Interesting to see the team going back to the NPB well for another potential bullpen arm, having already signed Scott McGough back from the land of the rising sun earlier this winter. Indeed, if you looked just at their 2022 stats, it might not be be immediately obvious which one got the guaranteed contract, and which will just be getting a look in spring training. Here are their lines:
McGough: 53.2 IP, 39 H, 16 R, 14 ER, 13 BB, 59 SO, 2.35 ERA
Biddle: 57.1 IP, 42 H, 21 R, 18 ER, 34 BB, 68 K, 2.83 ERA
However, there are a couple of points to note. The numbers above for Biddle are split between the regular league and his numbers in the Japanese Western League, which is actually the equivalent of Triple-A for NPB. There’s a sharp split for Biddle, with a 4.02 ERA in the majors, compared to an ERA in the Western League of... precisely zero, where he tossed 17 innings, allowing one unearned run on six hits, with 23 strikeouts. It’s also true that Biddle’s recent results in the major-leagues have been unimpressive. Over the 2019-21 period, he played for four different teams, throwing a total of 39.1 innings, and had an ugly ERA of 8.24.
The problem is not hard to define. While Biddle struck out close to a batter per frame (38), he walked not much less, with 31 bases on balls, 6 hit batters and 11 wild pitches. That’s a lot of free base-runners and bonus 90 feet he handed out. The issue seems to have been somewhat addressed last season, looking at the Japanese numbers. In the majors there, he had a K:BB ratio of 45:20 over 40.1 innings, which is an improvement over the numbers in the majors. His fastball velocity has been a bit variable, but all told has averaged 94.2 mph, which would have been harder than most out of the Arizona bullen in 2022, where the average was 92.7 mph, so it is following the pattern of Mike Hazen looking to add power.
“There’s just nothing in this world that equals the feeling of beating the hitter. Every time I go out there, my goal is to prove that I’m better than the guys in the box. I play the game...for the love of the competition.”
— Jesse Biddle
The above is from an interesting article on his time in Japan, where he praised Orix’s more traditional approach. “You notice in the States with analytics, oftentimes the manager is not actually making a decision. It’s coming from a computer upstairs. You can be pitching the eighth inning but you could also be pitching the second inning. That’s a really tough place to be. That’s something that analytics doesn’t necessarily take into account... I have such a good rhythm here now. It’s only been a few weeks...but I really feel like I’m in mid-season form and in a really good routine. I have the team to thank for that. I know that I have the eighth inning if we are tied or we are winning.”
This certainly feels like a low-risk, high-reward move by the D-backs. It was over 12 years ago now, but the 31-year-old Biddle was once a first-round pick, going at #27 overall to the Phillies back in the 2010 draft. It’s been a struggle since to find any degree of sustained success, but the D-backs bullpen certainly needs help, and it’s not as if he even will be occupying a 40-man spot to the detriment of anybody. I’d not be surprised if we see him at some point in the season though, especially if were to prove he can throw strikes.