MLB: AZ Diamondbacks Bullpen Issues
With the second month of the season underway for the Arizona Diamondbacks, this team should feel positive about what they have seen so far. At this time last year the Diamondbacks were 7 and 19 and were failing at hitting, pitching and defense. This season has seen improvement in all of those areas, as well as the calling of games by their catching staff; and their defense is the fourth best in baseball.
One concern that still needs to be addressed, and quickly, is their bullpen. The Diamondbacks’ bullpen is currently ranked 25th in baseball with an ERA at 4.32. Opposing teams are hitting .272 against them, which is currently last in the league, and the team is also last in the majors with only one save. They have blown three save opportunities in four chances, to go along with three wins against five losses. Another issue for this bullpen is that they are last in the National League and 27th overall in strikeouts, with only 61.
Currently, only Brad Ziegler and Randall Delgado have ERA’s under 4. Evan Marshall and Oliver Perez, who were consistent last year, have struggled. Marshall has had trouble locating his pitches, especially his changeup and curveball and he has given up three homeruns. He needs work on his ground ball outs and avoid giving up additional home runs. The Diamondbacks will need to keep Marshall in a bullpen role and, although they have not lost faith in him, they will be using him in less crucial situations while he works on his pitching issues.
Oliver Perez is not getting the strikeout and ground ball outs he did last year and his slider is missing the mark. He has demonstrated mental toughness by surviving 12 major league seasons and knows how major league hitters react, so he should be able to get his form back. Perez’ trade value is high, because he is a left-handed reliever; and if the Diamondbacks are not in contention at the trade deadline, Oliver Perez could be traded for a prospect.
So far this season the relievers have not fulfilled their purpose of holding leads to obtain wins. It also would be nice not to need them as much, if the starting staff could pitch for more innings as we don’t want a repeat of last year, when they had the worst bullpen in all of baseball.
Staying healthy and avoiding the “tired arm”, while maintaining solid production from those working the high leverage innings like Perez, Marshall and even Ziegler, is essential if the Diamondbacks are to make a run at being a .500 baseball team in 2015.
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