Diamondbacks News

Diamondbacks middle relievers getting bit by BABIP bug

By Joseph Jacquez
Apr 24, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Evan Marshall reacts against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 24, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Evan Marshall reacts against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Diamondbacks have the fifth-worst bullpen ERA in the NL, and they have been hit especially hard in the middle relief department. Although this is true, ERA is not the best indicator of pitcher performance because it factors in things they pitchers can’t control including the park they pitch in, and the defense behind them.

The latter has really hurt both Andrew Chafin and Evan Marshall this year, before they were sent down. After having the sixth-best fielding percentage in baseball last year, the Diamondbacks have the ninth-worst.

Nick Ahmed, Paul Goldschmidt, Jean Segura, Nick Ahmed, and even Chris Owings are saving plenty of runs at their positions, but as a unit Arizona has committed the sixth-most errors in baseball, and their .690 team defensive efficiency, a stat pioneered by Baseball Prospectus to measure a team’s ability to turn contact into outs, is the second-worst mark in baseball. The range isn’t there– and that means balls in play that should be outs are falling into play more compared to last season.

Injuries to A.J, Pollock and David Peralta in the outfield, and the odd shuffling that has ensued obviously has a lot to do with it, but the D-Backs should be a lot better than this– especially in the infield. Too many routine plays are turning into infield hits forcing the pitcher to labor more.

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Chafin controlled what he could control. The big left-hander owned a 10.6 K/9 rate, and he walked batters at a comparable rate to last year. His ground ball-percentage is down, and his hard-hit ball-percentage is up, but his 2.94 FIP and 3.20 xFIP proving that he has pitched much better than his ERA indicates.

But his BABIP is .447, which is 199 points higher than 2015, and higher than any other reliever in the majors. Bad luck has to do with it, but he is a ground ball pitcher and his defense hasn’t been very kind behind him.

Evan Marshall’s season has been similar. He is walking and striking out the same amount of batters per nine, and he has yet to allow a long ball in 13 innings. But his BABIP is .420, 97 points higher than 2015. His 60 percent ground ball-rate suggests that bad luck and bad defense have also victimized him. Marshall’s walks are his own doing, but his 3.88 FIP shows he has performed better than his peripherals.

Randall Delgado’s ERA of 4.05 is a bit more manageable, but his 3.99 FIP shows he to has pitched better than the standard stats show. He has a 8.64 K/9, and while walking over four batters per nine inning isn’t good, he has given up just two home runs, and his ground ball-rate is about what it was last year– but his BABIP has gone from .289 to .320.

Jake Barrett has been the one exception among middle relievers. His BABIP sits at .250.

The Diamondbacks need to issue fewer walks, but the poor defense hasn’t helped, resulting in a very high BAPIP for most of the middle guys– including the ones who are no longer in the majors.

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