DENVER — What the hell?
I mean really, what the actual hell?
I’m a writer. As Donald Trump might say, I know words; I have the best words. It’s not often that I’m at a loss for them, but the 2016 Rockies bullpen has me at a loss for words. I don’t know what I can possibly say about it that hasn’t already been said at this point.
It seems a lot of other people feel that way as well, judging by the fact that Walt Weiss’ postgame press conference after Wednesday’s 10-8 loss to the Dodgers lasted a grand total of 86 seconds. When you’ve seen the same bullpen meltdown over and over again, the manager runs out of things to say, and, quite frankly, the media runs out of questions to ask.
It doesn’t seem to matter who the opponent is, what the score is, or who Weiss puts on the mound, the Rockies bullpen seems constitutionally incapable of holding a lead. Of course, this isn’t always the case, nothing in baseball is ever always the case. Chris Rusin, Carlos Estevez and Boone Logan retired all eight batters they faced in the opener of Wednesday’s doubleheader, a 7-0 win, but losses like Wednesday night have become entirely too frequent.
I had a sense of déjà vu on Wednesday night, as I’ve been in the same postgame media gathering with Jake McGee, Estevez and now Adam Ottavino, who allowed five runs in the ninth inning on Wednesday. It was the first time Ottavino had allowed five runs in an outing since September 16, 2012, when he allowed seven to the Padres in 2⁄3 of an inning in relief of Alex White. Yes, Alex White.
“It was an unacceptable performance,” Ottavino said after Wednesday’s game.
Ottavino isn’t wrong. That kind of bullpen meltdown is not acceptable, though to be fair, Ottavino did have help on Wednesday from Matt Carasiti, who allowed three runs in the eighth. But unacceptable as it is, it keeps happening, so we must ask why.
The easy answer is, of course, Coors Field. That’s always the answer when Rockies pitching struggles, right? Here’s the thing: the Rockies aren’t coming back on their opponents like this with any regularity at all. It’s only happened a couple times, but it’s happened to the Rockies, well, I’ve lost count of how many times, which I think says more than actually looking up a number possibly could.
If it isn’t Coors, is it just a lack of talent? I don’t think, with a couple possible exceptions, that the relievers in the Rockies bullpen are bad pitchers. Ottavino hadn’t had a meltdown like Wednesday’s in nearly four years, Estevez has looked downright dominant at times in his rookie season, and McGee at one point was an elite lefty reliever. The bullpen has come through pretty frequently this year, too. The team has won 64 games, but they just have a tendency to collapse at the worst possible times.
So what is it? Is the bullpen just mentally weak (a concept I happen to think is total nonsense)? Is it the manager? Coaching staff? Just pure, simple bad luck? Like I said, I don’t know. If you think you do, feel free to tell me.
What gets me about these bullpen collapses is the stories that get left on the proverbial cutting room floor. Just on Wednesday, Stephen Cardullo hit his first two big league home runs on his birthday, including a grand slam in the nightcap. But nobody wanted to talk about Cardullo after the game, not even Cardullo himself, because losing is about the least fun thing.
There was also Jeff Hoffman, who despite not having his best command allowed just two runs on three hits in five innings of work, the best start of his big league career. There was probably a great story there, but nope, Hoffman wasn’t the story after the game.
Yes, all bullpens blow leads, but the Rockies bullpen does it with a certain...flair. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch, but at the same time it has become tedious.
I suppose that says it all.