The Rockies currently own the best record in the National League West and one of the strongest aspects of the team has been the bullpen. Through Sunday, the relief corps has a 2.76 ERA and 2.08 FIP in 62⅔ innings. They’ve excelled where they should, as the group has amassed a league-best 3.76 Win Probability Added (the second place Orioles have put up 2.46 WPA). Free agent acquisition Greg Holland is leading the bullpen with nine saves in nine appearances with a 2.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts per nine innings. Several members of the Purple Row staff recently had a discussion about this surprisingly dominant bullpen. Below is a transcript of that discussion, edited for length and clarity.
Question: What has been the most surprising part of the Rockies bullpen thus far?
Nick Stephens: I think I'm almost equally as surprised about Scott Oberg as I am about Holland. I didn't think either would be nearly this good.
Ryan Schoppe: I think there's been long stretches where I may have been the only person outside of the Rockies coaching staff and his own family that still believed in Oberg.
NS: I saw the potential. But he just seemed to have no idea how to reach it. After this weekend watching him pitch, I'm sold on him being decent.
RS: I think being the fifth or sixth guy in the pen helps, but he also made some good strides with Daryl Scott right before the injury last season.
Jordan Freemyer: I always knew Oberg had the stuff, it was just, “Can he keep it out of the middle of the plate consistently?”
NS: If this Oberg is the real Oberg, and he's your 5th or 6th guy, things look very good.
RS: Eventually he can be one of the "the guys" but for now getting to pitch in lower leverage situations will help him develop where a walk won't kill him.
RS: I think a lot of that was being put in situations where he was falling behind guys and couldn't afford to walk them because of the situation and grooved it. Now he's not falling behind guys as much, and when he does he can walk the guy because the Rockies are up 8-0
JF: The ability to use guys like Oberg and Carlos Estevez in the 6th or 7th instead of the 8th or 9th is huge.
Richard Bergstrom: Bud Black seems to have a good gauge on when a pitcher should stay in or come out. Both Oberg and Estevez think Black gives them more confidence than Weiss did.
Ryan Freemyer: Black's bullpen management has been nearly perfect so far.
RB: I don't know if I'd say perfect. I think he could use Jordan Lyles and Chris Rusin more for some spots. But I've got no right to complain either.
RF: Hey now, I didn't say perfect. I said nearly perfect.
JF: Black gives everybody more confidence than Weiss did.
NS: Even when he left Chatwood in the other week and he gave up a homer, I wasn't even really upset.
RF: I loved the other day when he was coming to the mound to pull someone (Mike Dunn?) who had gotten both of his hitters out. You could read his lips saying, "That's what I'm talking about!" He exudes confidence himself, something Weiss never did.
NS: I noticed that! So awesome. Also absolutely loves how he personally does mound visits.
RS: Getting a good manager and two more really good bullpen arms sure can fix a pen in a hurry.
RS: Dunn and Holland replace Jason Motte and Jason Gurka in the pen. That's a pretty big improvement.
RB: This pen would've been good even if Holland needed more time this spring.
JF: Also Good McGee replacing [redacted] Bad McGee.
RS: Funny thing about Jake McGee is I still don't think he's getting the trust.
JF: I think he's behind Dunn in the LHP pecking order, but Dunn's earned that.
NS: I think Dunn's beard has made him a new pitcher. Should be required to have a beard as a reliever, imo.
RS: McGee's appearances are only ahead of Lyles and Rusin. Might have something to do with his spring training regiment getting so screwed up with the World Baseball Classic, though. Add good Oberg, Estevez and Rusin to that pen and it makes Lyles the worst pen arm and even he's doing pretty solid. He has a 6.00 ERA and 3.00 FIP.
RF: What if Lyles is...good?
NS: I still think Lyles is bad, but I'll give him a few more outings
RF: Lyles has the best xFIP and SIERA of any of our bullpen arms, and our bullpen has been elite. Of course, it's also only been 7 1/3 innings, so he'll need to continue to prove himself.
JF: He's come up huge in a couple of those games where starters got pulled early just by eating innings.
RB: No team has a roster full of great players, you need some filler here and there. If he likes his role, he's decent at it and allows others to do their jobs, then I'm fine.
What has surprised you most about the bullpen? Chime in below!