Nineteen blown saves.
The number is a staggering one and a big reason why the Arizona Diamondbacks hold just a 2.5 game lead in the National League West.
The struggles of J.J. Putz (five blown saves), Heath Bell (five blown saves) and David Hernandez (five blown saves) have piled up to the point where D-backs manager Kirk Gibson suggested going with a closer by committee last week — an approach not often utilized by a first-place team in July.
General manager Kevin Towers went a step further Thursday, telling reporters “that’s it’s kind of hard to anoint a closer based on where we’re at.”
Yet hours after Towers’ blunt assessment of the bullpen, the D-backs received a reprieve from their late-inning woes with a rather simple three-out save by Brad Ziegler (4-1 and 2.49 ERA in MLB-high 49 appearances) in a 5-3 win over the Brewers.
Given the 33-year-old’s brief, yet recent success in the role, the closer question was reposed to Gibson during an appearance on Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf Friday.
Is Brad Ziegler the team’s closer moving forward?
“Short-term and long-term, Ziggy has thrown three days in a row, so we’ll see how he throws today and how he feels,” Gibson said. “The short-term is we are trying to get to the break. The long-term is everyone will be rested.
“Where do we go from there? We’ve discuss it every day and will continue to discuss it. We’re going to try to win as many games as we can, and we need to close those games out. So, throughout the break and throughout this time, we’ll discuss it. Hopefully we’ll come out with a solid judgment on what we need to do.”
While several ideas and candidates have been thrown around in recent days, Gibson admitted that the D-backs won’t be able to stay atop the division after the All-Star break without some semblance of stability in the back end of their bullpen.
“It does wear on you if you just think of all the extra-inning games we’ve played because of it,” Gibson said of the MLB-high 19 blown saves. “As a tribute to this team, they’ve won over half of those games we’ve blown the save in.
“It’s not like they’ve given in, but we’re playing a lot more innings than everybody else. It does grind on you when your bullpen has to throw a lot more innings. It makes things less stable…We’ve done a good job overcoming it, but we realize that’s not going to work in the second half.”
Recent history would also suggest as much. During the D-backs’ run to a division title in 2011, the bullpen blew just 13 of a possible 71 chances — the highest conversion rate in the NL West.