This 2019 season has been a tale of two different seasons for Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Godley.
The first season started out quite poorly. Godley picked up in 2019 almost exactly where he left off 2018: struggling. A 4.93 ERA in the second-half of 2018 led to a 7.71 ERA in his first eight starts of 2019. Godley was walking 5.14 batters per nine innings and was getting hammered, allowing a .345 BABIP. Godley’s start resulted in him being the 20th-worst starting pitcher (Min. 10 IP) in baseball through April 30, out of 159 eligible pitchers per Fangraphs’ WAR.
The second season, one in which Godley has been used out of the bullpen after a demotion, has turned out different results.
In his work as a reliever, Godley has produced a 3.20 ERA. The BABIP is down to .200, and batters are hitting just .197 against him. In his six relief appearances since the last time he started (May 18), Godley has thrown 13.2 innings, giving up one run, seven hits, and two walks with eight strikeouts, good enough for a 0.66 ERA, .152 opponents average and 0.659 WHIP.
“Zack [Godley] is throwing the baseball extremely well in the bullpen,” Lovullo told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Burns & Gambo Tuesday.
Lovullo thinks he knows why.
“The best thing about what Zack did was he took [the demotion] personal,” he said. “And I love when players do that.
“He went down to the bullpen and he’s been working his butt off to get back to where he needs to be, and we’re watching that play out every single time he’s out there.”
Lovullo isn’t sure Godley will see the rotation again any time soon.
“I don’t want to pull away the success he’s having,” he said. “I want [his success] to continue. And I don’t want to pull away the success that he’s having and say ‘Look, we’re going to throw you into a totally different role now.’”
Assistant general manager Amiel Sawdaye echoed the same sentiment.
“We haven’t had that conversation,” he told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf Wednesday. “I think the most important thing that we’ve seen with Godley is he’s really excelled in the role he’s been in.”
Both comments came before rookie pitcher Jon Duplantier’s injury though, which landed him on the IL Wednesday and saw pitcher Stefan Crichton called up to replace his roster spot.
No matter where Godley lands, Sawdaye has been quite impressed with his improvement.
“He’s kind of almost been like a quiet MVP for the last couple weeks and has picked us up and saved our bullpen in many times where the starter has been pulled out of a game or we’ve had to extend a game to extra innings…” he said. “He’s throwing a lot of strikes. His breaking ball is getting swings and misses like it used to.”
Lovullo cites performances like Godley’s Monday in a win against the Phillies as an example of him making his impact felt.
“Godley kept them in check,” he said. “You just feel the tide sway way in our favor when Zack came in the game. He got it under control and allowed us to get more comfortably ahead.”
For the manager, it’s sample size that’s the key.
“I want to see what he’s doing out there for a longer period of time before we have any other discussions,” he said.