Updated through Sunday: Rockies Off-Season Bullpen Vision Out of Focus
It's not like the Rockies management went into the season without addressing the bullpen situation. The off-season focus was on building a back of the bullpen.
In addition to signing closer Wade Davis to replace Greg Holland, who opted to follow free agency elsewhere, they re-signed left-hander Jake McGee, and signed right-handed free agent Bryan Shaw to share the set-up role for Davis.
And they didn't skimp. Davis was given a three-year, $52 million package, the largest annual average value ever for a reliever, and McGee and Shaw both received three-year, $27 million deals.
Take those three, and add in the four established relievers the Rockies already had under control, and the seven pitchers they felt would be the key to their bullpen are being paid a combined $46.3375 for the 2018 season, the highest-priced bullpen in Major League Baseball.
The Price of Relief
|Wade Davis||$16 million||3-year, $52 million (2018-20)|
|Bryan Shaw||$7.5 million||3-year, $27 million (2018-20)|
|Jake McGee||$7 million||3-year, $27 million (2018-20)|
|Mike Dunn||$7 million||3-year, $19 million (2017-19)|
|Adam Ottavino||$7 million||3-year, $10.4 million (2016-18)|
|Chris Rusin||$1,287,500||1 year, Arbitration 2019-20|
|Scott Oberg||$550,000||1 year, Arbitration 2019-21|
The track records spoke well for the Rockies in late-inning situations. The reality, however, has not met the expectations. Oberg and Ottavino are the exceptions. The five others are off to starts that are well below what their career track records are out of the bullpen.
A Comparison: 2018 to Past History
And it is hard to feel there was a more draining loss than Sunday against the Rangers in Arlington. Starter Jon Gray created enough of a mess. Given a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the sixth, Gray was charged with six runs and failed to retire a batter. The Rockies, however, answered with five runs in the seventh for a 10-6 lead, and carried a 12-9 lead into the bottom of the ninth only to see closer Wade Davis retire only one batter while being charged with four runs on two hits and four walks.
How bad was it? Well, the Rangers scored three runs in the seventh with only one hit, and the Rangers had only two hits in the four-run ninth against Davis. The seven runs allowed by the bullpen equaled fourth highest run total the bullpen has been charged with this season.
Davis isn't trying to sugarcoat the issue.
“Having our team come back so many times and having (the bullpen) let us down has really gotten old," said Davis. "So something has to change.”
Running Up the Run Total
The Rockies have used 13 pitchers out of the bullpen this season. Ottavino, with a 0.92 ERA, is the only one who has worked more than four innings with an ERA under 4.50.
|x-on disabled list|
The Rockies commitment to the bullpen was because they felt the roster had the rotation and lineup depth to contend. They were looking to provide late-inning depth in their quest for what would be only the 10th winning season in what is the 26th year of the franchise's existence. The 61.8 percent success rate in save situations this year does rank ahead of three of the nine winning seasons, but only one of the four years in which the Rockies advanced to the post-season -- 2007. That, however, is the year they made their only World Series appearance.
No Saving Grace
Not only are the Rockies tied with the Giants for the most blown saves with 13, they also have the highest bullpen ERA in the NL at 5.38.
A Bad Mix for Success