Let’s take a look at some news and notes around Major League Baseball, focusing on the bullpens of three MLB teams.
The San Francisco Giants are struggling to keep up with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in the NL West, and dropping three games out of four to the Snakes last weekend certainly didn’t help. In fact, most of May has been somewhat disappointing for San Francisco as the team entered this week winning just six of their first 13 games of the month. While six wins isn’t a lot, it did give the Giants a chance to show off their closer, Camilo Doval … and boy did he show off.
Doval came into May with as many losses and blown saves as actual saves. However, as the calendar flipped, Doval did a 180 and ripped off saves in his next five opportunities. He has eight saves in nine appearances this month, and earned one in three straight games this week as the Giants swept the Phillies to open their homestand. Doval features a cutter/slider/sinker arsenal that he has used to strikeout 28 batters in 19.2 innings this year. Opponents are hitting just .100 against his cutter, which routinely hits 100 mph, and his slider is inducing a 52.1 Whiff% this year, up from 38.7% a year ago. Doval leads the National League with 11 saves, and has become one of the better back end bullpen pieces in baseball
Cincinnati Reds closer Alexis Diaz is also on a nice little run this month, converting six straight saves while allowing just one earned run. The Reds are 5-5 in their last 10 games, 8-7 in May, and challenging for a piece of a really weird NL Central. Cincinnati is just overachieving really, and Diaz (who we offered a nice fantasy baseball solution here) is a big part of that. Taking over the team’s closer job down the stretch last summer (and running away with it), he’s been pretty good. Diaz has struck out 30 batters in 16 innings this season, while picking up 10 saves on the back of a nasty slider that has produced a .067 batting average against, and 41.2 put away%. He pairs that with an above average fastball, and is a true diamond in a rough Cincy bullpen.
The Arizona Diamondbacks had one of the worst bullpens in MLB last year. Leading the league with 41 losses, they were also eighth in blown saves, they struggled to close games and struggled to hold leads, losing 46 of 88 games that saw them winning or tied in the sixth inning or later. An offseason spent rebuilding and fine tuning, however, has paid off in the desert.
Andrew Chafin, Miguel Castro, and Scott McGough were brought in to lead the back end of the bullpen and Arizona has featured those three in high leverage spots, as they have appeared in 33 of Arizona’s 42 save situations. McGough has been bad, for sure, he’s 0-4, with three blown saves, his hard hit% is amongst the worst in the league, and the Diamondbacks have started to use him less in important spots. However, they have really leaned on Chafin and Castro lately, and those two have proven to be more effective, collecting nine of the team’s 11 saves.
With no reliable options in their bullpen, Arizona went 17-29 in one-run games last season. I don’t want to take too much away from one of the best offenses in the league, but Chafin and Castro have given the Diamondbacks a leg to stand on late in close games and allowed the lineup an opportunity to win the game. They are a big part of the emergence of Arizona as a contender this summer.