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Diamondbacks Game Preview #156: 9/28 @ Astros

Mike Hazen has a bullpen problem. Or, perhaps, the bullpen has a Mike Hazen problem.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Daulton Varsho - CF Jeremy Pena - SS
Pavin Smith - DH Aledmys Diaz - 2B
Jake McCarthy - RF Kyle Tucker - RF
Christian Walker - 1B Alex Bregman - 3B
Ketel Marte - 2B Christian Vazquez - DH
Josh Rojas - 3B Trey Mancini - 1B
Corbin Carroll - LF Chas McCormick - LF
Carson Kelly - C Mauricio Dubon - CF
Geraldo Perdomo - SS Martin Maldonado - C
Zac Gallen - RHP Justin Verlander - RHP

Roster moves

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the following roster moves:

  • Recalled RHP Sean Poppen from Triple-A Reno.
  • Optioned RHP Luis Frias to Reno following last night’s game.

If that is the end of Frias’s season, he’s going to end the year with an ERA in double digits: 10.59 over 17 innings, on 23 hits and 17 walks. He’s on course to join an “elite” group of pitchers for the D-backs with 10+ innings pitched in a season, and as many walks as innings:

  • 2022 Luis Frias: 17 IP, 17 BB
  • 2020: Robbie Ray: 31 IP, 31 BB
  • 2010 Jordan Norberto: 20 IP, 22 BB
  • 2010 Dontrelle Willis: 22.1 IP, 27 BB

Frias also has an ERA in double-digits. As mentioned in last night’s GDT, only one such pitcher has thrown more innings than Frias: Eddie Oropesa, who had a 10.30 ERA over 25.1 innings of work in 2002.

But speaking of the bullpen... In 2017, the first year of Mike Hazen’s tenure as General Manager, the Diamondbacks had one of the best bullpens in the majors. In the National League, only the Dodgers had a lower ERA than Arizona, led by Archie Bradley’s stellar 1.73 ERA over 73 innings. But since then, it has been a slow descent into hell for our relievers. Here are the stats for the seasons with Hazen in Arizona (* = pro-rated to 162 games):

  • 2017: NL rank: 2nd, ERA: 3.78, 18 losses, 4.3 fWAR
  • 2018: NL rank: 4th, ERA: 3.56, 35 losses, 0.1 fWAR
  • 2019: NL rank: 6th, ERA: 4.26, 26 losses, 2.4 fWAR
  • 2020: NL rank: 10th, ERA: 4.60, 27 losses*, -1.1 fWAR*
  • 2021: NL rank: 14th, ERA: 5.08, 41 losses, -1.5 fWAR
  • 2022: NL rank: 12th, ERA: 4.62, 39 losses, -0.3 fWAR

It may not feel it, but the bullpen is a little improved over what it was in 2021. However, last year, the bullpen was better than the team. Since that finished dead last in the National League: it really didn’t matter much. This year, the D-backs are 9th by W/L (or Pythag) in the NL, so the bullpen feels more like an “anchor”, dragging the team’s overall performance down. But since the start of 2020, Arizona has had the worst relievers in the majors, and it’s not even close. No other bullpen has been worth less than 2.0 fWAR over that time; Arizona sits at 2.2 fWAR below replacement level. The gap is even starker by Win Probability: the D-backs’ relievers are at -1,520%, with nobody else even at -1,000%.

With seven games left, they still have a shot at the 41-loss franchise record set by last season’s bullpen. Indeed, they could potentially even tie the all-time major league mark for bullpen losses. That is the 42 L’s picked up by the Nationals’ relievers the same year. The two bullpens had remarkably similar numbers. Washington were 23-42 with a 5.08 ERA, while Arizona were 22-41 with the same 5.08 ERA. However, unlike the D-backs, the Nationals have improved considerably in just a single year: their bullpen is now mid-tier, at a 21-24 record with an ERA over a run better, at 4.01. So, it can be done...