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

Reliever 2018 Salary Contract
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

Davis W-L SVO Hld ERA INN H R ER HR BB SO
2019-17 28-7 79-88 58 1.65 321.2 194 62 59 14 120 407
2018 0-2 20-24 0 4.55 27.2 19 14 14 3 17 31
Dunn W-L SVO Hld ERA INN H R ER HR BB SO
2009-17 33-26 4-27 124 3.66 401.1 350 180 163 42 200 446
2018 0-0 0 5 9 16 20 16 16 1 17 12
McGee W-L SVO Hld ERA INN H R ER HR BB SO
2010-17 23-16 44-65 109 3.15 362.2 295 130 127 34 104 415
2018 1-2 0-1 10 5.26 25.2 28 16 15 4 7 23
Oberg W-L SVO Hld ERA INN H R ER HR BB SO
2015-17 4-6 2-6 30 5.05 142.2 154 85 80 17 66 119
2018 1-0 0-2 3 4.08 17.2 16 9 8 0 6 13
Ottavino W-L SVO Hld ERA INN H R ER HR BB SO
2010-17 11-14 25 64 3.81 321 303 143 136 32 130 343
2018 3-0 1-2 14 0.89 30.1 9 3 3 1 11 48
Russin W-L SVO Hld ERA INN H R ER HR BB SO
2014-17 7-2 2-4 16 2.89 149.2 131 54 48 13 34 123
2018 0-2 0-1 3 7.45 29 29 25 24 7 14 26
Bryan Shaw W-; SVO Hld ERA INN H R ER HR BB SO
2011-17 23 34 129 3.13 446.1 397 181 155 37 151 398
2018 0-2 11 11 7.08 34.1 46 32 27 7 18 33

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

Date Opp Dec. IP H R HR BB SO
April 20 ChC None 4 10 9 1 2 3
April 23 SD BS/L 4 11 9 1 4 4
June 2 LAD BS/L 3 6 8 1 3 2
June 9 Ari BS/L 5 8 7 0 3 6
June 17 Tex BS/L 3.1 4 7 0 6 3
June 1 LAD BS/L 4 5 6 2 3 2
March 29 Ari None 4 6 5 0 3 7
April 18 Pit None 4 7 5 0 2 6
May 4 NYM Save 3 6 5 1 3 4
June 3 LAD BS/L 3.1 4 5 1 2 2
June 7 Cin BS/L 5.1 5 5 1 4 4

 

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.

Unlucky 13

Player W L SvOP G IP H ERA
y-Sam Howard 0 0 0 1 1 1 0
Adam Ottavino 3 0 1-2 29 30.1 9 0.89
Jeff Hoffman 0 0 0 2 3.1 3 2.7
Wade Davis 0 2 20-24 30 27.2 19 4.55
x-Scott Oberg 1 0 0-2 16 17.2 16 4.08
Harrison Musgrave 0 2 0 13 19.1 13 4.19
Jake McGee 1 2 0-1 29 25.2 28 5.26
x-Antonio Senzatela 2 1 0 10 17.1 23 6.23
Bryan Shaw 2 5 0-4 38 34.1 46 7.08
Chris Rusin 0 2 0-1 23 29 29 7.45
Brooks Pounders 0 1 0-1 12 13.2 22 7.9
Mike Dunn 0 0 0 23 16 20 9
y-Jerry Vasto 0 0 0 1 0.2 3 40.5
x-on disabled list
y-at Albuquerque

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

Season Sv SvOP SV% W-L Pct.
2017 47 61 77 87-75 0.537
2009 45 61 73.8 92-70 0.568
1995 43 62 69.4 77-67 0.535
1997 38 60 63.3 83-79 0.512
2010 35 56 62.5 83-79 0.512
2018 21 35 60.0 34-37 0.479
2007 39 68 57.4 90-73 0.552
2000 33 58 56.9 82-80 0.506
1996 34 64 53.1 83-78 0.512

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

Team Sv SvOP SV% BS Team ERA
Rockies 21 35 60 14 Diamondbacks 2.57
Giants 16 29 55.1 13 Cubs 2.72
Dodgers 20 32 62.5 12 Brewers 2.76
Mets 19 31 61.3 12 Padres 3.18
Brewers 18 29 62.1 11 Giants 3.64
Pirates 15 26 57.7 11 Nationals 3.74
Cardinals 17 28 60.7 11 Dodgers 3.75
Braves 19 27 70.3 8 Phillies 4.01
Phillies 18 26 69.2 8 Reds 4.02
Nationals 22 30 73.3 8 Braves 4.03
Marlins 15 22 68.2 7 Cardinals 4.38
Diamondbacks 18 25 72 7 Mets 4.54
Cubs 20 26 76.9 6 Pirates 4.54
Reds 15 21 71.4 6 Marlins 5.03
Padres 23 28 82.1 5 Rockies 5.49
Tracy RingolsbyComment