To say the Rockies bullpen has been horrendous might be an understatement. The Rockies bullpen time and time again recently has continued to blow lead after lead and worsen deficit after deficit for the ball club.
The Rockies overall this season have a 4.77 ERA in their bullpen. To make matters worse, they have only converted around 53% of save opportunities this season. The only teams with a lower percentage are the Red Sox and Mets, both of whom have had historic bullpen issues this season.
Finally, to put the cherry on top of how bad the team’s bullpen has been, the Rockies are ranked in the bottom 10 of the league with strikeouts by their bullpen. Meaning, they are giving up a lot of contact this season and it’s showing right now in limiting how well the team has played.
I know Coors Field is a little to blame for some of the issues, but most of it is the bullpen the Rockies have put together right now. There are a couple okay spots, but most everyone has struggled recently. This has to get fixed or the team could find themselves trying to make up huge ground in the wild card standings this summer.
So how do the Rockies fix this? That can be answered in two ways.
The quickest solution would be most likely to find relievers that are available via trade. Going out and trading for some relief help would boost the team’s bullpen almost instantly.
If the Rockies could find some even middle relief help, it would go a long way in lengthening the team’s bullpen. Of course, you would like to see the Rockies possibly grab a top flight reliever or two near the deadline in July. But for now, the team could use even just some innings out of middle-relief help to alleviate the problem until the trade deadline comes around at the end of July. The Orioles, Marlins or any other team that has deemed it a rebuilding year would probably give up some decent middle relief pitchers for almost nothing.
The other option for the Rockies is one that the Red Sox are choosing, moving around starting pieces and other pitchers to reassemble the bullpen. The Red Sox have said that when hard-throwing right hander Nathan Evoaldi comes back off the IL, they are going to transition him from starter to closer.
Now, while the Rockies don’t necessarily need a closer like the Red Sox do, they could use this same strategy for a little inning or middle-relief pitcher. My first suggestion would be to use Kyle Freeland out of the bullpen.
I know Freeland has really struggled this season, as he currently sits in triple-A, but the ability he showed last year doesn’t get lost not even a year later. You could start him out with low leverage situations and work him up if he pitches well. This would also give Freeland the chance to gain his confidence back at the major league level, while he also doesn’t have to worry about getting through a lineup two, three or four times. He could pitch an inning or two and be done. Another plus to this would be if Freeland figures things out and the teams need another starting pitcher, they can stretch him out and move him back into the rotation and move whoever he is replacing into the bullpen in the role Freeland was occupying.
My second suggestion would be moving Jeff Hoffman to a bullpen role. I know he hasn’t found success out of the bullpen in his career the brief time he’s done it. But the hard-throwing righty seems to me that his future might be best suited coming out of the bullpen in a permanent role anyway.
Now might be the best time to move him. I would give him a chance to work out of the bullpen on a full-time basis and iron out the ins and outs of what it’s like to be a full-time reliever.
The results have not been there with Hoffman thus far, but at one point I had absolutely no faith that Scott Oberg could be a reliable option out of the bullpen or even a decent option out of the bullpen. Now, Rockies manager Bud Black is turning to Oberg for multiple innings of relief against the powerhouse Astros to get trusted outs. On top of all this with trying to strengthen the bullpen, it would start to put to bed the notion for at least right now that Hoffman is tabbed for a future spot in the Rockies rotation.
Of course, there are some other names out there the Rockies could give a try in the middle to late innings of games. There are some other options in AAA or the big-league level that could be moved around to find success.
However the Rockies do it, the bottom line is they need to find some solutions. If the club keeps turning to Oberg, Wade Davis and others for multiple outs, the team’s bullpen is only going to get worse and be more taxed as the full summer kick gets under way.