This is the first in a three-blog segment about the bullpen for the Arizona Diamondbacks. I will start with what I think is the most important role in the bullpen for the D-backs, the setup man. This has become a more vital role in the last couple of years and for the Diamondbacks that man is David Hernandez.
Hernandez came over from Baltimore in the trade for former D-back 3rd baseman Mark Reynolds. Hernandez emerged as the setup man coming out of spring training last year and would figure to keep it based on the season he had in 2011. He went 5-3 with a 3.38 ERA, 77 strikeouts, 11 saves in 14 opportunities, and a 1.1 win above replacement (WAR). Hernandez helps solidify a struggling bullpen and the D-backs were able to get rid of a player who struggled mightily in his time with the team. During his stay in Arizona, Reynolds posted these stats: from 2007-2010 he had a .242 batting average with a .334 on base percentage, and an eye-popping 767 strikeouts with a 1.35 average WAR.
Hernandez was one of the first acquisitions new general manager Kevin Towers acquired when he started in Arizona. The previous setup man in Arizona was Juan Gutierrez from 2009 to 2010. During those two seasons as the 8th inning guy, Gutierrez went 4-3, and 0-6 respectively with a 4.57 cumulative ERA, 24 saves, with 113 strikeouts. and a -.4 WAR. Hernandez is clearly a much better fit at holding down the 8th inning and opponents scoreless to prep the way for closer J.J. Putz.
According to the MLB.com player predictions, Hernandez is projected to have the following stats in 2012: 4-3 record with 4 saves, with 70 strikeouts, a 3.46 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP. Now in my estimation, these are fairly modest projections. Last year Hernandez had 11 saves because of the injuries to Putz throughout the season and I can see Putz needing time off because of his age. I predict Hernandez will have a breakout season and have 14 saves and a 3.00 ERA even and go to the All-Star game as a reliever.
Now with a starting lineup of Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders, Trevor Cahill, and Josh Collmenter and a much stronger bullpen thanks to the likes of Putz and Hernandez, the D-backs are the favorites to again win the NL West and represent the National League in the World Series.
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