Ziegler as closer might expose other flaws in ‘pen

Is Brad Ziegler the Diamondbacks’ new

closer? Maybe. That

was Kirk Gibson’s response when asked Thursday

night after Ziegler closed out the D-backs’ 5-3 win over the Brewers

(after putting two on with one out).

Ziegler’s

entrance in the ninth didn’t come as much of a surprise after Gibson and

GM Kevin Towers spent the previous 24 hours talking about their

frustration with the bullpen’s back-end implosion this year, with

closers J.J. Putz and Heath Bell as well as setup man David Hernandez

each posting five of the D-backs’ major-league-leading 19 blown

saves.

Of his options, Towers said this before the

game: “It’s not to say we’re not looking outside the organization, but I

always try to give every opportunity to our internal options. That’s

guys that are currently on our ballclub, in our bullpen and in our

system. I think if those don’t work out then you need to be a little

more aggressive externally. … We’re going to weigh all the options we

have here. We’re in a tight divisional race right now. Every game could

be the difference in winning the division or winning a wild card or

not.”

He added: “I’m not as concerned probably (with)

starting pitching and looking externally for starting pitching as much

as trying to get our bullpen in order.”

Translation:

We’d prefer to have the answer than have to go looking for it, but if we

have to go looking for it, it’ll be our top

priority.

So the question now is, essentially, if

Ziegler proves himself as a viable closer option over the next couple

weeks, do the Diamondbacks still go looking for something? And, if so,

what are they looking for?

To be clear, Ziegler has

been effective this year. He has a 2.49 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP while having

allowed just two homers in 49 games. Perhaps more to the point, he has

inherited 37 runners — an average of about one per appearance — and

stranded a ridiculous 81 percent of them. Eight times this year he has

stranded at least one inherited runner in a game the D-backs went on to

win by one run. The value in that stat should be

self-evident.

So if Ziegler isn’t in that role

anymore, it means some combination of the aforementioned struggling

back-end guys — who have allowed a whopping 19 home runs between them

— will be. And given those relievers’ results this year, it’s fair to

wonder if the close games that have featured save opportunities in large

part because of Ziegler still will going forward if he’s no longer

there to get the D-backs out of those tough sixth-, seventh- or

eighth-inning situations.

If moving Ziegler to a new

role means having to acquire somebody else to get through the earlier

innings, would it make more sense to get an established closer — one

with more than Ziegler’s four saves over the past four years — and let

Ziegler do his get-out-of-somebody-else’s-jam

thing?

That’s a loaded question that doesn’t have a

clear-cut answer without being able to fill in every variable — for

example, closer types typically command a much higher price, one the

Diamondbacks may not want to meet in terms of salary and/or prospects —

but it’s one Towers should strongly consider over the next couple weeks

as he weighs his options.