I could pretty much copy/paste my Rafael Betancourt player review into this Matt Belisle review and no one would be the wiser (provided I removed the Tommy John stuff). The relievers are almost eerily similar. Both found a home in Colorado in the latter half of 2009. Both feature high-strikeout low-walk stuff. Both have been durable workhorses out of the pen for several years in a row. And both took a step back in 2013.
This is the fourth year in a row that Belisle's ERA has gone up. He finished the year with a 4.32 mark, which is higher than you want from your primary setup man. He allowed line drives at a 26.4% rate, which is the worst he's done in his Rockies tenure.
Anecdotally, it looked like his fastball was straighter and more hittable than we Rockies fans are used to. He just seemed to get hit hard.
That said, there may be room for optimism regarding his 2013 campaign. His peripherals (strikeout rate, walk rate, BABIP, etc.) were all right around his career norms. He gave up slightly more home runs and stranded slightly fewer runners, which, one could argue, might be fluky and a result of bad luck, not a deterioration of skills. He still shouldered 73 innings, a big workload for a reliever.
But those innings are also alarm bells. Since 2010, Belisle has pitched the second most innings of any reliever in the game, and it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that he's starting to get gassed. That's a lot of bullets he's been firing, and he's no longer a spring chicken at 33 years old.
2013 Grade with the Rockies: B-
|Matt Belisle: 2013||5||7||0||72||73||7.64||1.85||0.74||0.321||65.40%||48.60%||10.90%||4.32||3.03||2.99||0.6|
So is he declining or was this just a down year? That's the question the Rockies brass have to answer when designing next year's roster. Belisle has a $4.25 MM team option for next year. That would be a bargain for the 2010-2012 Belisle; it would be an overpay for 2013's version. That's a lot of money to shell out for a reliever that the team can't trust in high leverage situations.
My pure speculation, based on the vibe I get from Troy Renck and other Rockies statements, is that the team will decline the option but bring him back on a reduced contract.
As for his 2014 performance, who can say? If he doesn't regains some zip on his fastball, he'll have to rely on deception and finesse. Those kinds of pitchers can serve a role, but they profile better as long relievers or mop-up guys, not 7th and 8th inning shut-down guys. It will be interesting to see if Belisle bounces back.