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Diamondbacks Game Preview #30: 5/9 vs. Marlins

The D-backs rotation continues to outperform the bullpen. And it’s not even close.

Arizona Diamondbacks v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Jazz Chisholm - 2B Daulton Varsho - C
Jesus Aguilar - DH Pavin Smith - RF
Jorge Soler - LF David Peralta - LF
Joey Wendle - 3B Christian Walker - 1B
Garrett Cooper - 1B Josh Rojas - 3B
Avisail Garcia - RF Ketel Marte - 2B
Jesus Sanchez - CF Seth Beer - DH
Miguel Rojas - SS Alek Thomas - CF
Jacob Stallings - C Geraldo Perdomo - SS
E. Hernandez - RHP H. Castellanos - RHP

The Diamondbacks currently have an active streak of nine consecutive starts where their pitchers have allowed two or fewer runs. Now, that does come with a slight asterisk, as one of those games was Madison Bumgarner’s abbreviated start where he was tossed after allowing a run in the first inning. But over the last turn around the Arizona rotation, he is the overall line by our starters:
Arizona SP: 28.2 IP, 20 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 25 SO, 0.63 ERA
That’s going to win you a lot of games. In fact, D-backs’ starters have yet to lose a game this month, the last L belonging to tonight’s starter Humberto Castellano, on April 28.

One thing to keep an eye on is the starters going deeper into games, due to the abbreviated spring training which put them on a short leash in the early going, Here’s the average number of pitches thrown each five-game set so far this year:

  1. Games #1-5: 67 pitches
  2. Games #6-10: 76 pitches
  3. Games #11-15: 76 pitches
  4. Games #16-20: 78 pitches
  5. Games #21-25: 93 pitches

If we skip MadBum’s cameo appearance, the average over the three starts since has been over 100 pitches, and I think this is likely a factor in the team’s improved performance. For whatever reason, the team’s starting pitchers appear to be flourishing under new pitching coach Brent Strom, in a way that has yet to percolate down to the bullpen. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago how the team was showing a reverse split, with the starters performing much better than the relievers. That gap in ERA has only widened since.

as Starter 9 6 2.21 142.1 103 42 35 8 46 112
as Reliever 6 8 4.71 114.2 117 70 60 12 45 83
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/9/2022.

Going into the game on April 26th, the rotation ERA was 1.80 runs better than the bullpen. Over the couple of weeks since, that has ballooned up to a full two and a half runs. Meanwhile, across all of MLB the average split is 0.27 runs in the opposite direction. Put another way, by ERA Arizona’s rotation is ranked 2nd in the majors. Their relievers are ranked 27th. It’s really, really odd, and with over 110 innings on both sides of the pitching staff, it’s getting harder to write this off as small sample size.

Torey Lovullo audio

Torey Notes from Jack about the bullpen:

I asked Torey (about 6:30 into the audio) if using the bullpen to protect the starters to the extreme degree he did early in the year contributed to the yawning gap in performance between the two halves of the pitching staff we now see:

“Early on we relied on them.... yeah I think the relievers were stretched out a little bit and stretched a little thin. And then we bumped into some injuries and we really asked some guys to get after it , and I think that’s the reason why there was a spike in [reliever ERA]”

“We were gassed out pretty good [even before] the last game in Miami I knew we were in trouble . But they managed. They gave up some runs but we won the baseball games, that’s the bottom line. We’re all caught up now. “

Following up that I pointed out that the team had 9 pitchers throw in both AAA and MLB within the first month and with the exception of one or two, they almost all struggled to throw strikes and be effective. I asked what he can do better to help them prep and get into these sudden call up situations

There is a universal message here, it’s strike 1, get ahead in the count, and go to work from there. That’s something we’re preaching throughout the organization, that’s Strommie’s per peeve. He’s making sure that our young pitchers all the way from low A all the way through AAA are getting that message.

We’ve got a pretty good system in place where there are some hybrid coaches thaat are transitioning between the major leagues and the minor leagues. They’re taking messages and relaying them to the different levels throughout the system. So the message is clear and now it’s just about execution.

[Jack’s thoughts] As Jim mentioned above, the work and success Strom has had with the starting rotation has not yet migrated to the relief staff. I think he’s had a lot more time to work with the starters obviously, and this hybrid coaching staff system is obviously still a work progress, but as Torey says, the pitcher’s have to execute.

Torey told a funny, self deprecating story about him and Don Mattingly at the end of the presser. He ended up getting out of his chair to act it out, and it might lose something with audio only. I suggested to the T.V. producer to use the clip if they can, I hope they do.