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The Worst Aprils in Diamondbacks history


Cleveland Indians v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In the wake of the fiasco which was last night’s failed save attempt by Fernando Rodney, leaving him with an ERA of 12.60, I though it might be enlightening to look at the worst Aprils in team history. Numbers over the first month tend to assume an exaggerated importance, because they exist in a vacuum. A bad month is much easier to hide at the end of the season, when its impact on your overall season figures will be less significant. Right now, April’s stats are your overall season figures, be that for good or bad. In the cases we’re going to look at it here, it was for very, very bad. [Note: some March games may be included in all these; all stats are through the end of April]

Position player: Cody Ross, 2014 - .103/.103/.103

We maybe shouldn’t blame Ross too much. His previous season had been ended by suffering a dislocated hip running to first base, the first recorded instance of a baseball player doing that. The severe nature of the injury had many wondering how/if he would recover. When he came back, after missing the first two weeks, the answer was “not well.” His OPS of .205 wasn’t just the worst April, it was the worst month ever by any D-backs with as many PAs as Ross had (39). How the rest of the year went: Ross hit somewhat better, but his season OPS was .628, and he was released just before Opening Day.

Dishonorable mentions (min 30 PAs): Chris Burke (2008, .346); Quinton McCracken (.351, 2003). Up until his home-run yesterday, Jeff Mathis looked to be making a run at this pair, with an OPS of .338 going into Saturday’s game. However, he’s now at a relatively elevated .414, which only ranks eighth here.

Starting pitcher: Josh Collmenter, 2012 - 0-2, 9.82 ERA

Collmenter began the year as our number three. He had a rough first outing, lasting only three innings against San Francisco, and allowing six runs. But Arizona actually pulled out a 7-6 win there. Although the second, against Colorado, was little better (four innings, five ER), he got a no-decision there too, to leave him with an 0-0 record, despite a 12.86 ERA. Josh did lose his next two, and was replaced in the final game of April, for the major-league debut of some guy called Patrick Corbin. How the rest of the year went: Very well, actually. He went the bullpen, became a swing-man in long relief and spot starts, and posted a 2.13 ERA over 72 innings of work.

Dishonorable mentions (min 2 GS): Brian Anderson (2001, 0-2, 14.14 ERA), Andy Benes (1999, 2-2, 8.76). Just behind Benes is Shelby Miller’s 2016, in which he went 0-2, with an 8.69 ERA. Given the lower run environment last season, that was likely the worse Apri. At least Benes didn’t bang his knuckles on the ground.

Relief pitcher: Fernando Rodney, 2017 - 1-2, 12.60 ERA

And it’s not even close. No reliever with even seven innings pitched in April for Arizona, has ever reached double-digits in ERA. The sheer velocity is still there, certainly - he topped out yesterday at 98.6 mph, which may be the fastest pitch ever thrown by a pitcher in his forties. The problem is, Rodney’s control has been awful. In the 10 innings worked, he has seven walks, a hit batter and four wild pitches. When he gets in trouble, it feels like he just tries to throw harder, and blow the ball past hitters - which makes things worse. How the rest of the year went: Obviously, we’ll see. But any future losses caused by Rodney are entirely on manager Torey Lovullo.

Dishonorable mentions. Of course, it’s worth it’s worth noting that other pitchers have had worse months, and have rebounded. The worst ever by a reliever with 7+ innings was just last year: Daniel Hudson’s July saw him post a 19.29 ERA, and he figured it out. But he wasn’t our closer. If we look instead at Aprils with three or more saves, there have only been three others in franchise history, where Arizona’s closer has posted an ERA of even five. Here are the details of those, alongside Rodney’s this season.

Bad Aprils by D-backs closers

Felix Rodriguez 1998 10 7.27 0 1 5 8.2 7 7 7 1 5 7
Matt Mantei 2004 7 12.79 0 3 3 6.1 8 9 9 4 4 10
Chad Qualls 2010 11 9.00 0 1 5 9.0 15 9 9 2 4 10
Fernando Rodney 2017 11 12.60 1 2 6 10.0 16 15 14 2 7 13

How did those previous seasons end up playing out?

  • Felix Rodriguez, 1998. Blew his first two save opportunities in May, and was relieved of closer duties. Had a 6.14 ERA for the year.
  • Matt Mantei, 2004. Made five appearances in May with a 10.38 ERA, then went on the DL with a shoulder issue (though he said it wasn’t the cause of his problems), and never pitched for Arizona again.
  • Chad Qualls, 2010. Held on to the job through mid-June, was eventually replaced after his ERA hit 8.46. Then got dumped on the Rays at the trade deadline.

So, the omens aren’t good for Rodney. None of the three closers whose Aprils were even roughly comparable, even made it to the All-Star break in that role, and they managed a total of eight saves for Arizona in their entire careers here, after that first month. It would not surprise me in the slightest if the same fate befalls Rodney.