Heath Bell has 13 saves for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. In an ideal world, he should not get one more.
That seems like a pretty harsh thing to say for an Established Closer (TM) who was 166 saves through 574.1 innings over his nine-year career, but facts are facts, and the truth here is that Bell is simply not that good. Of course, with the closer having allowed runs in nine of his 30 appearances, including his last four, Diamondback fans already know this, but apparently the team still hasn’t quite gotten the message yet.
Maybe it’s because he keeps recording saves in spite of himself.
Much like his outing on Wednesday in which he was asked to protect a three-run lead in the ninth against the Miami Marlins (who, of course, know all about the closer’s ineptitude), Bell managed to come to the mound, serve up a long ball … and still manage to get a handshake. In fact, that’s how he’s managed his last two saves.
The numbers, however, paint a different story.
See, despite posting a career-best (among qualifying seasons) 3.56 K/BB thanks to a 10.05 K/9, Bell’s 4.40/1.57 ERA/WHIP will tell you that this is the worst version of the pitcher that the baseball world has seen yet … which is saying quite a bit if you consider his debacle last season.
This, and you’ll know if you’ve seen him pitch at all this season, is because he’s serving up the meatiest of meatballs these days. He might be striking out batters in bunches and not walking very many, but when batters get their hands on a Heath Bell offering, it goes quite a long way. He’s already served up six home runs on the year, including one in each of his last four outings.
Think it’s a fluke or a bad stretch? Well, his .298 BAA and 25.6 percent line drive rate (second highest in his career) disagree. The right-hander’s .361 BABIP might be well above his career average of .309, but there’s a plenty good reason for it.
Actually, considering that he’s currently holding a 84.7 percent strand rate, you might even say he’s a little lucky to be this bad.
So, let’s review: declining velocity? Check. Spiking BAA and line drive rate? Check. Stuff that is getting by nobody when it’s inside the zone (career-high 94 percent zone contact)? Check.
If the Diamondbacks enjoy this whole leading-the-NL-West thing, they’ll need to make some changes in the ninth inning department and explore their options; because when it comes down to it, the Heath Bell Experience is more than likely to end in tears.