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Looking at the Rockies bullpen heading into the 2015 season

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The Rockies bullpen has been pretty bad the past couple of seasons, but is it poised for a turnaround in 2015? Poll below.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockies bullpen in 2014 was much like its 2013 version — awful. Take any statistic you want, but there's no denying that the bullpen was rated as one of the worst, if not the worst, by all of them. Let's just take a gander at the performance of the pen this past season. For simplicity's sake, I'm just going to take a look at the top 8 guys in terms of innings pitched.

Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 GB% HR/FB ERA FIP xFIP WAR SO BB

Tommy Kahnle

68.2 8.26 4.06 0.92 47.1% 10.4% 4.19 4.02 3.90 0.3 63 31
Adam Ottavino 65.0 9.69 2.22 0.83 46.7% 9.8% 3.60 3.10 3.06 1.3 70 16
Matt Belisle 61.2 6.13 2.63 0.73 45.8% 8.3% 4.96 3.75 3.90 0.4 42 18
Rex Brothers 56.1 8.79 6.23 1.12 38.8% 13.2% 5.59 4.98 4.53 -0.4 55 39
LaTroy Hawkins 54.1 5.30 2.15 0.50 46.7% 5.4% 3.31 3.39 3.95 0.8 32 13
Nick Masset 45.0 7.20 4.80 0.60 51.7% 7.5% 5.80 4.33 4.56 0.1 36 24
Brooks Brown 26.0 7.27 1.73 1.04 58.4% 14.3% 2.77 3.71 3.21 0.2 21 5
Boone Logan 25.0 11.52 1.73 1.04 50.0% 35.3% 6.84 5.13 2.85 -0.3 32 11

So... here are some numbers courtesy of FanGraphs. Be sure to check out this link to get a better explanation of FIP. What do they mean? First few columns I'm assuming most of y'all are familiar with. FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, more accurately gauges a pitcher's performance than do statistics such as ERA by removing variables and focusing on the things largely controlled by the pitcher. Essentially, FIP gives an estimate of what a pitcher's ERA would be given a league average BABIP and timing. By focusing on strikeouts, walks, hit batters, and home runs allowed, FIP can better judge a pitcher's true performance. In removing variables like luck, timing, and the ability of the defense behind them, FIP provides a statistic that is useful for comparing pitchers against each other. Like any statistic, FIP isn't perfect. We can, however, take a look at the average FIP per year and use this to get an idea of how the Rockies' pitchers performed against the league average, which was 3.74. xFIP, or Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, is calculated similarly to FIP, but replaces home runs allowed with an estimate of how many home runs a pitcher should have let up based on fly balls allowed and given a league average HR/FB rate. Here's FanGraphs on xFip. Definitely a recommended read.

Purely going off of FIP — again, any statistic doesn't tell the whole story — we see that 5 of our 8 pitchers were below league average. Boone Logan, Rex Brothers, and Nick Masset were well below average, in particular. On a more positive note, Brooks Brown had an essentially average season while Old Man Hawkins and Ottavino pitched well.

So what went wrong with a group that many, including myself, had pegged to be a drastic improvement over its 2013 rendition? The real Rex Brothers was kidnapped by the San Francisco Giants and replaced by an impostor, for starters. Then Boone Logan's elbow decided to go all bone spur on us and deprive the Rockies of their big signing. Come to think of it, maybe that one was actually a blessing considering how poor he pitched when he was on the mound. Really, there are a lot of different things you can blame. There were many injuries, both to the rotation and the bullpen. Our bullpen pitched a lot of innings since our starters don't pitch late into games. Maybe it's just bad luck. Whatever the case, it's clear that the bullpen was a huge weakness for the team and I'm glad that the Rockies have at least concurred in identifying it as a big problem.

The bullpen obviously needed improvement, but have the Rockies really done enough to transform a group that was among the league's worst? I actually think they're pretty close to doing so. The Rockies have added Jairo Diaz, Austin House, Shane Carle, and Jorge Rondon, although I'm not sure how many innings some of those guys will end up seeing, but I believe that the bullpen will be benefited more by players already in the system than the new names. Christian Freidrich, albeit in a limited sample, looked like a fine addition to the bullpen last season. With players returning from injury, it should allow us to keep Butler and Gray in the minors and push some of the returning guys into the bullpen. Yohan Flande seemed like he could potentially be a serviceable option as well. Really, I think that if the Rockies were to add one more guy that could be counted on to deliver solid performances, we'd be relatively set. Adding a reliever via free agency or a trade would work, but acquiring a starting pitcher could as well. If it's true the Rockies are going after starting pitching, which it seems that it is, presumably whoever they bring in would be penciled into the rotation. This would force one of the guys fighting for a spot in the back of the rotation into the bullpen. Maybe Boone Logan will be healthy this year and be half the pitcher his contract suggests he is. If we can find where Rex Brothers has gone and continue to get solid performances from Hawkins and Ottavino, I think the bullpen could finally climb out of the cellar in the rankings.

And now, it's poll time. What do you think about the state of the bullpen? Vote/comment below.