When the Colorado Rockies signed free-agent relievers Chad Qualls and Jason Motte last offseason, the motive was pretty clear. The Rox needed to be able to bridge the gap from a horrendous 2015 season to a potentially competitive one in 2017, and bringing aboard veteran relievers to complement a young starting rotation seemed like a sound enough idea.
Perhaps when Motte began 2016 on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, the Rockies should have saw the writing on the wall. What began as a shot for the veteran right-hander to begin the season as the team's closer eventually turned into a six-week stint on the DL, severely impacting the depth and quality of the Colorado bullpen. When Motte finally got healthy, he was ineffective. Home runs hurt Motte -- he gave up six in just 23⅔ innings -- and he allowed traffic at a much higher rate than in his previous season with the Chicago Cubs.
Increased -- actually, career-high -- usage of an ineffective cutter was definitely a culprit. Motte threw the pitch 44.3 percent of the time in 2016, and it was worth 4.5 runs below average, per Fangraphs. But, really, the biggest issue for Motte in 2016 was Coors Field. In 13 innings spanning 17 appearances at 20th and Blake, he allowed 12 earned runs on 22 hits, including five homers. Away from Coors Field? Motte was good in a small sample, surrendering one earned run on six hits and just one homer in 10⅔ frames.
Also, injuries. It's hard for a pitcher -- particularly, a reliever -- to get into a groove when he spends in excess of three full months, well, not pitching.
Motte's case is a little bit different than that of Qualls, whose days of missing barrels with any sort of regularity appear to be over. Motte struck out a batter per inning and, as mentioned above, was just about lights out on the road when healthy last season. At the very least, that should give the Rockies a reason to keep him -- and, perhaps, explore unique ways to maximize his effectiveness going forward.