Yesterday, I began handing out mid-season grades to the Rockies and led off with the starting pitchers. Today, I’m rating what I feel is one of the more underrated parts of the team — the bullpen. For the most part, the Rockies’ key bullpen arms have pitched at or above expectations. I realize that many will disagree with me on this point, but I’m convinced that a lot of people’s disappointment in the bullpen is misdirected. If the Rockies had better starting pitching and could hit on a consistent basis, I think this bullpen would mostly fly under the radar. They haven’t been fantastic, but they’ve been steady. I’ll take stable.
A few numbers to chew on:
- Rockies relievers have the lowest walk rate among all Major League bullpens.
- They also have one of the highest home run rates in MLB. This will probably improve in the second-half.
- They rank fourth in MLB in bullpen xFIP.
Arguably, no Rockies player has performed better than Lindstrom this season. I’m not saying he’s the most valuable member of the team or anything, but he’s definitely the most valuable member of this bullpen. He’s a big reason why I’m okay with them trading Huston Street. Currently, Lindstrom is sporting a sub-3.00 ERA and FIP. He is under contract all the way through next season and the Rox have a $4 million team option on him in 2013. Rex Brothers may be the closer of the future, but if the Rockies trade Huston Street, Lindstrom will be the closer until Brothers is ready. Signing Lindstrom was probably Dan O’Dowd’s best move this past off-season.
Belisle hasn’t been as good as he was last year. He’s striking out less hitters, while walking more and giving up more home runs. However, over the last month and some change, he’s only given up seven earned runs and six of those came in one awful outing against the Royals. Also, he set a pretty high standard for himself last year. So, while he hasn’t been as dominant as he was in 2010, he has still been solid. I expect Belisle to have a very good second half.
Currently, Matt Reynolds is tied with Belisle for the second highest WAR in the Rockies’ bullpen. I’d say that’s pretty good for a LOOGY. Also, Reynolds has the highest strike-out rate among Rockies’ relievers not named Rex Brothers. While Reynolds is certainly tougher on lefties, the notion that he can’t get right-handers out is a misconception. He’s been all the Rockies could hope for this season.
Huston is a very solid closer and someone a lot of teams would love to get their hands on. Without a doubt, he has been the victim of some bad luck this season. His current home run rate is well beyond his career norm and it’s a good bet that he will do better for the rest of the season. However, poor location has also been a factor in many of his gopher balls and I have to knock him down a few grades because of that.
Since he’s been so successful at converting the overrated save this year, he will almost certainly be overvalued on the trade market. When other teams come calling about Street over the next three weeks, Dan O’Dowd needs to be thinking arbitrage. They have a really great opportunity to improve the ballclub.
Aside from ERA, the numbers for Betancourt are remarkably similar to Huston Street’s. They are the Rockies’ two best relievers in terms of control. However, also like Street, Betancourt has been giving up a lot of home runs this year. Interestingly, Betancourt has been more effective against lefties than righties. Of the six home runs that he has surrendered, five came off a right-handers’ bat. If/when Street gets traded, the Rockies will need Betancourt to pitch more like he did last season. And, if he wanted to speed things up a little when he is on the mound, that would be nice too.
The only thing that kept me from giving Rex an A+ is his 8.25 BB/9. Brothers has all the tools to be a dominant left-handed closer for a long time, but if anything is going to hold him back, it will be his control. He’s very young and he has only thrown twelve big league innings, so it’s not anything to panic about, but he needs to throw more strikes. When he does, he has the ability to overwhelm. That is something Huston Street lacks.
It’s easy to get excited about a young pitcher like Brothers. He is a left-hander with a wipe-out slider, high 90′s heat, and a lot of moxie to top it off. His first month in the big leagues has been so far, so good. In his short time with the big club, he has already contributed nearly as much WAR as Street and Betancourt. With that said, the calls for Brothers to take over as closer if Street is traded are a bit premature. That job should go to the Rockies’ best reliever — Matt Lindstrom. There is no point in throwing Rex into the fire at this stage of his career.
Perhaps I’m being a bit hard on Mortensen, but there is a reason why he is back in Colorado Springs. I’m not sure if Mortensen will ever pan out in the big leagues. He gives up an awful lot of home runs — both as a minor leaguer and in his limited big league career — and that isn’t a good thing for a sinkerballer.
It was great reading what you thought of the grades for the starting pitchers. How did I do with the bullpen?