Today the Rockies extended ultra durable reliever Matt Belisle to a contract extension through 2013 with a mutual option for 2014. In no particular order, here are five reasons this is good news:
5. You do not cringe when Belisle enters the game
Let’s call this the Mike Munoz/Jorge Julio/Felipe Paulino factor. When they entered games, you cringed, you rolled your eyes and you lowered your expectations that the Rockies would win that game. That does not happen with Matt Belisle. Don’t underestimate how important the cringe factor is with relievers over the course of the very long season.
- Note: I am open to suggestions for the official name for the Rockies cringe factor. Of the three here I lean towards Mike Munoz; it has reached a point in my family where we refer to athletes who bug us as our “new Mike Munoz.” This crosses into other sports: basketball, football, hockey, you name it. That’s how much we dreaded him entering games back in his day and how much those painful memories linger with us.
4. His Jaw
Belisle has a great presence on the mound largely because of his incredibly chiseled and featured jaw, which borders on the American Dad look. Combine that with the fact that he always has a wad of gum and he looks like the creation of a fiction writer who wanted to capture the image of a stereo-typically strong presence on an All American baseball team. For these reasons he looks especially good in the purple pinstripes.
3. He is a sneaky good hitter
It is always a pleasant surprise when he is forced to hit by extraordinary (and usually frustrating) circumstances and then you remember: Hey, he’s actually not bad at the plate. This might not be hopeless. We all need these small moments of joy over the course of a long baseball season, regardless of which team we cheer for.
Is there anything more frustrating than when the opposing pitcher gets a hit? Just when you think your team might be in the clear for a moment, the unthinkable happens and he gets a hit. You want to scream as the ball trickles into the outfield and he clumsily rounds first. In that moment you can just sense how much of an unexpected lift it is for his team. To use a basketball analogy it’s like if Kobe Bryant misses a clutch jumper, you think your team is in the clear, and then Josh McRoberts grabs the offensive rebound and puts it back. A total stomach punch moment.
Now imagine when it is a relief pitch getting a hit. You have to multiply that anguish by at least 100. Matt Belisle does that to opponents at least twice during any given season. Totally worth it.
2. He pitches really fast
I do not mean he works fast in terms of the pace of the game, as in comparison to somebody like Rafael Betancourt. I mean his actual windup. It’s like somebody pressed fast forward. This fascinates me.
1. He throws strikes
Lots and lots of strikes. Pair this with his incredible durability over the last two seasons and we know with relative certainty that he can survive and sometimes thrive pitching half of his games in Coors Field. A “sure thing” in any team’s bullpen is rare; in Colorado it is unheard of. It might be ambituous to dub Belisle a sure thing, but he is certainly a solid presence. Having this type of option in the bullpen for the next couple seasons makes this extension good news for coaches and fans alike.