Colorado Rockies need more from bullpen


Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies have most of the right tools to make a run at the National League West title.

Their offense can mash with the best of them. The Rockies are hitting .301 as a team which is head and shoulders above every other team. They have also scored 230 runs which is best in the league.

The defense and starting pitching is doing enough for the Rockies to compete. They have a .983 fielding percentage which is good for 13th in the major leagues. That is actually low for a team that has Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado fielding the ball for them.

The starting pitching has always been the problem for the Rockies. While it is not great, they have 16 wins from their starters and they doing their most important job — keeping their team in the game. The Rockies’ best pitcher has been Jordan Lyles who was destined for Triple-A when the season started.

But if the Rockies are going to have any chance the bullpen needs to be better. Closer LaTroy Hawkins has nine saves but it seems to be a struggle every time he goes out there. Rex Brothers, who many thought could be the closer of the future, has seemed lost all season. Brothers is no longer the set-up man and has walked 10 batters in 16 innings. Not a good ratio for a guy who is suppose to be your 8th inning guy.

Matt Belisle has not been the same since last season and everybody remembers the disaster that was Wilton Lopez. Lopez is now in  the minors.

The lone bright spot of the bullpen has been Adam Ottavino. He has a nasty slider and is striking people out at an unbelievable rate. He struck out 18 in 16 2/3 innings and has a ERA of 1.62. He also leads the team in holds with seven.

What can make the Rockies bullpen better? The answer is actually in the starting rotation. The Rockies did not make a trade to bring Franklin Morales back to Colorado to have him start. Morales has three wins and has been good for the rotation but it is not where he belongs.

Moving Morales to the bullpen would be start for the Rockies. It is not the only move the Rockies needs to make. Colorado has added Chris Martin from the Sky Sox and he has performed great. Nick Masset has also been pretty good since getting called up. Maybe add another arm from Colorado Springs.

If Colorado is not sold on Tyler Matzek as a starter maybe they should give him a shot in the bullpen or bring back Rob Scahill who spent some time with the big-league team last season.

Hawkins, Brothers and Ottavino are not going anywhere. Despite his struggles, the Rockies still have faith that Brothers will work out of this slump. Colorado also paid Hawkins good money to join their bullpen so he is staying put.

The key to all three of the Rockies’ runs to the postseason was their bullpen. In 1995, the starting pitching was very weak even with only Kevin Ritz having double digit wins. The bullpen was led by the likes of Darren Holmes, Steve Reed and Curtis Leskanic. Not household names but they were the best pitchers on the team.

When the Rockies won the National League title in 2007, the bullpen was strong. The rotation had 17-game winner Jeff Francis and an up and coming Ubaldo Jimenez. But the bullpen had Manny Corpas, Brian Fuentes, Jeremy Affeldt and Hawkins all pitching well. Matt Herges and Taylor Buchholz were both solid in long relief.

The 2009 team was a little different as the starting rotation had five guys win double-digit games but the bullpen had a shut-down closer in Huston Street. Street was great in the regular season but faltered in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Complete teams do the best in the MLB postseason. The Rockies don’t have to be great in every aspect but they have to be solid. Colorado is close but still needs the bullpen to be more of a force.

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisSchmaedeke