That is how many bullpen arms have thrown at least a single pitch for the Rockies this season — well beneath the league average of 15.5.
The above chart shows close to zero correlation, and it isn’t really supposed to. Each dot tells a story, however, and those furthest from the center have the most interesting ones.
It may not be a good thing if the Rockies are on both extremes of the above X and Y axis.
Using a ton of relievers can suggest your current core is inexperienced; using few could suggest the well isn’t deep enough. Either way, a higher ERA could be expected in each case. The top two dots on the right are the Diamondbacks and Pirates, and both have seen tumultuous reliever performance despite having different structure. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is tied for the most relievers used and they also hold MLB’s ninth-best reliever ERA.
Colorado’s plot line is the wildest, as seen by drastic separation on the above chart. It’s time to break the story down:
Last year, the Rockies exercised a continual carousel with their Triple-A bullpen, calling up and sending down Justin Lawrence, Lucas Gilbreath, Julian Fernández and Ben Bowden as if Albuquerque relievers were an extension of the big league staff. This model is not new — the modern postseason requires bullpen depth more than ever — and teams seem to be adapting to the needs of what the new strategy entails. (Tampa Bay: 21 relievers in 2022, 9th-best ERA)
In an unforgiving environment like Coors Field, one might presume it’s easier to feel burnt out in elevation (both on batted balls and general fatigue). This is additional reason for why 10 total relievers may not be a great thing for the Rockies right now, and perhaps even more costly when an arm like Ben Bowden was lost on waivers. (Bowden: now with Tampa Bay)
Lest we forget the latest round of Rockies reliever debuts, however. José Mujica made his in 2020, and one could argue that he wasn’t ready like he normally would be. Julian Fernández made his debut last September, finishing the year with a big league ERA in the 10’s. He hasn’t fared much better in Triple-A this year.
Given these instances, the Rockies have ample reason to be cautious — but how much caution is owed to the arms already in the big leagues?
Who could be reliever 11?
With Bowden also gone, the ‘revolving door’ between Triple-A and Albuquerque is less of a basic transaction right now, and more of a leap of faith. Colorado has three Triple-A relievers with over 10 appearances and an ERA below 4.79: Zach Lee (3.86), Chad Smith (2.04) and Jake Bird (3.71).
Bird, the 26-year-old UCLA product, is a relatively viable candidate to become Colorado’s 11th reliever on the year. His presence in the Arizona Fall League last year is enough to show the Rockies believe in his potential, and a 2.84 ERA while he was there was graduate-level performance.
The fifth-ranked team in the NL West doesn’t have much reason to pick up a reliever at the trade deadline. Any potential injury can open a far bigger hole for a team like the Rockies compared to anybody else, however, and the current staff could be tasked with far more daunting expectations than other clubs. This could expedite the call-up of an arm like Bird, Fernández or Reagan Todd, but the Mujica chapters are far from forgotten with premature call-ups.
With starter Antonio Senzatela facing back issues, those expectations could grow even higher. A lack of available bullpen depth puts greater importance on great starter performance, and with lockout-rescheduled games, you certainly can’t overlook the amount of doubleheaders on the horizon.
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Banter From The Bench: Ashton Goudeau finds stability with the Colorado Rockies | DNVR ($)
After moving across “seven different organizations in less than a year,” Ashton Goudeau has earned the credentials of a journeyman in record time. DNVR’s Patrick Lyons covers it all, from the roller coaster of Goudeau’s new signings, to his recent travels between Triple-A Albuquerque and the big league club.
Rockies’ Kris Bryant still dealing with lower-back pain | The Denver Post
After an injured list stint, Kris Bryant has faced another setback in his path toward a full recovery. His back reportedly flared up again, keeping him sidelined for Monday’s game, but he still remains on the Rockies’ active roster without any announced return to the IL.
MLB Power Rankings: Padres look like they’re for real after statement sweep; Yankees hold onto No. 1 spot | CBS Sports
After a three-game sweep of the Giants in San Francisco, the Padres have made a serious statement in the NL West. CBS Sports’ latest rendition of MLB power rankings has the Yankees at the top, followed by the division-rival Dodgers and Padres in second and third.
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On the Farm
Monday, May 23: League-wide off day for all minor league affiliates
New series starting today:
Triple-A: Round Rock Express (TEX) at Albuquerque Isotopes (COL)
Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats (COL) at Richmond Flying Squirrels (SF)
High-A: Everett Aquasox (SEA) at Spokane Indians (COL)
Low-A: Stockton Ports (OAK) at Fresno Grizzlies (COL)
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