Like every season for the Colorado Rockies, the big issue on the field this year has been pitching. With veterans like LaTroy Hawkins and young guns with great stuff like Rex Brothers, the bullpen has been one of the biggest disappointments for the club. The good news is that the 'pen can be fixed with a simple solution. The bad news is that simple solutions aren't always easy.
First off, here are some of the bullpen's biggest problems. The collective ERA of all the Rockies' relief pitchers is at a completely underwhelming 4.56. Now, that number is hurt a little by the brief stints of Chad Bettis and Wilton Lopez, each of which carry a MLB ERA of over 10, and the 6.89 ERA of Chris Martin. When Boone Logan's health was fading his average ballooned to 5.87. In fact, the only regular relievers who have an earned run average under four are Hawkins, Tommy Kahnle and Nick Masset. Every other member of the bullpen, injured or not, demoted or not, is over four and a half.
The leading contributor to the high ERA is having too much traffic on the bases. As a unit, the bullpen has a WHIP of 1.369 and has walked 89 batters. That last number comes to over three walks per nine innings. If the base-paths were clear, maybe the 33 home runs they've allowed wouldn't hurt so much, but they have. The 'pen has given up 140 runs so far this season, usually crippling any chance of a Rockies victory.
The cause of these inflated numbers isn't lack of talent or pitching in Coors Field, it's the simple fact that at this point in the season, the bullpen has been grossly overused. They have a total of 255 relief appearances, most in the National League.
So, there's the problem. As said earlier the solution is actually quite simple. The starting pitchers need to perform better and eat up more innings. Simple, not easy. The average start for a Rockies pitcher is just over five innings pitched, giving up over three runs, striking out under four batters while walking two. The most important number in that line is the five innings. Every game the bullpen is forced to throw over three innings of work. When you're exposed as often as that, you're bound to get touched up a bit.
For the bullpen to pitch better, the starters need to pitch better. If only it were that easy.
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