Does a demotion to the bullpen spell the end for Aaron Cook? Kameron Loe doesn’t think so.

After another less-than-stellar start, the Rockies find themselves in yet another awkward place. Aaron Cook is proving himself to be an ineffective member of the rotation, and Jhoulys Chacin is posting a 3.38 ERA in his one start in AAA Colorado Springs.

The logjam we have now has drifted past 1B and onto the mound. We have 2 veteran players in Todd Helton and Aaron Cook who have earned themselves a lot of organizational loyalty, are owed a pile of money still, and have somebody underneath them who could play the job as well as if not better then themselves.

The reason this problem seems so much stickier with Aaron Cook is just based on the nature of how a starting rotation works. With a position player, you can just sit them for a day against a tough starter, you can platoon them, you can shuttle substitutes in from day-to-day without much trouble. With a starter though, it's only once every 5 days, and a lot can happen in the time between two starts. A pitcher could have a very productive side session. They could hurt themselves in a random accident which could then lead to ineffective play. A zillion things could happen that would make it very difficult to just sub a different pitcher in for one start and then see how things go. You have to consider rest, number of pitches thrown in relief, spending too much time out of the rotation, etc etc.

The big question will be where the organization sees a guy like Aaron Cook going forward. He's clearly not a cornerpiece of the rotation anymore, as he's been on a decline since 2008 as far as his control and command of his sinker. It's not to say that Cook hasn't been trying, because we've heard a lot about him gaining weight, losing weight, tossing 70ft bullpens, all kinds of things to try and get that bite back to his sinker, and it's resulted in a lot of overthrowing and missing thus far.

The fact of the matter is that at this point, Jhoulys Chacin very well might be the guy to take the spot. Scratch that, he IS the guy to take the spot. He's striking out more than a man an inning (which very well might come down once batters figure out that nasty change of his) and getting a decent number of groundballs. He's cheaper, too.

What this spells for Cook could be exactly what it spells for Helton: having an overplayed player being used in a part-time capacity. We've heard Rusty Staub comparisons to the phase of career that Helton is in: maybe it's time Cook heads to the pen. I am not entirely confident that Cook's skillset translates well to the bullpen, but it's not entirely unprecedented. Usually we see these types of situations with failed young starters, such as Matt Belisle, but who's to say that it can't happen with a more veteran player like Aaron Cook?

Take a look at Brewers' reliever Kameron Loe. He was a starter in the Rangers' organization, never struck too many players out, but never walked too many, kept the ball in the park (and very notably on the ground), and suddenly those strikeout and walk rates began to converge, and it was pretty clear that he was done in the rotation.

Take a quick look at Loe's 2007 (his last season in the rotation) and his career line:

Name

Year

K9

BB9

HR9

ERA

FIP

xFIP

GB%

Kameron Loe

2007

5.16

3.71

0.86

5.36

4.66

4.66

56.3

Career

4.94

3.22

0.84

4.56

4.41

4.45

55.2

Now, to compare, take a look at Aaron Cook. Similar skillset, almost eerily. Check out the similarities with Cook's 2010 and career and Loe's 2007/career:

Name

Year

K9

BB9

HR9

ERA

FIP

xFIP

GB%

Aaron Cook

2010

4.26

3.64

0.85

5.34

4.71

4.77

56.7

Career

3.76

2.74

0.76

4.43

4.40

4.43

57.4

 Uncanny, right?

This season in Milwaukee though, Loe has been pitching exclusively in relief, entering the game in mostly low leverage situations (average leverage index of 1.20 - with 1 being a "neutral" leverage, not much game-changing probability), and has seen some vast improvements. For one, he's striking out 2 more batters per 9 innings, and he's doing it with his same upper-80s fastball. He walking batters at roughly his career clip, and he's preventing home runs at a better rate than we've seen in the past.

Take a look at Loe's 2010 in Milwaukee's bullpen:

Name

Year

K9

BB9

HR9

ERA

FIP

xFIP

GB%

Kameron Loe

2010

7.29

3.24

0.54

2.43

3.53

3.74

56.4

He's maintaining his skillsets (absurd groundballer, decent control, great HR prevention) and basically dialed up the punchouts - which is something we see a lot of with starters transitioning to the bullpen - and when you add all those things together, you have a very useful relief pitcher.

Now, I'm not saying that it's a surefire thing that Cook is going to have the same transition as Loe, but it stands to reason that he could make the adjustments - Lord knows that the man has worked out of some nasty adversity. My point entirely is that Aaron Cook transitioning to the bullpen may not be the end of the world for him, or for the organization. It will require some bullpen shuffling (/glances at Manuel Corpas out of the corner of eye) but I do see this as being feasible.

Contract issues will more than likely work themselves out, but as it stands, the big issue for the team is finding room for all of the pitchers we have, and then find a way to add Jhoulys Chacin and Matt Reynolds into the mix.

This is far from the end of Aaron Cook.

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