The Rockies mounted a late rally last night to make the final score look respectable. It included a three run ninth inning that got the tying run to third base after being down 7-1 early to the likes of Felix Hernandez. It was a good, solid "bless their heart" type of performance from a team that very nearly pulled off their most improbable win of the season.
However, I still walked away from that game pretty disappointed. Sure, the team rallied late and didn't quit and all that, but I would have much rather seen the Rockies lose that game 3-2 than 8-7, because folks, there's no getting around the fact that Eddie Butler is the real story here.
Monday's start marked a new high in runs allowed and a new low in Game Score for Butler. The top of the first four innings looked more like batting practice for the Mariners than an actual game, and after just 67 dreadful pitches, Walt Weiss went to his pen.
After Butler left, Christian Bergman, Gonzalez German, and John Axford all but shutdown that same lineup that used the Rockies starter as their personal pinata for the evening.
If this was an isolated incident, it wouldn't be so concerning, but the truth is that this was just the worst start in a season full of terrible starts for the righty. It's sad, but we need to look at a few alarming points surrounding Butler's recent performance to underscore just how bad this is getting:
- He's walked more people than he's struck out in 17 career starts.
- He's never gone more than six innings in a start yet.
- He has more than twice as many Game Scores under 40 than he does over 50 in the 2015 season.
- He's got a career WHIP of 1.81 now.
- He's been especially awful at Coors this year. (Opponents have a 1.034 OPS against him at home. I know it's a hitter's ballpark, but that's a Mike Trout / Miguel Cabrera / Paul Goldschmidt type of number.)
- He's been getting worse. Three of his four highest Game Scores this season came on April 8th, April 13th, and April 19th -- his first three starts. Since that time he has a 6.41 ERA
- He's suddenly become prone to allowing home runs. After giving up just two in his first six starts, Butler has allowed ten long balls in his last eight starts.
What's just as bad is the lack of good options for Butler at this point. What do you do?
If you send him back down to the minors again, then you're really yo-yoing him around and sending unnecessary mixed messages to a 24-year-old kid. If you send him to the bullpen you're making a move you should only be making if that's where you want him to be long term. If you shut him down you essential declare the rest of this season lost (not to mention the Rockies need somebody to make his starts), and if you just keep letting him start every fifth day, it feels like he's just going to get his face ripped off.
What a mess!
It's hard to believe how far Butler's stock has fallen in the last 14 months from when he seemed untouchable at Tulsa and rarely walked a batter. The next year is now huge for his career. If he doesn't pull this plane out of its nosedive by then, it's reasonable to wonder if he ever will.
The other thing that's frustrating about Butler is that you don't see the potential that was once advertised. His off speed stuff is too fast, his fastball's not effective, and his confidence is shot. This is where you can go back to a guy like Tyler Chatwood in 2012. Even as he was getting whacked around in several of his starts, there were glimpses of hope here and there. He'd mix in a strong start every once in a while, or even within a bad game he'd show off his electric stuff as he struck out a specific batter or two. You don't see that with Butler.
In other words, it was easier to see how he could turn the corner and become a really valuable member of the Rockies rotation pretty quickly - And of course that's exactly what he did until he got injured. With Butler, it's almost impossible to see that happening any time soon.
Between Jon Gray's debut tonight, the rally at the end of the game last night, and Tulo trade of the last week, it's easy to overlook just how terrible Eddie Butler's been of late, but unfortunately for the Rockies, this is a problem that's not going away anytime soon.