Former U of A Wildcats haven't exactly had the greatest track record in the Diamondbacks' closer position in recent years.
Sadly, the entire D-backs bullpen hasn't had a great track record this season, either. The team sits at a lofty 4.57 in team bullpen ERA, a mere 0.01away from last season's dismal total, and the closer role has been a struggle, to say the least. The Diamondbacks have 18 blown saves in 43 opportunities, sitting at 58% in save conversions.
The bigger issue is the fact that there hasn't been just one culprit this year. Pitchers like Scott McGough, Miguel Castro and Andrew Chafin have all been interchangeable in that role, each boasting 3 or more blown saves in 10 or more opportunities. While they have each certainly pitched less than excellently this season, part of the issue comes down to not having a designated closer. With the trade deadline looming, and guys like Pittsburgh's David Bednar being potential trade candidates, the D-backs definitely need to do their due diligence in the market. That being said, proven closers are difficult to come by, and would likely require an enormous haul of players and prospects.
It's easy to sit there as armchair GMs and make decisions for Torey Lovullo, but, in a very small sample size, if a bona fide closer can't be landed, it's time to commit to a full-time in-house closer.
The man for the job, at least for the moment, is Kevin Ginkel. Ginkel is a perfect 3 for 3 in save opportunities. While it might be a small sample size, the D-backs are out of other options, and Ginkel has given some much needed life to a hole-ridden bullpen. Ginkel shut down the NL leading Atlanta Braves in 2 straight save opportunities before slamming the door on the St. Louis Cardinals at home.
Ginkel relies mostly on his fastball and slider. His fastball hovers near the 96mph mark, and generates a 34.5% whiff rate with opponents batting .205 on his slider. Mechanically, Ginkel has the stuff to put guys away, even near the top of opposing lineups--as evidenced by the Atlanta series.
Ginkel has been nearly perfect since spending a surprising stint down in Reno. On the season he holds a stellar 2.31 ERA in 35 appearances, over a full point better than his 30-appearance ERA in 2022. In fact, he's only allowed 1 major league run--a wild pitch with Ronald Acuña Jr. at 3rd--since May 30th, and his WHIP is just barely 1.00.
With save opportunities coming at a minuscule sample size (for now), it's hard to know if Ginkel can become a long-term closer option. That being said, his work in a variety of situations throughout the season can attest that he has what it takes to perform well consistently. His passion, fire and intimidation factor also play a role. His 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame and fiery demeanor on the field are what you want in a closer's presence. If he can keep the focus dialed in and continue to prove himself in these situations, the Diamondbacks will finally have a solution to one of their rockiest personnel holes.
It's time for Torey Lovullo to make the call. Unless a proven closer can somehow be acquired, it's time to ride with Ginkel. At worst, he's added to the long list of relievers who can't get it done, but his 3 saves have all been electric, and it's time to define a crucial bullpen role.
Ginkel the Gatekeeper, it's time to put close games in his hands.