Arizona Diamondbacks: Bullpen almost unhittable in May

Fernando Rodney remains the Diamondbacks closer for now. (Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports)
Fernando Rodney remains the Diamondbacks closer for now. (Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen is getting the job done during May.

A 4.94 ERA suggests the Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen struggled in 2016. Then again, the relievers logged a combined 567 innings pitched, the second-most in club history behind only the 2015 pen’s record (579.1 IP).

In 2017, regardless of what stat you use, the bullpen has gotten the job done this season and is one reason the team is contending in late May. This month as a unit, Diamondbacks relievers leads the National League and ranks second in the majors with a 2.09 ERA (12 ER in 51.2 IP). Only the Cleveland Indians (1.34), thanks in large part to Andrew Miller, have fared better.

In addition, Arizona relievers are holding opposing hitters to a .188 batting average, the second-best mark in the majors behind the Indians (.159). Over the last 10 games, closer Fernando Rodney and the crew have pitched to a combined 1.86 ERA (6 ER in 29.0 IP) and opponents have just 14 hits in 101 at-bats (.139).

After a recent win over the New York Mets, field manager Torey Lovullo spoke to Fox Sports Arizona about the bullpen.

"There is no one established role outside of Fernando (Rodney). But these guys have done a great job of taking the ball when asked. (Bullpen coach) Mike Fetters and (pitching coach) Mike Butcher keep them ready for that moment. The thing that stands out to me is they are one cohesive unit that prides themselves on picking up one another. It starts with them picking up a starter and then picking up one another from outing to outing. They are in a great spot. They come out with velocity, they attack and hand it off."

Here is a look at how the current group of relievers has performed recently.

Archie Bradley

In order to pitch in the big leagues, the Diamondbacks right-hander moved to the bullpen from the starting rotation this season.

Not only has Bradley embraced the new role, he has turned into one of the best relievers in baseball.

In every one of his 12 appearances in 2017, he has dialed up at least one strikeout, the third-longest streak in club history by a reliever to start a season. Byung-Hyun Kim struck one batter in each of his first 20 appearances in 2000. Juan Cruz whiffed one or more batters in his first 17 games.

Five of Bradley’s last six appearances have been scoreless (1.69 ERA, an ER in 5.1 IP). Lefties are hitting .143 (5-for-35) this season against the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma native. With RISP, opposing batters are 0-for-10.

In his first career relief appearance, Bradley struck out seven San Francisco Giants April 4.

Bradley’s scoreless streak sits at three games. First batters are 3-for-11 (.273). The righty has stranded all eight of his inherited runners, a key stat for any reliever.

Lately, Lovullo has gone to Bradley in the late innings frequently. The 24-year-old was not needed in the first two games against the San Diego Padres. Arizona beat San Diego 10-1 in game one Friday and 9-1 Saturday.

Andrew Chafin

The southpaw ranks fifth in the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (12.86). The Kettering Ohio native has a seven-game scoreless streak (7.0 IP).

The Kettering Ohio native has a seven-game scoreless streak (7.0 IP) and has not surrendered an earned run in 15 of his last 17 appearances (1.38 ERA, 2 ER in 13.0 IP).

Opposing batters are just 2-for-17 with RISP (.118) against the Diamondbacks left-hander and he has stranded all seven inherited runners.

Since May 26, 2016, lefties are hitting .139 against Chafin and he did not allow a hit in nine straight games from May 26, 2016, to April 2. The aforementioned streak is tied for the longest in club history with Joe Patterson in 2011 and Mike Myers in 2003.

Jorge De La Rosa

Like Bradley, De La Rosa has done well as a converted reliever. The former Colorado Rockies starter has not allowed a run in 10 of his last 12 appearances (1.59 ERA, 2 ER in 11.1 IP).

De La Rosa is one of three left-handers in the Diamondbacks bullpen with Chafin and TJ McFarland.

De La Rosa has fooled plenty of hitters with mid 90’s velocity out of the pen. As a starter with Colorado, the Mexican-born pitcher ranged from the high 80’s to the low 90’s.

Randall Delgado

The right-hander has been Lovullo’s go to guy for two innings lately. The 27-year-old ranks second in the NL in innings pitched (26.2). Delgado logged 75.0 innings of work last season, the 11th-most in the senior circuit.

Before an appearance Friday against the Padres, Delgado had gone a career-long 15.1 innings without yielding a run. Despite a 10-1 score, Delgado got the save Friday under the interesting three-inning save rule.

Delgado ranks third in wins, fourth in strikeouts fifth in innings pitched and ninth in games all-time among Arizona relievers.

J.J. Hoover

The right-hander is tied for seventh in the NL in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (12.60). The 29-year-old right-hander has recorded scoreless appearances in 14 of his last 16 games (1.98 ERA).

Hoover has pitched the majority of his games (11) in the seventh inning. The former Cincinnati Red, who is in his first season as a Diamondback, has multiple strikeouts in 11 of his last 22 outings since last season.

Three of eight inherited runners have scored and first batters are 4-for-17 (.235).

Fernando Rodney + Tom Wilhelmsen

Rodney struggled early, but the Diamondbacks closer has not been scored upon in six straight appearances. The Dominican Republic native’s 10 saves is second among NL closers.

First batters are just 3-for-17 and his scoreless streak has spanned 5.2 innings. Plenty of arrows has flown into the night sky as of late.

Meanwhile, Wilhelmsen has pitched scoreless ball in 11 of his past 14 appearances and first batters are just 1-for-20 (.200) off the right-hander, the second lowest first batter average in the majors.

Righties are hitting just .206 (157-for-762) since 2011 against “The Bartender.”

In addition to the relievers already mentioned, McFarland has done a nice job. In six appearances with the Diamondbacks, the southpaw 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA. McFarland worked the eighth inning Sunday and allowed two runs but neither one was earned. First batters are 1-for-5 and he has done a great job of inducing quick groundball outs.

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If the bullpen can keep it going, the Diamondbacks should be in good shape with the offense on fire and the starters doing their job.

Note: All stats as of May 21. 

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