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Rock mining week 4: using the bullpen wisely

Thearon W. Henderson

Sometimes it seems like Walt Weiss takes the idea of having a "seventh inning guy" and a setup man to the extreme.  Throughout the first month of this season, it seemed like he would reuse the same reliever, hoping to get the same result, only to have the reliever have trouble against the same team in their second stint.  Specifically, when a reliever had to face the same batter(s) in back to back nights or with only one night in between, it seemed like it never worked out for the Rockies.

Most relievers rely on just a couple of pitch types and hitters have an easier time after seeing them once, unlike most starters who have several different pitches and find ways to keep hitters guessing.  Even if it is a day or two later, I think hitters still get an advantage in seeing the same reliever but I wanted to look at the Rockies this year to see if there was any truth to this hypothesis.

Within this look I will not bring in the closer, LaTroy Hawkins.  Closers specialize in pitching repeatedly and usually have filthy stuff or a repetoire of pitches to get the same hitters out in multiple nights.

It is a small sample size, but fifteen times the Rockies have had a reliever face the same team within two days of a previous outing(not including the closer).  Of those, seven times the reliever did not face any of the same batters and the Rockies' pitchers did very well in all of these opportunities.  Five times they gave up zero runs in both outings and twice they gave up one run in their second appearance after giving up zero in the first game.

The other eight times that Rockies' pitchers have been used against the same team on short to no rest have not been as good for the team.  Chad Bettis, Tommy Kahnle, and Boone Logan have once each been able to hold the team scoreless in both games despite facing some of the same batters.  Of all the relievers, Kahnle is the only one not to give up runs in this type situation, but he has only had one opportunity.

The final five times that Rockies' relievers faced the same team and some of the same batters have been awful.  Matt Belisle gave up two runs after having a shutout first outing against Philadelphia.  Boone Logan gave up three runs to the same Phillies' team after holding them scoreless prior.  Rex Brothers twice gave up home runs to players he had previously faced in the last two nights.  Finally, Chad Bettis gave up four runs to the Giants when seeing four of the same batters after holding them scoreless in his previous game against them.

Of interest is that all fifteen times that Weiss has gone to the same reliever against a team in a series, it was after they had given up zero runs in their first appearance against them.  From the numbers above, it is not necessarily a bad decision as long as he makes sure that they are coming in against different hitters.  Otherwise, based on the information above, the opposing team has about a 67.5% chance of scoring runs.

Will this trend continue?  I hope not, either by Weiss focusing more on who his pitchers have faced or by the pitchers doing a better job against the same hitters.  The first option is more preferred to me as doing the same thing and expecting different results stinks of desperation.

The Good

Hitting home runs has become contagious for the Rockies.  Every single regular except for D.J. LeMahieu has at least three home runs this month and three Rockies are in the top twenty in the league with five long balls each.

The Bad

The Rockies twice had the opportunity for a sweep in the last week and twice let the game get away from them.  The Phillies won 10-9 last Sunday while the Giants won in extras due to a grand slam on Wednesday.

The Ugly

Carlo Gonzalez's hot start to the season seems like so long ago.  His slump is now going on two weeks and from April 11 to Saturday night he has gone 6 for 45 with only one extra base hit.  The good news is that he only has struck out six times and walked three times during these bad times so the contact he is making should eventually find holes.