Rock Mining, Week 8: State of the bullpen

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies offense is first in runs and nearly every other normal statistical category (avg, obp, slg).  The Rockies' starting pitchers, for the most part, have been impressive with three starters with five wins (they each have given up  23 earned runs in 10 games) and a combined ERA of 4.11.  The overall staff ERA is 4.02, 21st in the league.  With an offense averaging 5.24 runs a game and pitching giving up slightly over 4 runs, the team has a +49 run differential which is second best in MLB, so why do six teams have a better record than them?

One glaring possibility is the bullpen's inability to pitch well in high leverage situations.  It is true that the relievers overall have an ERA under 4.00 and some in particular have great ERAs, Nick Masset and Adam Ottavino are under 2.00 while Rex Brothers and Tommy Kahnle are under 3.00.  But the free agents that were brought in to take on the high leverage innings are struglling of late.

Boone Logan, 4.05 ERA, has given up three runs in his last 2+ innings of work.  LaTroy Hawkins, 4.15 ERA, has blown three of his last five save opportunities and allowed at least one run in four of them.  He seems to be OK with a two or three run lead but is only 4 for 6 in one run save opportunities.  The early season failures of Wilton Lopez, Chad Bettis, and Rex Brothers in the eighth inning have been replaced by nail biting by fans in close games as almost every pitcher has taken turns in giving up a game.

The Rockies have tried to add to their bullpen from other recent acquisitions.  They brought up Nick Masset, brought to the team last year, and Chris Martin, picked up in an offseason trade, and one of the two has stuck.  There is not much left in Colorado Springs, with former Rockie Rob Scahill not doing well (4.71 ERA), Wilton Lopez not gaining traction (5.03 ERA), and the team's best reliever, Brooks Brown, being a career AAAA player about to turn 29.

The good news is the Rockies have a couple of ways to improve their bullpen, if they feel the need.  There are already four teams more than nine games out of first place who may be willing to deal and the Rockies' front office has found relief arms for playoff runs in the past.  The second option is to give some of the young arms experience in the bullpen.  If Eddie Butler and John Gray are deemed complete with their minor league education but the rotation returns to full health and does not have an opening, then they are two strong arms to help the bullpen out.

The problem then becomes how the Rockies manage their 25 and 40 man roster.  Tommy Kahnle must stay with the MLB franchise or be returned to the Yankees.  The 40 man roster is full and the team has two players, Chatwood and Anderson, who will need spots when they return.  The Rockies will have to risk names like Rob Scahill, Christian Friedrich, or Kraig Sitton??? if they want to make room for a call-up.

This will be an interesting segment of the team to watch as the season continues.  It may be a minor blip that rights itself or it may require the attention of the front office sooner than later.  At least the team has the luxury of having this type of problem...it is good to be a fan and writer for a winning team.

The Good

The Rockies won a game in Atlanta!  The combined scores of Rockies 5, Braves 4 is the best in recent memory for the Rockies in Atlanta and going into the rubber match, Colorado can win a series there for the first time in what seems like an eternity.  Even with a loss, it will be their most successful visit in five years.

The Bad

Fingers and, more specifically, finger injuries.  Two players on the disabled list from them and Carlos Gonzalez nursing a finger injury is getting ridiculous.  These players need to be wearing protective gloves, even when sleeping.

The Ugly

Getting plunked by the San Francisco Giants pitchers.  The Giants seem to have a nasty habit of going after their perceived rivals.  After not hitting any Rockies batters in the first two meetings, Giants' starters hit a Rockie batter in every game of the last meeting.  It also wasn't just any batter, they hit Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Morneau, and Nolan Arenado in consecutive games.  This alone wouldn't be enough proof but then take the fact that they also have gone after Hanley Ramirez twice even though as a team the Giants are in the bottom third for hit batters and something smells fishy.  The Dodgers used the age-old method of returning fire with fire to get them to stop and it seemed to work.  I don't like this approach but it may be what the Rockies need to do.

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