The Rockies have seen 5 2⁄3 innings of relief pitching from Alex Colomé, an offseason pickup from the Twins. His ERA sits in the sixes; his WHIP is above two. Six other Rockies relievers have thrown more than he has in this early season, but only one (Daniel Bard) is making more this year than the $4.1 million Colomé will receive.
He takes plenty of time between pitches. Rockies fans have a lot of time to think with Colomé’s slow and deliberate working pace on the mound, which only magnifies some early season thoughts. It’s clearly too soon for concern — Chad Kuhl threw more innings on Sunday alone than Colomé has all year — but what we’re left with is a role in question as other relievers begin to establish themselves.
His arsenal is still there; a two-pitch mix of cutters (76.9%) and fastballs (23.1) is all Colomé throws. His deception appears to have taken a hit, however: Colomé’s whiff percentage on cutters has plummeted to 18.9%, and it’s below 30 for the first time in eight years. His put-away percentage on cutters is also at an all-time low (11.1%).
His pound-for-pound spin rate with velocity is close to where it’s always been, which may suggest he hasn’t deliberately changed anything. His vertical and horizontal break has shown slight variance, but nothing completely rebranded for his 5 2⁄3 innings:
It’s been the fastball that has deflated Colomé’s numbers this year, as opponents have posted a .750 average, .793 wOBA and 1.250 slugging percentage on it. The grain of salt moment is that he’s only thrown 25 total this year, but when he only throws two pitches, it can be dangerous if one isn’t being thrown with the requisite confidence.
This may explain Colomé’s low strikeout percentage, ranking in MLB’s fifth percentile. Most of his metric percentiles on Baseball Savant are below MLB average — yet his predictive metrics suggest he’s been doing better than he’s actually shown:
By acknowledging FIP as a better predictor than ERA, we can see that Colomé might be a victim of some bad luck. His 6.35 ERA is accompanied by a 3.61 FIP. While his 5.45 xFIP isn’t great, it also uses a league-average fly ball rate in calculation and doesn’t account for any pitch attributes (mainly from his cutter) that could give Colomé better outcomes in the air.
Simply put: he hasn’t thrown as bad as a 6.35 ERA, but the lack of a trusty fastball may serve as a contrary predictor.
More food for thought: Colomé’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .429 right now. This is 1. astronomical, and 2. a poor predictor of future performance. His career BABIP by year has seen routine deviations before, suggesting the variance is more an issue of luck and less on his actual stuff. He’s never seen a BABIP jump like he currently holds, however, and a bigger sample should help regulate the early-year misfortune he has encountered.
The Unusual Year
Changing teams is nothing new for Colomé, as the Rockies are the fifth big league club he has played for. The way he was acquired was different, however: Colomé was forced to wait during the lockout and couldn’t contact any big league clubs.
This shouldn’t fundamentally change who he is as a pitcher, as it wasn’t like he would just shut down training during a work stoppage. It doesn’t mean his training was easy, however, as he wasn’t sure where his next move would be and he could do little to figure it out.
Picking back up at the drop of a hat can be challenging for many — especially those with established big league norms.
Relievers are forced to deal with the unpredictable, and his workload alone shouldn’t be as concerning as that of a starter. Feeling prepared under that unpredictability is a whole new animal, however, and perhaps it will just take a regained routine for Colomé to get back to the shutdown reliever he was called upon to be.
Defining The Role
Daniel Bard currently leads the Rockies with five saves. Next on the list is Colomé with two, as he’s been the leading candidate for when Bard hasn’t been available.
Experience is huge in that role — but that pitcher is still throwing less than six other relievers.
Colorado has regained Lucas Gilbreath and Robert Stephenson from the COVID-IL, sending Jordan Sheffield back to Triple-A before he made an appearance. Rosters will shrink back down from 28 to 26 in the coming days, forcing teams to reassess their bullpens, but at what point does Colomé get away from the routine work he came here for?
His predictive metrics suggest he’s been a victim of bad luck — but what happens when that unpredictability leads to hesitation by a manager to use him in certain situations? At what point does that affect his reliever schedule and rhythm, a la Jordan Sheffield, and how far does it go until Colomé risks losing some feel on the mound?
A four-plus million-dollar deal is reason to not give up on Colomé, just as a 5 2⁄3 sample is nowhere near the evidence to rush any judgment. Rockies fans might have to wait (pun intended) for conclusive action, whether those situations continue as an emergency closer or middle reliever.
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“Baseball can get weird, and it’ll have to get really weird to keep the Rockies around. But it’s not a level of weird that’s impossible for the weirdest game to reach.”
Sam Fels of Deadspin points out a handful of factors that have contributed to Colorado’s early success, including Chad Kuhl’s rebranded sinker and an offense cashing in a lot of runs. For bullpen details: “The pen might actually be OK for the long-term,” he said.
Ryan Feltner is scheduled to start Wednesday in Philadelphia, fresh on the heels of a dominant week in Triple-A. Noah Yingling of Rox Pile walks us through his five-inning, 10-strikeout performance along with some comments from big league manager Bud Black, crediting Feltner’s uptick in velocity and his ability to learn.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
Monday, April 25: League-wide off day for all minor league affiliates
New series starting today:
Triple-A: Sacramento River Cats at Albuquerque Isotopes
Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats at Harrisburg Senators
High-A: Spokane Indians at Everett Aquasox
Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies at Stockton Ports
★ ★ ★
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