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June 12, 2002

The Daily Prospectus

Snakebit

by Joe Sheehan

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In the game I'm watching as I try and come up with a column, Shane Spencer just hit a three-run home run off of Mike Morgan to turn a 6-2 Diamondbacks lead into 6-5. Monday night, Spencer hit an eighth-inning grand slam off of Bret Prinz to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 7-4 lead in a game the Yankees would win 7-5. 

Monday night, Bob Brenly tried to get Johnson through the eighth inning, pushing him to 132 pitches before finally going to Prinz to protect a one-run lead with two outs and two runners on base. It's a situation that normally would have called for Kim, but Kim had pitched in all three games of the Red Sox series over the weekend. Brenly appeared to want to limit Kim to one inning at most, and may have figured that if he wasn't going to use Prinz in that situation, when was he going to use him?

Of course, the limited availability of Kim Monday was related to the lack of effective relievers available to Brenly. Sunday, Brenly had used Kim to finish a 7-3 game after Kim had thrown eight pitches Friday and 23 on Saturday. If Brenly had a second quality right-hander, Kim would likely have never seen action, and would have been available for a longer outing Monday.

The Diamondbacks simply don't have many other relievers they can trust. Kim has been the second-best reliever in the game, according to Adjusted Runs Prevented, but two of his teammates (now ex-teammates) have been among the ten worst relievers in the game, Prinz and Eddie Oropesa. As a whole, the D'backs' pen is slightly below average, with only Kim and Mike Myers (4.7 ARP in 18 innings) having more than a token amount of positive value.

Right now, the Diamondbacks have Morgan and Mike Koplove as right-handed alternatives to Kim in the pen, and that's just laughable. Even if you assume that Schilling and Johnson will throw most of the high-leverage innings in their starts, that leaves the other three games out of five that they'll need not just Kim, but someone to get from Brian Anderson and Miguel Batista to Kim. The Snakes are solid from the left side, with Myers and Greg Swindell, but it's going to take some help from the right side for them to stay atop their division.

Normally, this would be the time to suggest that Joe Garagiola Jr. get into the trade market and acquire some bullpen help, but there's no way I can do that in good conscience. In the last three years, Garagiola has traded Vlad NunezBrad PennyTony Batista, and Jack Cust for Matt ManteiDan Plesac, and Mike Myers. Imploring him to trade prospects—and really, the Diamondbacks have few players left worthy of the name—for middle relievers is like asking Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty to make a sequel to Ishtar.

It looks like they'll have to pin their hopes on the return of a healthy Mantei, who has been a D'back for nearly three years and thrown 81 1/3 innings for them, taking home about nine million bucks in that time. He hasn't been worth a darn since mid-2000, so expecting him to step in and play an important role in the quest to repeat is a long shot, at best.

The Diamondbacks are in good shape as long as the Dynamic Duo is healthy, but as great as they are, they can't pitch all the time, and Kim can't throw the rest of the innings. Shoring up the bullpen—without repeating the mistakes of the last three years—may be the difference between another jaunt through October and a disappointing early end to the season.

 

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Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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