The Kansas City Royals have the least amount of innings from their starting pitchers—just 431 innings, to be exact—yet they sit in first place of the AL Central. The Royals bullpen has picked up that slack with an ERA of 2.05 over 259 innings. The Royals have shown that a dominant bullpen can go a long way towards having a successful season.
So far in 2015, Rockies starting pitchers have logged 446 1/3 innings—the second lowest mark in all of baseball, just in front of the Royals.
The Rockies have not had the same fate as the Royals. Not even close.
Through 262 innings this year, Rockies relievers have a combined ERA of 4.77, which is the highest in baseball.
The issue seems to stem from their inability to miss bats. So far this season, Rockies relievers have allowed the highest hard-hit percentage of 31.3 percent. Combine that with the sixth-lowest K/9 of 7.66, and it's a recipe for failure.
It's normal for relievers to go through rough patches and get knocked around for some runs through the course of the season, but a week away from the All-Star break, it seems the Rockies don't have a single reliever they can count on to produce a shutdown inning.
John Axford seemed to fill in the closer role nicely after Adam Ottavino was shut down with Tommy John surgery, but even he has been exposed over the last few weeks, blowing his first save of the year against Arizona on June 24th and allowing five runs over his last 3 2/3 innings pitched. Axford has been going through some personal matters at home as of late, so with that hopefully in the rear view mirror, I feel some confidence knowing he can return to pitching like he did during the first two months of the season.
Besides Axford, Brooks Brown, who is currently on the 15 day disabled list, is the only Rockies reliever with at least 20 innings pitched and an ERA under 4.00. That means the other 13 relievers who have pitched for the Rockies this year haven't met that criteria.
If the Rockies want to contend any time soon, they cannot rely on such a poor bullpen. This means—even though it makes for a good story—cutting ties with guys such as LaTroy Hawkins (He has said this will be his last season) and Rafael Betancourt. Moving on from the awful Boone Logan contract, or at the very least perhaps convincing Walt Weiss to using him strictly against lefties, who have a batting average of just .139 against him, would also be helpful.
Rex Brothers has shown some flashes of his former self in Triple-A. The Rockies have some other relievers that should see some time in MLB this year, such as Jairo Diaz and Simon Castro. Castro has a sub-4 ERA over 36 2/3 innings this year, and Diaz has shown the ability to flash 100 mph on the gun.
First year Major Leaguers such as Ken Roberts and Scott Oberg, as well as first year Rockie Justin Miller, have shown flashes of potential. The Rockies need to use these guys as much as they can to see what they have and hopefully start building towards a contending future.
No, these players might not turn out great, but it's literally a waste of time to continue to let these players age in the minors while the Rockies continue to send 40-year-olds who have no future with the Rockies to the mound night after night.
The rest of this season is looking grim, but that doesn't mean the Rockies front office can't start cleaning up this bullpen in hopes to find themselves in the Royals position sooner rather than later.