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Josh Collmenter Needs a Strong Outing to hold the 5th Starter Position | July

Rookie pitcher Josh Collmenter got off to a great start with the Diamondbacks in 2011, first in the bullpen, and then as a starter. But he has struggled over his last few starts, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Collmenter back in the bullpen if he struggles against the Brewers on Wednesday. Let's take a closer look at Collmenter's performance this season.

Collmenter began the year in AAA Reno, and made one start for the Aces, going 6 IP and allowing only 2 Hits and 2 ER while walking 2 and striking out 7. On April 15th, Collmenter was called up to the Majors when Aaron Heilman was placed on the 15-Day Disabled List. Pitching in middle relief, Collmenter made seven appearances for the Diamondbacks, and did not allow a run in 6 of them. His stats over those seven games were excellent - 14 IP, 8H, 2 ER, 1BB, 11 K. When Barry Enright and Armando Galarraga struggled as starting pitchers, Collmenter was given an opportunity to move into the rotation.

Things started out pretty well for Collmenter as a starter. Over his first six starts, he allowed 2 ER twice, and did not allow a single run in his other four starts.  The stats over these six starts were also excellent - 4-1, 1.12 ERA, 48.1 IP, 7 BB, 30K. One negative about these starts for Collmenter was that his pitch counts were getting high. He had to go over 100 pitches in each of Starts 4-6, even using 102 pitches to complete 5 IP on June 9. A second cause for concern was that Collmenter had started to give up a lot more flyballs. In his six relief appearances, Collmenter had allowed 24 Ground Outs, 12 Fly Ball Outs, and only 3 Line Drives.  But over the first six starts, those numbers switched - 36 Ground Ball Outs, 70 Fly Ball Outs, and 16 Line Drives.

But it's over the last four starts that things have really gone downhill for Collmenter.

June 14 5.0 8 5 3 4 8 10 4
June 19 7.0 5 3 1 5 7 14 3
June 25 6.0 10 6 2 4 6 17 2
July 1 4.2 7 5 2 5 2 13 7
TOTAL 22.2 30 19 8 18 23 54 16

Manager Kirk Gibson has said that Collmenter needs to mix things up a little bit. "I just think he goes fastball-changeup pretty much, and then when they get the third time around they've been getting on him in his last four starts. So he's going to have to figure something out and he's going to have to mix it up a little more. He's going to have to change some patterns."

Collmenter has not been using his third pitch, a curveball, very much at all. For the year, he has thrown his fastball for 69.3% of his pitches, the change-up for 26.2%, and the curve only 4.5%. And with the fastball averaging only 87.1 mph, batters do seem to be figuring Collmenter out in subsequent plate appearances.  Here are the batting stats each time through the lineup:

1st PA in Game, as SP - .126/.156/.172
2nd PA in Game, as SP - .275/.326/.463
3rd PA in Game, as SP - .313/.377/.500

So even the second time through the order, the opponents' OPS skyrockets from .328 up to .788. On the third time, it has increased even further, up to .877.  A similar trend can be seen by looking at the stats against Collmenter in different pitch count ranges:

Pitches 1-25: .151/.177/.183
Pitches 25-50: .183/.247/.254
Pitches 51-75: .228/.267/.474
Pitches 76-100: .432/.488/.676

All of the evidence points to Collmenter being more effective as a reliever than a starter - only throwing two pitches, struggling the second and third time through the order, getting hit hard on pitches 76+. But what other internal options do the Diamondbacks have?  The best choice might be Barry Enright, who had been optioned to AAA on May 5th. He has been effective in Reno - 7-2, 3.99 ERA, 58.2 IP, 8 HR, 19BB, 45K. He has won his last six starts, and has even struck out 17 batters over his last 12 innings. The other starters in AAA are Kevin Mulvey (6.98 ERA), Zach Kroenke (6.42 ERA), Gaby Hernandez (9.00), Armando Galarraga (13.38 ERA) and the recently promoted Wade Miley (2.57 after one start). Gone from Reno's rotation are Matt Torra (6.07, traded to the Rays), Tom Layne (6.25, sent down to AA), and Kyler Newby (5.00 ERA, sent down to AA).

If not Enright, Micah Owings, who has a 2.84 ERA (25.1 IP, 3 HR, 7BB, 20K) out of the bullpen for Arizona, would probably be the next choice.  He has been effective out of the bullpen, and it's not clear if the Diamondbacks think he can be an effective starter. At the AA level, the current healthy starters are Jarrod Parker (4.69 ERA), Patrick Corbin (4.29 ERA), Layne, Newby, and Wes Roemer (4.19). Roemer had started out well, but has not pitched as well over the last month. Parker and Corbin are excellent prospects, but probably are not ready to pitch in the Majors yet. So if Collmenter struggles again on Wednesday, I would rank the choices as Enright, Owings, and Roemer.