It’s not exactly breaking news to say the Rockies bullpen is not good.
The question is what to do about it. The answer — use or lose Jhoulys Chacin.
Just to provided updated stats on the relief corps, the Rockies have the worst ERA in the NL and second-worst in baseball at 5.46. They are tied for second-worst WAR at -0.7 and tied for third in the majors for most losses with 12. They rank No. 25 in strikeouts per nine innings at 8.71 and are No. 26 in walks per nine innings at 4.57.
They are also the only bullpen in the majors not to currently have at least one left-handed pitcher on the active roster since Ben Bowden is on the 10-day IL, where he was placed after straining his shoulder on May 16.
Maybe the Rockies can wait on Bowden. With the three-batter minimum, the importance of lefties in the pen could be lessening, but every other team in the majors, including 28 with better bullpens than the Rockies must believe it’s important to have at least one lefty with most having more. A lefty or not, the Rockies need something: a trade, a call-up, and open tryout? Anything has to be better.
The Rockies have been carrying 14 pitchers on their roster this year. If the Rockies can only have nine arms in the bullpen, how many average appearances should each reliever have per month in order to play their role and help the squad get through a 162-game season following a 60-game season where pitchers need to take extra care to stay healthy?
It almost plays out like a high school math word problem, but with a much easier solution and no trains involved. If your answer was any number greater than two, then the only logical next question to arise is – why is Chacin still on the Rockies roster?
In the month of May, Chacin has made two appearances. On May 4, he threw 3 1/3 innings against the Giants, giving up two solo homers. On May 15, he got a start and went four innings and gave up one two-run homer. He was much more active in April, pitching nine innings over five appearances. Entering the final series of the month, where he certainly could get more appearances, Chacin has a 5.51 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 16 1/3 innings over seven games. He’s given up 10 runs on 19 hits, including four homers with eight walks, but he does have 10 strikeouts. Why is he in the bullpen if the Rockies aren’t going to use him?
The Rockies signed Chacin on Opening Day (April 1), three days after the Yankees released him, and his purpose was to help fill the hole left by Kyle Freeland’s injury. Freeland is back in the rotation now, which means Chi Chi González can be the long reliever. González also has better numbers with a 4.70 ERA and 1.341 WHIP in 44 innings of work with a 2-3 record. He did, however, give up a two-run homer that ended up being the game winner to the Mets on Tuesday night. Regardless, he’s proven himself to be a better option for the Rockies as a rotation replacement when injuries happen, or when the Rockies have to go to the bullpen early in a game.
If the Rockies aren’t going to use Chacin, they have to let him go. Compared to the rest of the bullpen, he’s just not pulling his weight. Tyler Kinley (4.79 ERA, 1.31 WHIP), Daniel Bard (5.00 ERA, 1.833 WHIP), Mychal Givens (3.86 ERA, 1.469 WHIP), Robert Stevenson (4.58 ERA, 1.528 WHIP), and even the rookie Jordan Sheffield (2.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) all have at least eight appearances in May. The struggling Yency Almonte (12.56 ERA, 21.6 WHIP) has six. Fellow strugglers Lucan Gilbreath (8.59 ERA, 1.77 WHIP) and Justin Lawrence (8.44 ERA, 2.44 WHIP) even had eight and six stints respectively before being demoted. Carols Estévez (2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) was not on the active roster for 18 days in May and he has the same amount of appearances as Chacin. Is Chacin really worse than all those pitchers? If so, why is he on the roster? If not, why isn’t he pitching?
I don’t want to disrespect Chacin, who still holds the Rockies second-best all-time ERA at 3.82 and frequents many top-10 lists of pitchers in Rockies history – like being No. 4 in WAR at 14.7. But I also don’t want to confuse the 2021 Chacin, the 33-year-old who has been released by three teams since July 2020, with the 2009-2014 Chacin, who we all remember and cherish. He’s not the same guy and the Rockies can’t be focused on nostalgia instead of results.
He’s wasting a needed spot in the bullpen that could go to a lefty rookie who needs time. I know the pickings are slim with other lefties on the 40-man roster consisting of Yoan Aybar, who is playing for Double-A Hartford and Helcris Olivarez (No. 10 PuRP) still working on control issues and playing for High-A Spokane.
Triple-A options don’t look much better with veterans like Zac Rosscup, who moved to the 60-day IL on May 24, and Chris Rusin, who’s rocking an 18.00 ERA in six innings of work. Ryan Rolison, the Rockies 2018 first-rounder and No. 1 PuRP, just moved up to Albuquerque and gave up five runs in 1 2/3 innings in his Isotope debut on May 22. Twenty-six-year-old Ian Clarkin, a former first-round draft pick of the Yankees, has a 13.50 ERA in three appearances including two starts. The best option might just be Jack Wynkoop, a sixth-round pick from 2015 who’s in his first year in Triple-A, but has posted a 4.05 ERA in 13 1/3 innings. His ERA ballooned because of one bad outing when he gave up five runs.
Maybe there’s an even better solution, as Rox Pile’s Noah Yingling suggested in trading Chacin or Dereck Rodríguez to an injury-depleted team like the Mets, whose pitching was still good enough to hold the Rockies to six runs in their four-game series including one shutout.
If the Rockies can shop Chacin, they should. If not, use him or lose him.
★ ★ ★
Patrick Saunders includes some very impressive stats here including the Rockies having 22 quality starts, which is seventh best in the majors and the starters owning a 2.53 ERA in the last 16 games. What’s the biggest problem in that not translating to wins? The lifeless offense. Another problem? The bullpen.
Joshua Fuentes, the 28-year-old infielder formally known as Josh, took a page out of the Chuck Natzy playbook, saying he’s a “little ‘stitious.” That’s why when it came time to make some changes to break out of a slump, he cut his hair and decided to go by his full name. The result was two homers and a walk-off hit, which awarded him NL Player of the Week honors.
Possibly the most interesting tidbit in Nick Groke’s story was a comparison of Fuentes’s numbers through 100 games, a milestone he hit on Thursday, compared to his cousin Nolan Arenado’s first 100 games. In his 100-game career, Fuentes is hitting .266 with 41 runs, 49 RBI, 17 doubles, nine homers, and an OPS of .710. One hundred games into Arenado’s career, he was hitting .264 with 35 runs, 41 RBI, 20 doubles, nine homers, and a .713 OPS.
Considering that, it’s nice to see the Rockies doing what they can to get Fuentes time on the field when they also want to start Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers.
On the farm
Triple-A: Sugar Land Skeeters 6, Albuquerque 1
Ryan Castellani is trending in the wrong direction. After giving up two runs in each of his first two starts for the Isotopes, he’s given up four, five, and most recently six runs respectively in his last three games. On Thursday against Sugar Land, he gave up those six runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings with five walks and three strikeouts. The Skeeters spread out the damage, scoring once in the first, two runs in each of the third and fourth innings, including one two-run homer, and one more in the fifth before knocking Castellani out. Eric Stamets hit a solo homer in the fifth for the Isotopes only run.
The Yard Goats jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second when Willie Abreu hit an RBI double, but Hartford left 10 men on base to squash other opportunities. Karl Kauffman took the loss on the mound, giving up three runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. Matt Hearn added two hits and a run for the Yard Goats.
The win slipped through Spokane’s grip when Shelby Lackey tried to close it out, but Eugene rallied back in the bottom of the ninth. He hit two Emeralds with pitches. The first one came around to score the tying run when Brandon Martorano hit a triple. Then, with two outs, Ismael Munguia hit a walk-off RBI single to win it for Eugene.
Niko Decolati hit a two-run homer (his third of the year) to put Spokane up 2-0 in the second, but the Emeralds put up three runs on Helcris Olivarez in the third to take the lead. Eddy Diaz then took the game in his hands, hitting an RBI double to tie the game in the fourth and then hit an RBI single in the sixth to give Spokane the lead. Moises Ceja and PJ Poulin combined for four scoreless innings of relief with six strikeouts for Spokane.
Through eight innings, three Grizzlies combined to throw the shutout for Fresno on Thursday night. Breiling Eusebio got the party started with 4 2/3 scoreless innings. He gave up five hits with one walk and struck out seven. Keegan James followed with only giving up two hits and one walk with one strikeout in 1 1/3 inning. Robinson Hernandez held the 66ers to one hit while striking out three in the seventh and eighth innings. In the ninth, Fineas Del Bonta-Smith ran into trouble. After striking out the first batter, he gave up three consecutive singles and then walked in Inland Empire’s first run. One more run came into score on a fielder’s choice before Del Bonta-Smith closed out the win. Isaac Collins and Colin Simpson both hit RBI triples to lead the offense.
★ ★ ★
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