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Diamondbacks Game Preview #132: 9/3 vs. Brewers

Kyle Nelson “won” last night’s game. But did he really?

Milwaukee Brewers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Andrew McCutchen - DH Josh Rojas - 2B
Willy Adames - SS Daulton Varsho - RF
Hunter Renfroe - RF Ketel Marte - DH
Luis Urias - 2B Christian Walker - 1B
Keston Hiura - 1B Corbin Carroll - LF
Esteury Ruiz - LF Emmanuel Rivera - 3B
Tyrone Taylor - CF Alek Thomas - CF
Victor Caratini - C Cooper Hummel - C
Jace Peterson - 3B Geraldo Perdomo - SS
Corbin Burnes - RHP M. Bumgarner - LHP

Last night was a perfect example of why reliever wins (unlike reliever losses) are a useless statistic. Kyle Nelson came in to relieve starter Zach Davies with two outs in the fifth of a scoreless contest, and a runner on first. But Nelson couldn’t find the plate with a GPS, throwing just three strikes in his first fifteen pitches, walking three consecutive batters to give Milwaukee a 1-0 edge before finally getting the third out. However, Arizona then scored twice in the bottom of the inning to take a 2-1 lead, and the rest of the bullpen did their job, with four scoreless frames. Result: Nelson was the pitcher of record when the D-backs went ahead, and so is credited with the W.

I will say, Nelson has generally been very good this season, with an ERA of 1.56. So not to pick on him. While this probably deserves to be counted as among the least-deserved “wins” in D-backs’ bullpen history, there have been worse, to be sure. Here are some candidates for that dubious honor, in no particular order - except for the last one, which is likely the undisputed, all-time franchise winner in this category.

  • Andrew Chafin, 4/28/15: 2.2 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 2 ER. After coming in to replace injured starter Archie Bradley in the second, Chafin allowed eight base-runners across less than three innings of work, and blew a 3-1 advantage. The D-backs then retook the lead and cruised to a 12-5 victory, getting Chafin the decision.
  • Randall Delgado, 9/12/16: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 ER. Like Nelson last night, Delgado could only retire one of four batters faced. He came in with the team down 7-6, allowing an inherited runner to score plus one of his own before getting the final out of the sixth, leaving 9-6 down. He then became the beneficiary of probably Yasmany Tomas’s highlight as a D-back.
  • Byung-Hyun Kim, 7/23/2002: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 0 ER. This was Nelson-like in that Kim’s ERA was unaffected by his suck. He came in 4-2 up with two out in the eighth, the bases loaded, and allowed a base-clearing double to Juan Uribe. That was a -52% WP play. AZ scored four in the bottom half to retake the lead, and Kim closed out the ninth. Still, at -44.1%, it’s the second worst WP for a relief win in team history. For comparison, Nelson was just -12.4%.

[Weird note: all three of the games above were against the Rockies at Chase Field.]

  • J.B. Wendelken, 6/26/2022: 1.2 IP, H, BB, 2 ER. To that end, Kyle’s was only the fifth-worst Win Probability by a winning D-backs reliever this year. Top of the list is Wendelken’s -26.1%. He entered with a 5-3 lead and a man on first, going walk, three-run homer to end the inning 6-5 behind. After AZ tied it back up, J.B. worked a 1-2-3 sixth, then got five runs of support, as the D-backs eventually won a wild one 11-7.
  • Micah Owings, 9/27/2011: 1.0 IP. 4 H, BB, 5 R, 4 ER. The worst WP for a relief win is Owing’s -49.3%. You almost certainly remember this. The game ended tied at 1-1 so went into the 10th, where we had a Micah meltdown, going to the bottom half 6-1 behind. With two outs, six AZ batters in a row reached, capped by Ryan Roberts’s grand-slam, which ran Owings’s record to 8-0. Fun fact: he had a worse ERA in his wins (3.65) than his no-decisions (3.52).