  • Ht/Wt: 6’4”, 250 lbs
  • Position: Pitcher
  • Status: 40-man roster
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • 2016 MLB numbers: 41.1 IP in 43 games, 5.66 ERA, 43:23 K:BB
  • SnakePit Rating: 4.55 [pattern of votes below]

Remember when Burgos was considered as possibly our future closer? That was in 2014-15, when he struck out 132 batters over 91.1 minor-league innings. But he has struggled to convert that domination into major-league production. The K’s have been there: he has 82 in 68.1 career innings. But so have the walks and the hits, leading to a career ERA of 5.27. You feel he should be “better”; his FIP is 3.79, and of the 456 players with 60+ innings over the past two seasons, only six have a worse gap between ERA and FIP. His 27.4% K-rate puts him in the top quartile of relievers. So what have his results not been in the top quartile?

Two numbers stand out in the peripherals. If we look at the 214 relievers with 60+ innings in 2015-16, Burgos’s BABIP of .339 ranks ninth. And his LOB% (runners left on base) of 65.8% ranks 209th. Put another way, when batters put the ball in play against him, they were considerably more likely than usual to get on base. And when runners got on base, they were considerably more likely to come around and score, rather than be stranded. The former is partly on Burgos; his hard-hit rate was 34.3%, ranking him 21st, and those hard-hit balls are more likely to turn into hits. But you would generally expect more runners to be stranded going forward, bringing Burgos’s ERA down.

That K-rate is pretty seductive. It’s the same in his time here as J.J. Putz, whose ERA for Arizona was barely half Burgos’s, at 2.81. But Putz walked about 45% fewer people, and that’s where Burgos needs to help himself. He throws hard - his average of 95.7 mph trails only Daniel Hudson among Arizona relievers in the Pitch F/X era - which may well partly explain those hard hits. Minimizing the number of base-runners when that happens, will go a long way toward Burgos being all he can be, rather than ending up as another frustrating case of unrealized potential.

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