Monday Rockpile: Managing the bullpen

Doug Pensinger

In an effort to keep their starting pitchers healthy, the Rockies are trying to limit the number of pitches they throw. However, fewer innings from your starting pitching means more innings from your bullpen. Let's see how Walt Weiss has managed this difficult balancing so far.

One of the few good things about yesterday's 8-3 loss to the Rays was that most of the bullpen got a well deserved rest. Despite surrendering six runs (five earned) on eight hits and three walks, Jhoulys Chacin managed to navigate through seven innings of work on just 86 pitches. This allowed Josh Outman to mop up the final two frames and give the other six members of the pen a day off. Combine that with today's off day, and the bullpen is in good shape heading into a tough stretch of 16 straight days with a game.

Looking at the season as a whole, the Rockies pen leads baseball in fWAR at 2.1. Part of this is because they are very good, and part of this is because they have thrown the third most innings of any pen in the game. The Astros (who by the way are on pace to get outscored by their opponents by approximately 375 runs this season) lead this category by a wide margin with the Pirates, Rockies, Blue Jays, Padres, and A's all just 4.1 innings apart with the next five spots.

Spotting an overworked bullpen is often more difficult than just looking at the total innings compiled by everyone involved though. Teams can spread the workload around and if done correctly, limit the strain on their most effective relief pitchers. This is where the Rockies have a bit on an advantage. With four members of the bullpen with at least 10 appearances currently sporting an ERA under 2.00 (Rex Brothers [0.63], Rafael Betancourt [1.46], Adam Ottavino [1.72], and Edgmer Escalona [1.96]) and a 5th member of the pen in Matt Belisle who the team trusts in big situations, the Rockies have multiple good options to choose from when they need to get out of a sticky spot.

In theory, this should help limit the combination of innings / appearances on any one member of the pen, and in reality, this has been true for the most part. (Unless of course your name is Matt Belisle and you continue to be one of the most underrated assets in all of baseball)

As of this morning, 66 relievers have made at least 14 appearances this season and the Rockies have three of them; a number that's slightly above average, but certainly not alarming. They are Rex Brothers (16 appearances - Tied for 8th most) and Matt Belisle and Wilton Lopez who each have 15 appearances (Tied for 28th most).

These numbers look even more encouraging though when you compare them to how the rest of the division is managing this situation. The Giants have used both Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla a league most 18 times and have also sent George Kontos to the hill in relief 17 times (Tied for 4th most in appearances). The D'Backs have the third member of the "currently leads baseball in most appearances out of the pen" club in Brad Ziegler (18 games) and have also used Matt Reynolds 16 times (Tied for 8th) and both David Hernandez and Tony Sipp 14 times (Tied for 45th most). Meanwhile, the Dodgers have used their three relievers with the lowest ERA (Kenley Jansen, Paco Rodriguez, and Ronald Belisario) 16 times each (Tied for 8th most).

When you measure it by innings pitched, the Rockies have two players in the top 30 while the Giants, D'Backs, Padres and Dodgers all also have players showing up on this board. In all, the N.L. West has 13 of the 38 relievers with the most innings pitched on the season.

Edgmer Escalona, who has made a few multiple inning relief appearances ranks 6th, and Matt Belisle ranks 10th in this category. It's the combination of appearances and total innings pitched that's a little concerning with Belisle, but he's proven he can handle this type of workload before. The bigger issue now may be the strain on his arm from averaging 77 appearances and 80.2 innings pitched over each of the last three seasons. The guy could not be more unappreciated.

LINKS

In case you missed it, the Rockies made a couple of roster moves yesterday when they activated both Jhoulys Chacin and Todd Helton off the disabled list and sent both Tyler Chatwood and Ryan Wheeler down to AAA.

Patrick Saunders talks a little about the Rockies recent struggle with runners in scoring position, including how they went 0-9 in these spots in both losses to Tampa over the weekend.

While most of us think of the shift as a tactic used against left handed hitters, Noah Woodward points out that teams can also use a right handed pull shift to their advantage in certain situations. He goes on to outline five hitters who should be thankful that teams don't use it more often (none of them are Rockies).

Chris St. John of Beyond the Box Score introduces "Home Run Depth Perception".

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