One story from the bullpen of the Arizona Diamondbacks is really quite quiet. That's because it involves a middle reliever. Brad Ziegler doesn't get saves and isn't the team's setup man, which means not too many people will pay much attention to him. However, he is having an unprecedented season. His numbers are solid -- 60 appearances, a 2.56 ERA and a 5-1 entering Tuesday's game -- but that isn't the unprecedented part.
That would be prolific rate in which he gets batters to ground out. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports noted it as one of the 25 stories you probably don't know about in baseball.
Passan calls the performance so far this season by Ziegler "unfathomable."
The 32-year-old Ziegler already is something of a freak as an Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher. He's a pure sidearmer whose fastball floats in around 86 mph, the eighth-slowest among pitchers with at least 50 innings. To make up for his lack of velocity, Ziegler sinks the sucker like the Lusitania, sinks it so hard that he makes opposing hitters turn into Jeter.
Ziegler's flyball rate this season is 6.9 percent. That is not a misprint. Ziegler has thrown 712 pitches this season. Hitters have lifted 10 of those as flyballs. Nobody has popped out. Nobody has hit a home run. Nobody can do much with a Brad Ziegler sinker.
The previous low flyball rate also was owned by Ziegler - and it was 13.4 percent, nearly double. Ziegler, as you might imagine, also is on pace to set a groundball-rate record at 72.9 percent, a smidgen better than Jonny Venters' 72.5 percent last year. That makes another record he's close to doubling: groundball-to-flyball ratio, where his 10.5 will top Venters and Cla Meredith's 5.29.
He has induced 14 groundball double plays this season. He almost always comes in with men on base. He has inherited 44 runners (44!!) and only 11 have scored.
In fact, if there is one thing you can count on in the later innings, it would be that he will be the guy warming up in the bullpen if there are runners on and the pitcher on the mound is beginning to see trouble. Manager Kirk Gibson, almost without fail goes to him in that situation. Only Bryan Shaw has inherited even half the number of runners that Ziegler has.
Regardless the outcome of the 2012 season for Arizona, his year, although quiet, might be the best individual performance on the team.
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