D-backs' Top 5 relievers: Gilbert's take

June 8th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only.

D-backs' All-Time Team: LHP | RHP | UTL | RF | CF | LF | SS | 3B | 2B | 1B | C

Here is Steve Gilbert’s ranking of the Top 5 relievers in D-backs history:

1. Byung-Hyun Kim, 1999-2003, '07
Key fact: Kim's bWAR of 8.3 is the highest in team history by a reliever.

gets overlooked by a lot of people because of his performance in Yankee Stadium in Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series, when he could not hold leads, but that’s unfortunate, because it shortchanges just how valuable a contributor he was in the franchise’s early years.

General manager Joe Garagiola Jr. signed Kim out of South Korea on Feb. 19, 1999, and he rocketed through the D-backs' system, making his Major League debut that May 29 against the Mets at Shea Stadium at 20 years of age.

With a submarine delivery that caused his fastball to rise and a Frisbee slider, Kim dominated National League hitters and proved to be remarkably durable, throwing 98 innings over 78 relief appearances in 2001. He became the team's full-time closer when Matt Mantei got injured, and he posted an ERA+ of 159. The D-backs don’t get to the World Series that year without him.

Kim began the 2002 season as the team’s closer, and he had the best year a D-backs reliever has ever had, compiling a 2.04 ERA, 36 saves and an ERA+ of 223.

He continued to push the D-backs to use him in a starting role, however, and he shifted to the rotation in 2003 before being traded. He never attained the same dominance as a starter, and he returned to the club briefly in '07, when GM Josh Byrnes claimed him on waivers in August to block him from going to a rival team.

2. Brad Ziegler, 2011-16, '18
Key fact: His 377 appearances are the most by a D-backs reliever.

was a key pickup by GM Kevin Towers just before the Trade Deadline in 2011, and his setup work for closer J.J. Putz helped the D-backs hold off the Giants for the NL West title that year. His postseason didn’t go as well, as he allowed four runs in one-third of an inning over two appearances before Arizona lost a hard-fought NL Division Series to the Brewers in five games.

Ziegler pitched mainly in a setup role during his time with the D-backs, but he did slide into the closer’s role when needed, particularly in 2015, when he saved a career-high 30 games and compiled a 1.85 ERA. He started the next year as the closer, as well, and saved 18 games before being dealt to the Red Sox.

A ground-ball-inducing machine, Ziegler was a huge asset for his managers, who liked having him come in with men on base thanks to his ability to get double plays. He was also durable, leading the NL in appearances twice.

3. Jose Valverde, 2003-07
Key fact: Valverde was an All-Star for the D-backs in 2007.

Nicknamed “Papa Grande” by Arizona television analyst Jim Traber, had his best season in 2007, when he helped lead the D-backs to the NL West title and into the NL Championship Series, which they lost to the Rockies.

That D-backs team was actually outscored by its opponents over the course of the season but still won 90 games, in large part because of a 32-20 record in one-run games and a shutdown bullpen, led by Valverde.

Valverde led the Majors with 47 saves that year, and he finished sixth in the NL Cy Young Award voting.

4. J.J. Putz, 2011-14
Key fact: Putz attended the University of Michigan and has the school’s fight song as his ringtone.

Towers believed in building a pitching staff from the back to the front, and his biggest acquisition after taking over as GM was signing as a free agent.

It paid off in a big way in 2011, when Putz saved 45 games while compiling a 2.17 ERA. With Ziegler and David Hernandez in setup roles and Putz closing things out, the D-backs went from finishing last in 2009 and '10 to winning the division in '11.

Putz saved 83 games for the D-backs before retiring in 2014. After taking a few years off, he rejoined the organization as a special assistant to team president/CEO Derrick Hall.

5. Archie Bradley, 2015-present
Key fact: Bradley finished the 2019 season having converted four consecutive saves.

was selected seventh overall by the D-backs in 2011, and he elected to sign rather than accept a scholarship offer to play quarterback at University of Oklahoma.

A starter throughout his pro career, Bradley opened the 2017 season as the long man in the bullpen and pitched so well he ended up being the primary setup man that year. It was a truly amazing season, as he compiled a 1.73 ERA and 273 ERA+ and hit a two-run triple in the NL Wild Card Game, as the D-backs made it to the NL Division Series.