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Tuesday Rockpile: Is Matt Belisle Being Misused?

Yesterday morning, the Rockies woke up riding a three game win streak, a road trip  against three relatively weak teams on the schedule.  This morning, they wake up staring a series sweep in the face after losing to the Cubs in extra innings.  If "series sweep" looks strange, it is because the Rockies are one of only two MLB clubs not to be involved in a series sweep this season, on the plus-side or negative.

After Matt Belisle grooved a thigh-high fastball over the plate for Aramis Ramirez to turn into a walk-off home run, there were no doubt a chorus of irate threats and groans in Belisle's direction.  As a fervent Belisle supporter, it should be no surprise that I would come to his defense, though I never take up a position without supportive rationale.

There is a perception that failed starters (or just plain former starters) should become long relievers.  It makes sense - their arm is stretched out, after all.  But this line of thought considers only the facilitative aspect of the bullpen role, not the pitcher's actual efficacy in it.  

Before the 11th inning, Matt Belisle had tossed two perfect innings.  Ramirez' home run last night came not only in Matt Belisle's third inning of work, but it also came on his 36th pitch of the evening.  This is becoming a bit of a pattern.  The Rockies right-hander has now allowed eight runs, the last six coming after his 30th pitch.

His splits this season:

1-25 82 4.5 .218 .256 .282 .539
25+ 26 2.0 .318 .423 .545 .969

Those are two completely different pitchers there.  I'll throw the pitcher in that first line to close the ninth against the Yankees, but the second one is mopup duty only.  Okay.  There are two counterarguments.  One - a pitcher who is struggling in his outing is more like to throw over 25 pitchers, thus allowing more runs.  Two - this is a small sample size.

To number one:  Belisle has not allowed a run in his first inning of work in his past 15 appearances.  To number two:  relievers live in small sample sizes (ask Bob Howry), and this data backs up personal observation that Belisle tires quickly after being in the game too long. 

I am not questioning Jim Tracy's choice to use Belisle for a third inning last night.   A short bullpen dictated it.  However, I am suggesting Belisle cease to be thought of as a long reliever.  He's obviously more effective in shorter apearances, and he's quite good in high leverage situations too.


More links after the jump.

Fowler's status uncertain after switch to Smith - The Denver Post
Troy Renck points out that Dexter Fowler has found himself on the bench for four straight games.  Jim Tracy is riding the hot bat of Seth Smith while giving Fowler a chance to work with Don Baylor on finding more consistency with his left-handed swing.  There's also some positive ho-hum updates on Jeff Francis and Huston Street.

CarGo takes his cuts, expands hitting streak to 11 games - The Denver Post
That hitting streak is a season-high for the Rockies and a career-high for Gonzalez.


Twisting Oliver: Buy-low, sell-high pitchers
Jeremiah Olson of the Hardball Times points out that some fantasy owners may try to sell high on Ubaldo Jimenez, trying to trade for a veteran like Roy Oswalt.  His obvious advice:  buy, buy, buy.


The Giants: (Playing the) Best Defense in the Majors. - Beyond the Box Score
Justin Bopp shows that the Giants have been winning by fielding MLB's top defense (in UZR/150).  Despite the age in the starting lineup, all eight fielders have above average UZR's this season, fairly consistent with their 2009 season.  Combine an elite defense with the seasons of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez and the Giants might not need to score to win.