The Rockies' $100 million bullpen has been part of the problem during their recent slide
The bullpen was supposed to be a strength after the Rockies paid top dollar this offseason
A week ago, the Colorado Rockies were tied for first place in the National League West. The Rockies have lost their five contests since, dropping them to fourth place, some five games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Part of Colorado's recent tailspin can be blamed on their bullpen. In those five losses, Rockies relievers have combined to pitch 18 2/3 innings and permit 21 runs. There are other factors at play, but the Colorado bullpen being bad is noteworthy for an obvious reason: it's the area they focused on most over the winter.
Remember, the Rockies either signed or re-signed Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee -- three of the top relievers available -- to multi-year deals worth more than $100 million guaranteed. Take a look at what that trio have done this season:
Davis has been the best of the bunch. He has a 3.42 ERA (138 ERA+) and a strikeout-to-walk ratio over 2.50 -- both solid to good marks. But -- and there's always a but -- that 2.50 figure would represent the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio of his relief career. Nitpicking? Maybe -- Davis's waning command is a bit worrisome though.
There is a positive to be found for McGee, too -- he has four strikeouts per walk thus far. Alas, McGee's velocity is down from last season by more than a mile per hour, and his overall numbers look a lot like his disappointing 2016, his first year in Colorado.
Let's make this quick: Shaw has allowed 31 runs in 33 innings. Ouch.
Misery loves company, and so too do underperforming relievers. Mike Dunn, about halfway through his own multi-year agreement (worth $19 million), has pitched poorly and is currently on the disabled list. Adam Ottavino is hurt, too, but has been the bright spot in Colorado's bullpen. Even Chris Rusin, typically a reliable rubber arm, has endured some turbulence this year. Add it all together, and it's no wonder the Rockies have the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in the majors.
If there's good news for the Rockies, it's that there's still time for meaningful in-season improvement. That could mean everyone getting sorted out, or Jeff Hoffman and/or Sam Howard turning into legitimate bullpen assets, or the Rockies adding an arm or two from outside the organization. Should none of the above happen, the Rockies are likely to continue their slide, at which point they'll have no choice but to look back on last winter with buyer's remorse.
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