ESPN’s Kurkjian: Escobar fits in with D-backs, relievers give bullpen angles
Two of the most important attributes for playoff success is bullpen and defensive versatility and depth.
The Arizona Diamondbacks did a fine job adding both on Tuesday’s trade deadline, ESPN’s Baseball Tonight’s Tim Kurkjian told Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Wednesday.
“(A) new adjustment that teams have had to make — deep versatile bullpens and deep, versatile benches where you can rest a guy, put another guy in at that position for a day, bring the other guy back,” Kurkjian said.
Infielder Eduardo Escobar adds depth for Arizona. Primarily a third baseman, he can play shortstop and second base if another player needs a day off.
“The way that (manager Torey) Lovullo loves to move people around … (Escobar) fits right in with what they’re doing,” Kurkjian said.
And Arizona addressed the bullpen, one of the most important parts to winning a championship.
“There’s no way you win anymore without a deep, versatile bullpen down the stretch and in October,” Kurkjian said.
First, the D-backs traded for Brad Ziegler, who played in Arizona from 2011-16 and has his name all over the franchise’s relief pitching record book. His submarine release coaxes ground balls out of hits consistently.
The D-backs also acquired Jake Diekman from the Rangers, who owns a stellar 0.43 ERA away from Globe Life Park this season.
The left-handed pitcher has a delivery in which he extends his right leg further toward the first base line than many others and has an arm angle similar to Randy Johnson’s — he “slings it from the side,” as Kurkjian put it.
“You add two different arm angles, two different situations where you go, ‘Well this is nothing like we’ve seen lately,’ and that only adds to the depth of that bullpen,” Kurkjian said.
Aside from on-field production, Kurkjian thinks being a buyer at the deadline improves morale and encourages players to work harder.
“When a new guy walks in that room, like Jake Diekman did yesterday, everyone in the room goes, ‘Oh my goodness, ownership and the front office is really trying here … the least we can do is go out there win for them because they’re putting the effort in,'” Kurkjian said.
“It’s a huge boost for the Diamondbacks, and all the other teams.”
Two of those other teams competing for a playoff spot are in the National League West.
The Dodgers got their middle infield
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who had the second-best ERA in the league as of Wednesday, focused on improving their infield.
They walked away with the best player to be traded, Manny Machado, and a second baseman who has hit 120 home runs since 2015, Brian Dozier.
“You win in today’s game, you win in October, if you hit home runs,” Kurkjian said.
Second base has been the Dodgers’ weakest position; compared to the rest of the league, it ranks last in hits and No. 24 in home runs.
In addition, acquiring two everyday players helps give the team consistency up the middle.
“I think that helps a pitching staff, I think that helps the continuity of the entire team, that we’re not mixing and matching up the middle in playoff games,” Kurkjian said.
The Rockies already have their team
While Kurkjian said that bringing in new blood can often motivate a team, competitive nature can often lead to confidence: We’re good enough. We don’t need more help.
Over the last month, the Colorado Rockies proved they can compete as they are.
“Especially with their pitching staff, because again, it’s been historically good for the Rockies for the last month,” Kurkjian said.
Tyler Anderson and Kyle Freeland had ERAs of 2.16 and 2.54, respectively, over five starts apiece in July. German Marquez had three starts of two runs allowed or fewer, though his six-run game against the D-backs ballooned his July ERA to 3.65.
In the bullpen, both Adam Ottavino and Scott Oberg had ERAs below 1.50. Closer Wade Davis was nearly untouchable — excluding his July 24 meltdown, he allowed a total of three hits and didn’t give up a run last month.
That’s not even mentioning Colorado’s offense, which includes perennial MVP candidate Nolan Arenado, two-time Silver Slugger Charlie Blackmon, young star Trevor Story and the resurging Carlos Gonzalez.
The D-backs will have to find ways to hit against the Rockies, pitch against the new Dodgers and potentially fight off other National League teams fighting for a wildcard spot.
“A whole bunch of teams got better at the trade deadline,” Kurkjian said.