Diamondbacks pen ain't no bull
Published: May 18, 2011 @ 12:08pm
Arizona Diamondbacks' J.J. Putz, right, celebrates a game-ending double play against the Chicago Cubs with teammate Miguel Montero in a baseball game Sunday, May 1, 2011, in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
The Arizona Diamondbacks had the worst bullpen in the history of Major League Baseball last season.
Out with the bad and in with the good, or that's at least what the Diamondbacks were hoping for.
Out went Blaine Boyer, D.J. Carrasco, Bob Howry, Kevin Mulvey, Jordan Norberto, Chad Qualls, Saul Rivera, Carlos Rosa, Leo Rosales and Cesar Valdez (a long list of bad pitchers).
In came a new general manager, Kevin Towers.
Towers went to work immediately putting his stamp on the team. First was the bullpen.
"To me [the bullpen is] several weapons," Towers said last September when he was hired. "A bullpen is not just the closer. To me you should have five to six guys that can pitch in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning against a middle of the order hitter and be able to get a strikeout."
With that philosophy in place Towers wasted no time in working on the disaster of a bullpen.
The new faces down in the pen are David Hernandez, Joe Paterson and J.J. Putz. Josh Collmenter was there and he's now in the rotation. Kam Mickolio was up with the big league club and has since been sent down.
Sam Demel, Juan Gutierrez, Aaron Heilman and Esmerling Vasquez are the holdovers -- for now.
Towers talked in the past about building the team -- the pitching staff -- backwards. Go get a closer first and go from there. Make sure you can get outs in the ninth inning when you have to.
Putz has been everything the Diamondbacks could ask for.
Through 41 team games Putz has appeared in 14 games and is a perfect nine for nine in save opportunities. Hand him the ball and the job gets done.
The closer has an ERA of 2.40 and that includes a spotless 0.00 for the month of May.
It has to be nice for a manager, team and fanbase to have confidence in a guy to get the last three outs of a ballgame to secure a win. If anyone knows the awful feeling of that being unknown, it would be the D-backs because of the last two seasons. A lead was never safe. Those late innings were downright scary.
While Putz has been impressive, it has been Hernandez who is throwing the best. One of the pitchers acquired in the Mark Reynolds trade, he has been stellar.
The key word for Hernandez's season so far is consistency. He is 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 18.2 innings of work. He has given up 15 hits and allowed 10 walks but he doesn't allow those base runners to hurt him. Only four of those have turned into earned runs.
He's the perfect setup guy for Putz.
It's more than just those two though. Towers said he wanted five for six guys capable of getting big outs.
He isn't quite at six yet but he's getting there.
Sam Demel in 19 outings has given up only three earned runs.
Joe Paterson, the lone lefty in the bullpen, comes in when called upon and gets outs. No earned runs, nine strikeouts and only three hits given up in 8.2 innings. Talk about doing your job.
Esmerling Vasquez didn't start with the team coming out of spring training but since being called up he's made sure he isn't going anywhere. His ERA is 1.84 and opponents are hitting a measly .185 against him.
Thank you Kevin Towers. You set out to build a bullpen and after 40 games it's showing.
What I learned this week…
I learned a business can have success with letting customers pay what they want. Panera Bread Co. in Clayton, Mo. started that a year ago and it sounds like it works. Statistics provided by Panera indicate that roughly 60 percent leave the suggested amount; 20 percent leave more; and 20 percent less. One person paid $500 for a meal, the largest single payment.
Tweet of the week...
25 years covering CFB & Tommie Frazier is one of the best players/competitors/leaders I've seen. Overcame blood clots,too. Rectify in 2012!
Suggestion of the week...
I'm suggesting that you watch this. I'm NOT suggesting you try this.