In need of pitching relief, the Rockies can’t seek shelter

General view of the bullpen of the Colorado Rockies during the ninth inning against San Francisco Giants at Coors Field
Sep 5, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; General view of the bullpen of the Colorado Rockies during the ninth inning against San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. The Rockies defeated the Giants 6-0. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Rockies General Manager Jeff Bridich tried to throw money at his team’s bullpen in the offseason and it cost the team a shot at the playoffs. With the Rockies trailing in the National League West by nearly double-digits, the hope of a division title is gone. The Wild Card also isn’t going to play into their hands. This team is sliding fast—without much hope in the way of relief (or relievers).

If Jeff Bridich went to Princeton instead of Harvard, perhaps he would have read one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books.  Fitzgerald’s novels, backed by a Princeton education, have similar morals. Throwing money at a problem will not solve it.

I don’t blame Bridich for boldly trying to fix the bullpen this offseason. The Rockies play at altitude, so there’s not an easy way to heal a bullpen, other than through development and/or taking chances on older guys or pitchers with a history of injuries. He just overcommitted this year to create the most expensive bullpen in league history.

Jake McGee’s big contract wasn’t quite deserved, but the choice to retain him is understandable since he was already a proven member of the bullpen. The Rockies probably should have picked between Wade Davis and Brian Shaw. I take that back—they should have looked into the future somehow and not signed Brian Shaw.

Shaw is zero for four in save opportunities and that’s just the first woeful stat for a sorry season that has finally found Shaw on the disabled list.

The other problem with this money spending is that it’s taking up resources that could have been spent on their own guys. While no one could have foreseen the reemergence and utter dominance of Adam Ottavino, he’s now due a big raise next season.

The Rockies best taste of the offseason may be trading some assets like Ottavino and D.J. LeMaheuiu. At least fans would be able to watch them pursue a ring elsewhere.

At this point, the Rockies performances from the bullpen feel like a Road Runner cartoon. How is the Rockies pitching staff going to let this one get away? Stay tuned. It will be spectacular. I just wish they could add some Looney Tunes sound effects to lessen the pain.

Some of the ‘best’ bullpen losses have included the three leads blown on Father’s Day, Brian Shaw giving up his first career grand slam in another wasted 7th inning and Adam Ottavino being squeezed by the umpire in the strike zone this week. All of those happened in the second half of June.

The number of losses attributed to the bullpen actually seems pretty small in comparison with their overall record—just 15 at the writing of this article out of 42. Brian Shaw has lost five; Musgraves three; Davis, McGee and Rusin two. Three more losses came out of the bullpen, including one from Ottavino.

The Rockies bullpen ERA is the worst in the league. They’ve given up the second most runs of any set of relievers in baseball. This doesn’t even factor in the implosions by the bullpen when the games were still manageable.

No relief from the summer heat? Blame the Rockies bullpen.

Sadly, the rest of the team started to get it together in June. The Rockies have miraculously only used five starters and Jon Gray was settling back into his position there. The early struggles of Ian Desmond and Carlos Gonzalez were fading, as the Rockies bats got hot around the lineup.

Everything was setting up well for the Rockies except for the set-up men themselves.  Teams don’t often go on miraculous runs in baseball and the Rockies used both of their’s last decade in 2007 and 2009. Another miracle is all that can keep Colorado’s baseball hopes alive in 2018.

With Nolan Arenado’s contract expiring after next season, the rest of this season might be best spent trying to fix things for next year. Hopefully, the solution is something other than throwing money at the plate.

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