After getting swept by the Pirates over the weekend, the Rockies saw a losing streak reach five games for the fourth time since the calendar flipped to June; but this time, things were a little different. Normally, the offense is pretty solid and the entire pitching staff blows up, but this weekend , the Rockies got a quality start in all three games only to see thee bullpen blow the game and the offense come up short.
We'll get into the cesspool the is the Rockies' bullpen a bit more in a second, but first a couple of quick links...
Troy Tulowitzki is still listed as day to day after the thigh strain he suffered in Saturday's loss to the Pirates, but unless there's a big improvement, it doesn't sound like he's only going to miss just one game like he did with some of his other minor bumps and bruises earlier in the season. When Tulo talked to Nick Groke in the clubhouse Sunday, he said his thigh felt about the same as it did Saturday night when he had to leave the game.
On the other side of the coin, there's good news in that link concerning Charlie Blackmon's ankle. It sounds like he'll be back in the lineup tonight against Washington.
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Back to the bullpen, it's downright stunning how many games this group has cost the team. They're terrible from a pure numbers perspective, but they're even worse in terms of getting the big outs. One of the better stats we have to measure how effective a bullpen is at helping the team win / lose games is Winning Percentage Added (WPA).
According to WPA, the Rockies' bullpen has been more than twice as bad as the next worst bullpen (Houston) in MLB this season with a mark of -5.44. It takes an incredible amount of failure from a bullpen in key situations late in the game to end up with that number in late July. For instance, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Bettis, Chris Martin, and Matt Belisle all have seen opponents bat to the tune of an OPS over 1.250 in late and close situations this season.
With 40 percent of the season still remaining, the Rockies' bullpen is on pace to end up with a WPA of -9.06 if you extrapolate it out. Since the turn of the millennium, no bullpen anywhere in baseball has registered a -WPA that low. Here's a link to a list of the worst bullpens in MLB by WPA over the last 15 years.
The Rockies already rank 19th on that list with 64 games to go. For comparison, the Houston Astros, who have the second worst bullpen WPA this season only come in at No. 59 right now. This bullpen is on a historic track in all the worst ways.
There is however one long term silver lining to this disaster: Bullpens tend to be highly volatile from season to season and are the easiest problem to fix in an off season, meaning the Rockies are not as far off long term as they may look right now. This is extremely evident in the list of the worst bullpens in MLB over the last 15 years provided in the link above. Take a closer look at the top six teams on that list and how quickly their fortunes turned.
1) 2010 D'Backs, -8.37 WPA: This team went from a last place finish to 94 wins and a division title in 2011.
2) 2007 Devil Rays, -7.83 WPA: This was the last of the really bad Tampa teams before they turned the corner. The following season, they won 31 more games than they did in 2007 and went to the World Series.
3) 2002 Cubs, -6.93 WPA: The 2002 Cubs only won 67 games, but the following season they improved on that mark by more than 20 wins and got withing five outs of a pennant.
4) 2013 Astros, -6.88 WPA: Well, Okay - They're still terrible. However, they are on pace to net a 17win improvement on their win total from last year, so the point still stands.
5) 2006 Indians, -6.66 WPA: After a sub .500 fourth pace finish in 2006, the Indians jumped to 96 and within one game of the World Series in 2007.
6) 2003 Padres, -6.41 WPA: The Padres didn't make the playoffs the following season, but they did jump 23 wins in the standings from 64 to 87.
I'd like to get into this more, but I have a long drive east across much of I-70 today to Denver and Coors Field this evening, so I better get on that. The main point here however is that if there's one problem you want your terrible team to have in terms of next year's fortunes, it's a terrible bullpen. This doesn't mean the Rockies don't already have other big problems for 2015 - The losses of Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood, and Dan Winkler are major issues (more on this in the coming weeks), but it does show that a significant chunk of what ails the Rockies in 2014 is fixable, and more importantly, can be fixed in a hurry.