Despite the acquisition of Addison Reed, I have read more than once that the Closer’s role for the Arizona Diamondbacks will be open during the course of Spring Training. In addition to Reed, J.J. Putz and Brad Ziegler have been mentioned as candidates for the position. Even David Hernandez‘s name has appeared in this capacity although he is a long-shot at best. That would leave three primary guys competing for the ninth inning spot. Allow me to reduce the number to two.
Keep Brad Ziegler in a setup role.
It’s not that I don’t think Ziggy could handle the job. As we saw last season, he did just fine when Kirk Gibson decided that he would be his man right around the All Star break. His ninth inning numbers were outstanding compared to the other frames he worked. Ziegler posted a 1.29 ERA with a slash line against of .221/.281/.269 in the final frame as opposed to a 4.15 ERA (.240/.296/.340) in the eighth and a 3.57 ERA (.234/.296/.313) in the seventh. However, middle relief and setup roles can be just as important as closing. Often, games turn between innings six and eight when a reliever has to come in with runners on base and less than two outs as opposed to closers who mostly start the ninth inning. Out of all the D’back relievers, heck out of every reliever in baseball, who is better equipped than Ziggy to enter a ballgame with runners on the corners with less than two outs and escape further damage? There was more than one occasion last season where he came into a game with men on base, induced a double play on one pitch and then was done for the evening.
As tempting as it would be to have Ziggy resume closing in 2014, his value lies earlier in games. Good teams need strong bridges to get to the ninth inning. There aren’t many stronger than Brad Ziegler.