Assistant GM Mike Fitzgerald says D-backs need to build better bullpens

Oct 5, 2022, 9:05 PM | Updated: Oct 6, 2022, 8:40 am

Joe Mantiply #35 of the Arizona Diamondbacks throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Mil...

Joe Mantiply #35 of the Arizona Diamondbacks throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on October 03, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Arizona Diamondbacks assistant general manager Mike Fitzgerald emphasized the team’s need to construct better bullpens moving forward.

The way the organization is built moving forward, the next box to check as a front office is converting late leads into victories.

“We had 46 games this year where, fortunately, we were no worse than tied in the sixth inning or later and ended up taking a loss,” Fitzgerald told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke Wednesday. “We left a lot of chips on the table.”

In the sixth inning or later, D-backs relievers posted a 4.85 ERA with a .422 opponent slugging percentage entering Wednesday’s season finale. Only three bullpens had a higher ERA and nobody allowed more slug than D-backs relievers. They also had the worst strikeout rate and the second-worst strikeout-to-walk rate.

The shortcomings of the bullpen didn’t come from a lack of trying on the front office’s part. They went out and acquired veteran right-handers Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy, who combined for a 2.68 ERA in 2021. However, they’ve combined for a 4.99 ERA this season.

The two also had an 86.7% conversion rate on save chances in 2021 compared to 75.7% this year.

“[Predicting reliever performances is] probably one of the more difficult areas when you’re talking about guys getting 60 innings,” Fitzgerald said. “On a full season, you can see some pretty significant variability from year-to-year.

“But we’ve also got to be honest with ourselves in terms of how we’ve tried to approach solving that problem.”

Since 2018, the year after the D-backs last made the postseason, they are 21st in baseball in bullpen ERA (4.41) and last in FanGraphs’ wins above replacement (0.0). They’re also last in strikeout rate (20.9%) and tied for 26th in opponent batting average (.252).

The Diamondbacks entered play Wednesday 14 games behind the final wild card seed. If they convert even half of those 46 games into wins, this team may have snuck into postseason play.

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