Monday Rockpile: Rockies Bullpen The Real Deal

Aug 24, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Matt Belisle throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the eighth inning at Wrigley Field. The Cubs won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

The Rockies bullpen has been hailed throughout this season as being one of the absolute shining spots of the 2012 season. They've had a couple of scuffles in the past few games, which makes the timing of this article a bit odd, but when we consider how much work these guys have done keeping the Rockies in games that the rotation had given the team no real business being involved in after the 4th inning, it's hard not to continue singing their praises.

This season, the Rockies pen has pitched nearly 500 innings this season, about 50 innings beyond the 2nd biggest workload (Kansas City's pen has logged right around 450 innings in 2012), and as such, they've rated as the 5th most valuable bullpen in MLB per fWAR. These numbers are somewhat inflated by the whole paired starter system, but realistically speaking, even if the rotation wasn't on the pitch count, I'm guessing the bullpen would still be near the top in innings pitched.

Thinking about this as beng a major strength for the team had me thinking a bit more about how legit the relief corps has really been. For starters, a 4.24 ERA isn't entirely great. Accounting for park effects and such, the pen rates out at roughly "above average" (Fangraphs ERA-, a metric that accounts for the park and scales to 100 being league average, rates the Rockies at 97 ERA-).

The litmus test for a bullpen ERA is the peripherals. Where is the bullpen's FIP? BABIP? LOB% (Left on base %)? HR/FB (HR per fly ball)? A high FIP, relative to a low ERA, generally means that we're looking at a downturn in the near future. A low BABIP can do the same thing. Low LOB% suggests a similar thing - hits with RISP not getting through. A low HR/FB also suggests that after awhile, a few more of those fly balls are gonna leave the park.

So let's put that together. The Rockies have a decent team ERA. Their FIP (and xFIP by extension) is a little lower than their ERA, suggesting that they've pitched better than the results have suggested. They also have a .310 BABIP, 3rd highest in the majors. This is partly due to Coors Field, but the point is that the pen has been allowing a relatively normal amount of hits. Their LOB% is right around 72%, bottom 10 in the majors. This number has a chance of rebounding. 12% of their fly balls leave the park - 5th highest in the majors. Again, Coors Field, but it's not as if they've been dodging cheap HR.

Lots of numbers. Lottttts of numbers. Here's the tl;dr version:

The Rockies bullpen has been pretty good this year, definitely a strong point of the team. Statistically speaking, the bullpen ERA passes a few tests: Their strikeouts, walks, and HR allowed add up more or less match up with the ERA - they've been doing what they need to to get the results. They haven't been getting particularly lucky, so I'm not expecting them to fall off of a cliff anytime soon. The pen is pretty legit, and the guys who are likely to be a factor in 2013 are in good shape.

I like writing about our bullpen.

Thanks for reading.

Off Topic

Write 'Em Cowboy - Official Website of ROOT SPORTS
Tracy Ringolsby discusses the potential matchups for a Rockies paired starter system in 2013. An interesting absence is Drew Pomeranz, and an also interesting inclusion is Alex White - not because he shouldn't be in the rotation, but rather that he doesn't seem to have a pair.

Consider a four-game alignment of: Game 1: Lefthander De La Rosa/right-hander Adam Ottavino Game 2: Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin/left-hander Christian Freidrich Game 3: Left-hander Jeff Francis/right-hander Juan Nicasio Game 4: Right-hander Alex White. Late inning: Right-handers Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt, and left-hander Rex Brothers. Swing: Left-hander Matt Reynolds, and right-hander Josh Roenicke.

Rutledge enjoying pinch duties while sidelined | ColoradoRockies.com: News
No reason to rush Rutledge back to the lineup if his quad isn't 100%. The good news is that he's been pretty decent as a PH.

Brothers credits Belisle for helping him get on track | ColoradoRockies.com: News
Good to see Rex Brothers getting back, and good to hear that Matt Belisle is a part of it.

Blockbuster trade with Red Sox makes Dodgers new "Evil Empire" - The Denver Post
Eh, I don't know about that. Every time a team in a big market drops a lot of money, they are dubbed the new "Evil Empire". I'm sorry, but I just can't see the Yankees making a move this ridiculous. Yeah, they drop piles of money, but they are NOT stupid. There's something about that franchise, but they just keep on winning, regardless of their surroundings. Spending a bunch of money doesn't make a team an empire.

Features | Rockies play Truth or Dare at the MLB Fan Cave - Video | MLB.com: Fan Cave
SUPER MEGA BONUS VIDEO: Rockies players Dexter Fowler, Chris Nelson, and Adam Ottavino sit down for a revealing game of Truth or Dare at the MLB Fan Cave

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