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Preview, #142: 9/8 vs. Braves

The second-half bullpen losses are a key reason why the D-backs are no longer in first place.

Atlanta Braves v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

Ronald Acuna - LF A.J. Pollock - CF
Johan Camargo - 3B Eduardo Escobar - 3B
Freddie Freeman - 1B David Peralta - LF
Nick Markakis - RF Paul Goldschmidt - 1B
Kurt Suzuki - C Daniel Descalso - 2B
Ender Inciarte - CF Steven Souza - RF
Ozzie Albies - 2B Ketel Marte - SS
Dansby Swanson - SS Jeff Mathis - C
Julio Teheran - RHP Clay Buchholz - RHP

I’ve been looking to see if I can find out what the cause is of the D-backs’ problems in one-run games this season. Are those games where the team failed to score enough in the later innings, or games where their pitchers allowed runs? Looking at that is probably going to require checking the box scores on a per-game basis, but we can get some idea, based on the team’s record on a per inning basis, when compared to the NL average. One thing we see is that the 2018 Diamondbacks are good off early innings: they are better at holding leads and also at overcoming deficits. In the NL, if you lead after the first, you win 71.0% of the time. The D-backs are 36-11 there, or 76.6%.

Conversely, if trailing after one, NL teams win 29.7% of games; Arizona is 8-18, winning 30.8%. [Interesting to note the D-backs have led 47 times at the end of the first, and trailed only 26. Their 116 first-inning runs scored is twenty more than any other side in the league] But their record when leading at the start of each of the sixth through eighth innings is worse than league average. They’ve let more of those leads slip away than most, which suggests bullpen issues, We also see the team struggle in tied games, where they are below .500 every inning after the first. In games tied after six, for example, Arizona is only 6-11, also indicating relief runs allowed are an issue.

We can see Diamondbacks’ starters have more wins than any other team in the league, nineteen over .500 at 55-36. Meanwhile, the Arizona bullpen is eight games below .500, at 21-29, The Mets (22-31) are the only team whose relievers have a lower W%. W-L record is to be taken with a grain of salt, but the record is at odds with an ERA which, even with the recent issues, still sits at a best in the league 3.17. These losses have been a particular issue since the All-Star break, where the D-backs’ bullpen has had thirteen of them, ahead only of the Giants (14). In contrast, the Rockies much-maligned bullpen have eight second-half losses and the Dodgers’ eleven. That provides the margin in the NL West, and then some.