Diamondbacks’ Bullpen X-Factor

By J. Levi Burnfin

It’s been well documented just how bad the D-backs bullpen was in 2010 when it had a 5.74 ERA, the worst in MLB history. And perhaps the biggest reason for the worst to first turnaround in 2011 was the bullpen improving its ERA by more than 2 runs to 3.71.

If the D-backs are going to repeat as NL West champions for the first time since 2002, then the bullpen will have to repeat that performance, if not improve. The big name guys like J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and new addition Takashi Saito need to pitch like they are capable of.

But Bryan Shaw may be the catalyst that can turn the D-backs bullpen into one of the strongest bullpens in the NL.

Shaw threw 28.1 innings for the Snakes last season with a very good 2.54 ERA. But his most impressive performance was the four innings he threw for the D-backs in the Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. He did not even allow a hit and was a go-to pitcher for Manager Kirk Gibson in tight spots.

He was the first pitcher to come out of the pen for the D-backs in almost every game and never let Gibson down.

Shaw has an outstanding cut fastball that has drawn comparison’s to the most famous, or infamous, cutter in MLB, Mariano Rivera’s. Rivera has thrown, almost exclusively, a nasty cut fastball for his entire career.

It is Shaw’s cutter that he throws almost as much as Rivera that may be the deciding factor for the D-backs 2012 season. If it really is close to Rivera’s effectiveness then it is very possible the D-backs bullpens really will be one of baseball’s best.