Five relievers the Diamondbacks can count on for a playoff push
As the Arizona Diamondbacks march toward a potential and unexpected run at the 2017 postseason, every series is starting to feel like the playoffs have already begun. A key to the team’s successes and failures this season — and will be going forward — has been the performance of their bullpen.
The D-backs have leaned heavily on their bullpen for not only relief pitching but for spot starts when in need. With Arizona looking to end the season as strongly as it started it, five relief pitchers have now emerged as reliable stalwarts of the staff who will be the security blankets manager Torey Lovullo looks to going forward.
RHP Archie Bradley
Bradley’s move to the bullpen was questioned at the end of spring training yet has turned out to be one of the best moves by Lovullo this season. Bradley and his beard have been outstanding in relief, sporting a 1.33 ERA and a 0.926 WHIP in 54.0 innings pitched with 59 strikeouts and a 3-2 record. He is currently ranked third in the National League in ERA, fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.27) and fifth in WHIP. In fact, his first half ERA of 1.10 is a franchise record for any reliever with at least 20 appearances.
He hasn’t allowed a home run in 28 straight games. At home, opponents have just a .108 batting average with runners in scoring position, which shows how reliable Bradley has been for the D-backs out of the pen.
Not only has Bradley performed well, but his competitive drive and spirit has seemed to be a boost to the team and the fan base. His recent emotions spilling over during a home game against NL West rival Los Angeles Dodgers is the exact type of spark that a team needs to inject life into its players late in a game.
LHP Andrew Chafin
Chafin, whose 2012 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali with a fully built twin turbo is still available for sale, has quietly been another solid and reliable piece of the bullpen. His 2.38 ERA in 41.2 innings pitched ranks 13th in the National League for relievers. He has held opponents scoreless in 15 of his last 19 games, and he had a 43-game streak this season of not allowing a home run.
A big part of his success, especially at a hitter-friendly park like Chase Field, has been his tendency to induce ground balls from opposing batters. Chafin ranks fourth in NL relievers in ground ball-fly ball ratio (3.61) and sixth in ground ball percentage at 60.2.
But, most importantly, he ranks first in utilization of being mic’d up on TV for potential financial gain.
LHP Jorge De La Rosa
Much like Bradley, De La Rosa is another former starting pitcher who has found success in becoming a reliever. He is only one of three relief pitchers who haven’t allowed an inherited runner to score this season and, of those three pitchers, he has the most inherited runners at 23.
The 14-year vet has been outstanding against left handed batters, who are just 10-for-56 this season against De La Rosa with a .179 batting average. He is 3-1 with a 4.57 ERA in 43.1 innings pitched this season.
RHP David Hernandez
The acquisition of David Hernandez didn’t receive as much attention as the team’s trade for J.D. Martinez, but it may prove to be just as valuable when the postseason comes around. Hernandez currently has a career-best 2.01 ERA this season with 41 strikeouts and only eight walked batters. He currently has a 14-game scoreless streak and a 0.98 ERA in his last 27.2 innings pitcher.
He now ranks first among D-backs relievers in holds, second in appearances, third in strikeouts, and sixth in wins and innings pitched. The addition of Hernandez brings a high level of talent and experience to the bullpen with a dash of nostalgia that feels like the stuff championship teams are made of.
Closer Fernando Rodney
Despite the fact that Rodney pitching in save situations has felt at times like being on a roller coaster that you never want to ride again, the D-backs’ closer has been one of the more reliable closers in MLB this season.
Rodney is third in the National League in saves at 26 and currently has a five-game scoreless streak in save situations. Since May 1, his opponent batting average of .128 is second-best in MLB behind Felipe Rivero, and he has not allowed an earned run in 28 of his last 31 appearances.
The negativity and concerns with Rodney comes from his five blown saves this season, which is tied for 10th-most in MLB. He also tends to allow batters to get on base with an opponent batting average of .309 and an ERA of 4.81. His performance and reliability will be the biggest question mark about the pen going forward because of how good and bad he can be at times.
These five pitchers will need to be at the top of their game as they will be the relied on by the D-backs while making their push for the postseason and in the playoffs if they are able to advance.
On Sept. 1, the roster expanding for the playoffs does open up possibilities for Arizona’s bullpen, as well as the fact that in the playoffs, we could see a four-man starting rotation that would allow for possibly Patrick Corbin or Taijuan Walker to be utilized in relief. But for now, the continued consistency by these relievers will play a huge role in how far this team can go.