For much of his career, Brad Ziegler has been one of the better middle relievers in all of baseball. From his debut in 2008 with the Oakland A’s when he set a record of 39 consecutive scoreless innings to begin his career to last season when he led the National League in appearances with 78, Ziegler has been Mr. Dependability for the Arizona Diamondbacks since 2011. However, this season is on track to be his worst with a career-high 3.50 ERA as of today. So the question becomes, is this just a bad stretch for the 34-year old Ziegler or are his days of being Ol’ Reliable coming to an end?
Last night’s game against the Washington Nationals was just the latest frustrating outing. The D’backs took a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning thanks to a two-run home run from Did Gergorius. They were in line to get Vidal Nuno his first Arizona victory. Then Ziegler enters the contest and, after recording the first out, proceeds to give up a double to Denard Span, a triple to Anthony Rendon and a sacrifice fly to Jayson Werth to turn the one run lead into a 4-3 deficit. He was let off the hook by a David Peralta home run which tied the score in the ninth in a game the D’backs lost 5-4 in 11 innings in heart-breaking fashion. So far in August, Ziegler has pitched six innings, allowing seven earned run on 11 hits and six walks. In July, he appeared in 12 games, throwing 13 1/3 innings. He gave up six earned runs on 15 hits and six walks. These are numbers that are very uncharacteristic of Ziegler; perhaps the general disaster that this season is overshadows his poor performance.
In last night’s game, Matt Stites worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning and has allowed only one earned run over his last nine innings pitched. Does this symbolize a changing of the guard, so to speak? Maybe Ziegler’s more recent struggles can be attributed to the line drive he took to the ribs on July 22nd. Maybe it is just an overall down year coinciding with the team’s awful play. Let’s hope that is the case.