The Colorado Rockies' decision to sign both Jason Motte and Chad Qualls to two-year deals earlier this week is ostensibly about bringing aboard strike-throwing, experienced late-inning bullpen options. While that — as well as the future trade value of the two righties — is the biggest takeaway from Tuesday's moves, there's at least one other beneficiary: Boone Logan.
After two underwhelming seasons with the Rockies — Logan was bad, but also significantly misused and asked to face far too many righties — maybe now the expensive veteran will settle into the role he should've initially held in Colorado as a left-handed specialist.
The lack of quality bullpen depth for the Rockies the last two seasons no doubt contributed to Logan's underwhelming numbers and lack of effectiveness. The 2014 version of the Rockies counted on five men (Logan, Rex Brothers, LaTroy Hawkins, Adam Ottavino, and Matt Belisle) to throw key innings; two of them — Brothers and Belisle — proved to be unable to do so, and Logan's ideal role against just lefties was bastardized by the failures around him.
Two more relievers, Tommy Kahnle and Nick Masset, combined to log a 4.83 ERA over 113 innings across 105 appearances that year, further forcing the Rockies' hand in using their expensive veteran lefty out of place. Logan wasn't good anyways in 2014, and he missed part of the season with his own injury issues, but a bad bullpen around him forced Logan to face more right-handed batters (63 plate appearances, versus just 53 against lefties) than what should've happened.
In 2015, Logan dealt with a different page out of the same book, as the Rockies had one veteran (Rafael Betancourt) struggle mightily until his eventual release, another (LaTroy Hawkins) struggle early before landing on the disabled list and then getting traded to Toronto, and a closer (Ottavino) lost after just a few weeks of baseball. In their place, relievers like Christian Friedrich, Scott Oberg, Brooks Brown and Kahnle all struggled to throw strikes and find any semblance of consistency. And just like 2014, Logan faced too many righties (82 plate appearances, versus 86 against lefties) relative to his strengths.
|Year||Org||PA vs LH||BAA vs LH||PA vs RH||BAA vs RH||G-GS||IP||ERA||FIP||ERA+||WHIP||H/9||HR/9||BB/9||K/9||K:BB|
There's a lot in that table but the key takeaway, which should be common sense, is that Logan has significantly stronger seasons when the majority of batters he faces are left-handed. In the four best years of Logan's career — that excited the Rockies to dole out $16.5 million — he appeared 256 times for the Yankees from 2010 to 2013. In those games, the lefty faced opposing lefties 279 times, compared to 219 plate appearances versus right-handed hitters (56.0% lefties). With the Rockies, Logan has faced 139 lefties and 145 righties (just 48.9% lefties).
Now that Qualls and Motte are part of the Rockies' bullpen, maybe the third time will be the charm; perhaps this is the year the bullpen is deep enough to finally put Logan in a position for success. While the depth chart will undoubtedly change between now and Opening Day, the 'pen might be deep enough to allow Logan to pitch to his strengths:
Significant contributors (8): Jason Motte, Chad Qualls, Boone Logan, Adam Ottavino, Christian Bergman, Christian Friedrich, Scott Oberg, Justin Miller
Triple-A depth (6): Miguel Castro, Simon Castro, David Hale, Brian Schlitter, Nelson Gonzalez, Gonzalez Germen
Long shots (3): Carlos Estevez, Sam Moll, Carlos Hernandez
This says nothing of the quality of the depth, of course, and that list will change and expand before Opening Day. But with at least eight big league contributors and half a dozen more Triple-A arms already signed up for next season, with more coming, hopefully there will be enough there to ensure Logan stays in his lane and manager Walt Weiss doesn't misuse him. (Managerial misuse is a separate topic for a separate day.)
As it relates to Logan, signing Motte and Qualls means the Rockies might actually have a semi-consistent bullpen in Boone's third year in Denver. Maybe the 'pen will be terrible again, of course, but the presence of these two veteran right-handed newcomers should allow Logan to face predominantly lefties, where his career numbers indicate he'll build back trade value by the deadline in July.
If Motte and Qualls — who ought to return minor leaguers over the next two years at the deadline themselves — can re-build Boone Logan's trade value to the point where the Rockies get something of consequence for the lefty before the deadline, well, that makes the Tuesday morning acquisitions even a little bit sweeter.