Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 6/25/14

Tonight the Arizona Diamondbacks stand on the brink of elimination. Their season is not yet over, though a comeback at this point would be surprising. The Brewers are the better team, and have showed it thus far. Even though their prospects of advancing are slim, their season should not be seen as a disappointment but rather quite an accomplishment.

Anyone that watched the D-Backs play in 2010 should be commended for their patience. That team won only 65 games, and a large part of their struggles has to be attributed to a young rotation and a disastrous bullpen. The Diamondbacks had by far the worst bullpen in baseball, with their relievers accumulating -2.1 WAR. The next closest team was the Mariners at -.4 WAR (also the only other team to have negative WAR). It is difficult to make a playoff run without a good bullpen, and nearly impossible with a bullpen that is below replacement level.

Kevin Towers went into this past offseason looking to improve his horrific bullpen. He began by shoring up the top of the bullpen by signing J.J. Putz to a two year, 10 million dollar contract. In addition to Putz, Towers traded Mark Reynolds away for David Hernandez to fill the setup role. At the trade deadline he added Brad Ziegler to an already solid relief corp (this proved valuable in the regular season, though costly in the playoffs) in hope of catching the Giants down the stretch. As important as Towers’ acquisitions were, who he left off the roster made an impact as well. In 2010, the Diamondbacks had ten relievers at one point or another at or below replacement level, most notably Bob Howry, Jordan Norberto, Carlos Rosa, Cesar Valdez, and Leo Rosales.

From 2010 to 2011 the Diamondbacks improved their relief WAR from -2.1 (worst in baseball) to 3.4 (9th best in baseball) for year to year improvement of 5.5 WAR (second best behind the Red Sox). A swing of 5.5 Wins Above Replacement is equal to about what the Phillies got by adding Cliff Lee as a free agent, only the Diamondbacks made a similar upgrade for a fraction of the cost.

If this quick bullpen turnaround sounds familiar, it should. From 2008 to 2010 the San Diego Padres went through a similar remodelling. In 2008 the Padres’ relievers posted a cumulative WAR of .01, in 2009 3.7, and by 2010 7.7, good for the best bullpen in the game. The Padres went from 63-99 in 2008 to 90-72 in 2010. The sample size for this is incredibly small, but that doesn’t mean that it should be overlooked. What is truly amazing is the fact that both teams were managed by the very same Kevin Towers in the front office, both teams completely revamped their bullpens, and both teams rebounded meteorically from sewer dwellers to legitimate contenders. The Diamondbacks’s success this year cannot solely be attributed to Towers; Jerry Dipoto and Josh Byrnes deserve credit too, just not for the bullpen. It is also interesting how cheaply and swiftly Towers was able to rebuild his respective bullpens. Even though Towers was not the GM for the 2010 padres, he built that bullpen, not Jed Hoyer.

Arizona stands tonight on the brink of elimination, but win or lose, their season should be seen a leap in the right direction. The Diamondbacks still have room to improve their bullpen, and if Towers stays the course, the D-Backs could prove to be perennial contenders.

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Houston mayor's office weighs in on Kaepernick Instagram post

Dallas Cowboys using drones to tape practice sessions

LeBron James' manager is mentoring Johnny Manziel

Details emerge from McDonald's domestic violence arrest

Eagles rookie receiver arriving early to practice in a taxi


Eric Berry 'doing well' after finishing cancer treatments

WATCH: Blatt has special message for LeBron

Shaq once threatened to murder Kobe Bryant

Bryce Harper: Mike Trout is the best player in baseball

Report: Wilson skipped OTAs to attend funeral with Graham

Antonio Brown on contract: 'I've got enough' money

LeBron James needs to revert to an old style, not an old form

After sweep by Cavaliers, what's next for the Hawks?

Michigan DB Jabril Peppers tees off on NCAA on Twitter

Star NFL player missing OTAs? Keep calm...

Adrian Peterson expected to attend 'Adrian Peterson Day'

Blatter, corruption and Women's World Cup: It's complicated

JR Smith’s mom quotes Drake after sweep of Hawks

Hawks radio announcer calls Dellavedova 'Tonya Harding'

FIFA officials arrested, to be extradited to US for corruption

WATCH: LeBron throws down huge dunk from inside FT line

Nick Saban says he caught 6-foot, 180-pound fish

WATCH: Vin Scully tells story about Gomes being attacked by wolf

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Star player missing OTAs? Keep calm...

Transfer rumors: Drogba, Pirlo and Gomez linked to MLS

Cano's slump: The good news, bad news

Disappointments of the MLB season

UGA wants SEC to ban transfers with misconduct issues

Long's great reaction to Bears releasing McDonald

Crazy stats from the NBA Playoffs

WATCH: Curry leaves game after nasty fall

Royals' Guthrie sets records in blowout

Bears cut McDonald after incident

Report: Pierce could opt out of contract

The Talented Mr. Blatt

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.