Last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen was a train wreck. The main reason was the health and uncertainty in the closer’s role. Heath Bell struggled all year long and David Hernandez, now possibly out for the season just wasn’t the same pitcher he was in 2011 and 2012. J.J. Putz, after saving 35 plus games in 2011 and 2012 struggled with health issues all of last year and will likely be eased in this year pitching in the 7th or 8th inning. The one constant in the bullpen last season was the performance of right-hander Brad Ziegler. He was 8-1 with a 2.22 ERA, pitching in a team-high 78 games. He pitched so well in 2103 that down the stretch the D’backs named him the closer after Putz’s injury and he pitched well in that role saving 13 games.
Then this past winter, the Snakes acquired Chicago White Sox closer Addison Reed, part of a busy offseason for Arizona. Reed, who saved 40 games for the Sox last season, was brought in to shore up the ninth inning role and has been pretty effective this Spring. The Snakes brought him in to be the closer but Manager Kirk Gibson wanted there to be an open competition between him and Putz. J.J. struggled, so it was an easy decision to name Reed the closer. Gibson talked about it with MLB.com while in Sydney:
“It’s going to be Addison Reed,” Gibson said, while standing on the field at Sydney Cricket Ground. “He had a good year last year, he’s throwing the ball good this spring and I think that’s the best way to go right now.”
While Reed was the best decision, I think the D’backs are forgetting about Ziggy. He thrived in the 9th inning role and it basically gives the D’backs two options at closer if Reed struggles. While I think Ziegler will be fine in the 7th or 8th inning I think the D’backs can platoon Brad and Addison in the 9th inning in certain situations. Now, I know what your thinking. Ziegler and Reed are both right handed so how can they be platooned? While the D’backs might not be able to do a traditional platoon there is another way and it comes from the way Ziegler and Reed get their outs.
I came across the idea reading the Sports Illustrated 2014 MLB Preview and they talked about this: Brad Ziegler is an extreme ground ball pitcher; 70% of balls in play last season were on the ground when Brad was on the mound. Then on the other side you have Reed who is an extreme fly ball pitcher; 44% of of balls in play last season were in the air when Addison was on the mound. Gibson can use them based on the tendencies of the batter at the plate in the last two innings. If the batter hits more balls on the ground when there are runners on base, Ziegler is the man. If the batter hits the ball more in the air than Reed can pitch. Both can get saves so that shouldn’t be a problem. This should help protect late inning leads something that really hurt the the team season.
What do you think of a platoon closer? Please feel free to write about in the Comments section found below.