The Colorado Rockies are in big, big trouble when it comes to one of their prized young pitchers.
Eddie Butler turned in another spectacularly poor performance on Saturday in a 6-1 loss to the Washington Nationals. Though he lasted six innings, Butler was about as ineffective as imaginable; the struggling right-hander somehow escaped with only four runs charged to him despite allowing 12 baserunners -- eight hits and four walks -- and notching just two strikeouts.
Butler just doesn't have it in him to miss bats anymore. That was never a problem prior to 2014, when the Radford University product bulldozed his way through four levels of the minors, striking out nearly a batter per inning while walking fewer than three per nine. But somewhere along the way, Butler forgot how to strike batters out -- and, even worse -- developed a knack for walking far too many of them.
The trouble mostly started when the Rockies rushed Butler to the majors in June of last year; though he was striking out an alarmingly low 5.2 batters per nine in Double-A at the time, the young hurler still struck out twice as many batters as he walked. But stints in the majors, as well as Triple-A, resulted in a new problem surfacing that made the lack of strikeouts an even bigger issue.
Now, here we sit 18 starts into Butler's major league career, and he's walked 48 batters and whiffed just 43 in 91⅓ flat-out awful innings. Just about everything else has gone wrong, too; Butler's problem isn't like that of Tyler Matzek, who was more or less unhittable even through his bouts with not being able to find the strike zone. Butler has allowed 118 hits, 14 of which have gone over the wall, and he's even added four hit batters for good measure.
All of that adds up to a problem -- one that the Rockies may not feel is as serious as the rest of the world does because Butler often gets himself out of even worse situations by inducing ground balls at a 51.1 percent clip. But when runners are constantly clogging the bases, how effective is a high ground ball rate?
The real question is, what should the Rockies do with Butler? At this point, is it better to allow him to fight through his issues in the majors, where he presumably has better coaching, better umpiring and a better defense at his disposal? Or, is there a risk that he'll suffer further damage to his confidence, therefore making a demotion to the minors a better option?
Vote in the updated poll below (Matt Gross had one after Butler's last start), and regardless of your answer, just hope that Butler can turn it around. Other pitchers in similar situations have done just that, as our Eric Garcia McKinley wrote nearly two months ago, but many more have not.