It's actually very simple, as there are only two D-Back pitchers out of the bullpen that are doing well: Brandon Lyon and Lance Cormier.
- Lance Cormier, 24.0 innings pitched, 1.42 WHIP, 1.9:1 k/bb ratio, 6.38 k/9, opponents batting line: .284/.357/.352, 1.88 ERA - Cormier's having a great season for Arizona thus far in his 1st full year in the bigs at 24 years of age. He appeared in 17 games in 2004, starting in five of them, and this year is better in just about every statistical category you care to name: higher strikeout rate, lower walk rate, suppressing power, using less pitches per inning, and -- here's the clincher -- a g/f ratio (ground ball to fly ball) of 2.24 this year as opposed to a 1.29 last season. Those groundballs are the key to his success, not only in getting outs, but in keeping that opponents SLG low as well. He's had enough success in the minor leagues to think that he may be able to keep these types of numbers rolling, but that is a huge jump in g/f ratio for one year. While it's possible Cormier has turned the corner in his first full season, I am loath to believe he could maintain that low ERA with his WHIP at that high-ish level. Again, we'll have to see if he can maintain that g/f ratio, because if he starts getting the ball up in the zone for whatever reason, the ratio will go down, and his opponents batting line and ERA will go up as the line drives pile up.
- Brandon Lyon, 18.1 innings pitched, 1.31 WHIP, 4.00 k/bb ratio, 5.89 k/9, opponents batting line: .284/.316/.405, 1.96 ERA - Lyon is currently on the 15-day DL with elbow problems, and as the closer for Arizona, this one will bear close scrutiny. As far as his numbers, it's very simple. Lyon isn't walking anyone, with only three free passes issued in those 18+ innings. He's also got the lowest OPS against of anytime in his short career, currently standing at .705, whereas the lowest before this was 2004 where it was .806. While I don't really believe that it's smoke and mirrors that Lyon could be better, I don't think he's this good. He has a very pedestrian g/f ratio at 1.20, and when you couple that with his low-for-a-closer k/9 rate, it would certainly seem that Lyon could be a bit lucky to only allow a .705 OPS. Lyon, at 25 years old, does hold the same possibility as Cormier that he's simply turned a corner in his pitching ability, but whereas Cormier has a host of numbers to point out an improvement, Lyon only has two -- and that walk rate is a bit too low to be believed at this point. After he comes off the DL, we'll see how he looks, but with the elbow injury in addition to not really having any numbers that jump out and grab me, I'm going to predict a moderate regression for Lyon. I don't think he'll be bad, but he just won't be as good as a sub-2 ERA might lead one to think.
That's basically it. Every other Arizona reliever has had his problems this year, especially Mike Koplove, Javier Vasquez, and Jose Valverde. Vasquez was acquired from the Rockies earlier this year, and while he did have one good year with Colorado in 2003, things look a bit grim for him. I can easily say Koplove and Valverde aren't as bad as their ERA's say, Valverde in particular. They won't stay this bad.
While I see a possible regression in Cormier and a more probable regression in Lyon, the bullpen is a bit like the starting rotation in that these things will be balanced by Koplove and Valverde simply being the pitchers that they are -- decent-to-good relievers. One very important thing to watch out for; the bullpen, for the most part, has not been thoroughly tested this season except in Russ Ortiz' starts. It would be interesting to see how they do should the strength of the Diamondbacks, the starting rotation, falter a bit and put more pressure on them.
Thanks to Jim over at AZ Snakepit for the commentary and insight.
Did I just make it through an entire piece without making a single wisecrack?