In January of 2009, the Rockies signed a 29 year old starting pitcher to a minor league deal named Matt Belisle. A low risk, low to medium reward type of deal that happens all the time. Belisle had been released by the Reds after the 2008 season, spending much of his 4 year stint with Cincinnati bouncing between AAA and MLB.
As a newly acquired Rockie in 2009, Belisle pitched part of the season for AAA Colorado Springs. He made 4 mediocre starts before being reconverted to a relief pitcher and later called up to the Rockies. For the remainder of the year, Belisle was not good. He had not been good all season, and was not good with Cincinatti. Not a big deal because remember, it was only a minor league contract. However, all of that would change in 2010.
In 2010, Matt Belisle had a break out year. He pitched to a 2.93 ERA (2.68 FIP), striking out 8.9/9, while only walking 1.57/9 over 92 (!!!) innings. Belisle recorded a 2.3 WAR that year, ranking 1st among non-closer relievers, and 4th including closers. In 2011, Belisle put up similar, but not quite as impressive numbers while also winning 10 games (LOLWINZ)
Fast forward to this season (2012). Belisle is on pace to surpass, or at least match his numbers from 2010:
|WAR||2.3||1.3||1.3(through June 25)|
As you can see from the table, Belisle's home runs are steadily falling, while his groundball rate is steadily rising. Those two stats are vital for any pitcher that calls Coors Field his home and wishes to be successful.
Since 2010, Belisle ranks second among non-closing relievers in WAR with a 5.0, only bested by Mike Adams (5.4), whom of which Belisle is on pace to eclipse later this season.
Now, the point of this fan post was to talk about how Belisle is perceived by the media and non-Rockies fans. And by how he is perceived, I mean, he isn't. Belisle is relatively unknown throughout baseball, and never touches "most underrated player in baseball" polls or lists, or at least, none that I have seen. We've heard Mike Adams' name multiple times, we've heard of Sergio Romo, and David Robertson, but not our beloved Matt. Is it because of the team he plays for? Maybe. However, Mike Adams played for San Diego for awhile and still got the media attention.
Belisle doesn't have a blazing fastball that puts fans into awe as they read 103 on the radar gun. No, it's quite the opposite, actually. Belisle is averaging just over 90MPH on his fastball this year. A velocity that has dropped significantly from 2010 (92.3). This drop in velocity would be alarming for any other late reliever that relies on a devastating fastball/slider combination like an Aroldis Chapman. Belisle is different than those guys, though. Instead of being a two pitch pitcher, Belisle throws four. In addition to a fastball/slider, he also throws a curveball, and very occasionally, a changeup. A similar setup to what he threw as a starter (only minus a cutter). While his stuff doesn't exactly jump out at you while gluing you to your seat, he makes due, and is very, very effective in any situation thrown at him. For example, Belisle has allowed just 22% of inherited runners to score. To put that in perspective, the great Mariano Rivera has allowed 29% of inherited runners to score throughout his career.
As the trade deadline approaches, Belisle will be a target by many contenders looking for a boost in their bullpen. Maybe then he will receive the attention he deserves. Personally, as he is my favorite Rockie, I hope he is not traded, but I know it's a high possibility. But until then, Belisle is a Colorado Rockie, a Rockie who is quietly having an All-Star worthy season.