During their history, it’s seemed that implosions and the Rockies’ bullpen have been synonymous. There have been instances where the bullpen has seen some stellar individual performances as well as times where the bullpen has been essential in playoff seasons such as 2007, 2009, 2017, and 2018. The team has not exactly had a stellar bullpen over the last four seasons.
After being historically bad in 2020, things didn’t get much better in 2021, and while there has been some slight improvements in 2022, the Rockies still leave a lot to be desired in the bullpen. With multiple relievers headed to free agency, and several arms underperforming the Rockies are going to need to start to figure out their approach to rebuilding the bullpen.
At first glance, the Rockies bullpen has a 4.75 ERA which is the second-highest in the league. It’s not great, and while their 4.34 xFIP is a little more encouraging, it’s evident that the team has plenty of room for improvement. A big problem for the bullpen is that they average 7.97 K/9, which is third-lowest behind San Francisco (7.96) and Arizona (7.82). In contrast to the number of walks they issue at 3.99 BB/9, the fifth-highest in the league, the Rockies strike out too few to offset the number of walks.
The relievers have done well to keep the ball out of the air and a number of their other stats have averaged out to a middle-of-the-pack rating and a 2.2 fWAR. Much of that success is thanks to guys like Daniel Bard, Tyler Kinley, and a few others, but more is needed if they want to compete with other teams.
The Free Agents
As of now, the Rockies have a couple of free agent relievers scheduled following the season. This includes Carlos Estévez, Alex Colomé, and Jhoulys Chacín. Daniel Bard was set to be a free agent prior to signing a two-year extension, and the Rockies decided to hold on to everyone at the trade deadline.
There were some rumors that teams were interested in Estévez earlier this month at the deadline, and for good reason, as he has commanded a high-velocity fastball over the past month and turned back into a more consistent arm. However, his lack of consistency during his times with the Rockies is still plenty of cause for concern. He seems like a guy that the team may try to extend after the season, but it may be in the team’s best interest to let him walk and turn to the youngsters.
The same goes for Colomé, who was an elite reliever for most of this season but has hit some hiccups since the All-Star break. It doesn’t seem likely that the team would resign him, but you never know. He is an aged veteran that doesn’t have many places on the team for the future.
The same goes for Chacín who is currently sporting a career-high 7.36 ERA and has a 1.500 WHIP in 44 innings of work. At 34, he may be headed for retirement, but the Rockies can’t afford to have some of the older relievers clogging the pen, especially when they start to underperform for extended amounts of time. There are plenty of arms in the wings that are deserving of a chance to break through and make an impact at the big league level.
The Controlled Arms
Luckily for the Rockies, they have plenty of relievers waiting to get the call and fill the bullpen that are still under team control. At the big league level, you still have Robert Stephenson (who has had good and bad patches), Lucas Gilbreath (a stellar lefty), Jake Bird (who has plenty of room to grow), Austin Gomber (who can double as a starter), Dinelson Lamet (a veteran who is looking to bounce back), as well as Tyler Kinley but being injured could keep him out until 2024.
Just on the edge of the roster you also still have Justin Lawrence, Ty Blach, Jordan Sheffield (even though he was just designated for assignment), Chad Smith, and a multitude of other relievers who will look to make big strides in 2023. There are plenty of in-house options that could surprise us and become staples in the bullpen, they just need a chance to make an impact.
The outside options
Just because they have the in-house options doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look outward to bring in help. It’s not likely the Rockies will ever spend big on the bullpen like they did in 2018, so relievers like Josh Hader are well out of the question, however, they could find some helpful arms on the market. Miguel Castro is a player with connections to the Rockies and has developed into a quality reliever since 2016, putting up a 4.00 ERA in 32 games with the Yankees this season, and he is just 27 years old.
Personally, I’d like to see them add another left-hander to compliment Gilbreath and give them some more options out of the bullpen, but the point of the matter is that there are options both on the free agent market and on the trade block that could improve the team. Relievers are volatile, so it’s worth a gamble to try something new and try and improve the team.
Closing it out
The Rockies seem to be afraid of change and shaking things up too much, which can be fine from time to time. But, the bullpen is an area that they have a chance to shakeup after this season and they owe it to themselves to not just stick with what they know but to get different faces in there to get a chance to prove they have what it takes to bridge the gap to Daniel Bard at the end. It’ll be one of the interesting storylines to watch when the season ends.
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It’s no question that over the past couple of months, Brendan Rodgers has become a bonafide offensive threat in the Rockies lineup. In this article from Thomas Harding, Rodgers discusses what his mental approach is to the plate to help him continue to find success and provide plenty of firepower for the team. It’s a nice introspective into what a hitter thinks about and tries to do to get out of a slump.
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On the Farm
In a resumption of yesterday’s game that was suspended due to wet conditions, the Isotopes took home the victory after scoring in the first inning on Friday and scoring three more runs in the sixth inning on Saturday. Sean Bouchard and Alan Trejo both had two hits in the game, with Bouchard hitting his 16th home run of the season. The Isotopes bullpen gave up just two runs in the eighth inning, using six pitchers in total. Zach Neal tossed three innings to start, while Matt Dennis tossed two innings to secure the victory.
It took eight innings to decide this seven-inning affair. The Isotopes rode a four-run fourth inning to initially take the lead before they gave up three runs in the top of the fifth to tie the game at four. Taylor Snyder hit his third home run of the season and drove in three runs, while Trejo had two more hits and Jonathan Morales had a three-hit game. Karl Kauffman tossed 4 2⁄3 innings allowing three earned runs on three hits, but struggled with command at times, issuing four walks and striking out five. Julian Fernández was tagged for three runs in the eighth, lasting 1 1⁄3 innings in the outing, and taking the loss.
Eight runs in the first two innings were all Hartford needed to take down the Patriots on Saturday. In total, the Yard Goats had 11 hits, with all but two starters registering at least one hit. Daniel Montano hit his 11th homer of the season and drove in three, and Tyler Hill hit his first double in Hartford and drove in three runs. On the mound, Mitchell Kilkenny turned in a strong start, allowing two runs on two hits in five innings of work to record the win.
A five-run second inning was enough to make the difference in this one as Spokane pounded out 13 hits in their victory. Ronaiker Palma let offense with four hits and Bladimir Restituyo drove in three runs as part of his two-hit night. In total the top three batters in the order had six total hits while the bottom half had seven. Case Williams labored through 4 1⁄3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and walking four, on 88 pitches. The bullpen locked things down the rest of the way, allowing just one more run.
Fresno struggled offensively, registering just three hits as they lost 6-0 against Inland Empire. The Grizzlies only struck out six times and did draw five walks, but just weren’t able to get anything going offensively. McCade Brown spun a six-inning gem for Fresno, allowing just two hits and striking out seven batters. Sergio Sanchez was credited with the loss after giving up four runs on four hits in the seventh after which Felix Ramires allowed two more runs in the eighth.
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