When I think back to the 2010-2011 offseason and the moves that seemed likely to make an impact at the time, the Matt Lindstrom trade is not one that comes to mind. Lindstrom was grabbed from the Astros for a couple of prospects to add some depth to a bullpen that was waiting on the likes of Rex Brothers and Chad Bettis. We’re still waiting on Bettis, but we’ve also still got Lindstrom, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
I can’t think of a player who was more unexpectedly valuable to the Rockies in the first half of 2011 than Lindstrom. He quietly slid into the role of middle reliever, taking mostly 7th- and 8th-inning spots and expertly holding the line so Huston Street could come in to the game and close it. This really shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since he was the Astros’ closer before he came to Denver, but for some reason it was. A pleasant one. He pitched 35 innings before the All-Star break and emerged with a 2.83 ERA. That’s not what I thought was going to happen.
Lindstrom struggled a little bit in the second half, but by then Brothers had turned up. And while Lindstrom gave up a few more runs after the break, he walked fewer guys, and improved his WHIP from 1.314 to 1.053. And his season ERA of 3.00 was better than anybody else’s besides Rafael Betancourt. Since we never know for sure just how well a pitcher will do once he starts pitching consistently at Coors Field, I call the Matt Lindstrom experiment a success. Certainly more of one than the Felipe Paulino experiment.
So where does Lindstrom slot in for 2012? His role will likely be something similar to 2011. Brothers is in but Street is out, and Betancourt has gone from 8th-inning guy to closer. Jim Tracy loves his match-ups, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Lindstrom playing a similar role to that of Matt Reynolds‘s in 2011, which is to say specialist in the late innings. He’s not really a long reliever like Matt Belisle, but he can easily take the 7th as often as necessary to allow Brothers the 8th. When I think about Lindstrom/Reynolds-Brothers-Betancourt in the final 3 innings of a game, I get a little bit less worried that none of our starters will be able to pitch more than 6 innings ever, and that’s a very nice feeling.