After we saw Eddie Butler make his debut on Friday, the Colorado Rockies will throw another rookie, Christian Bergman, into the fire for the first time. It’s another tough one, at home against a team, the Atlanta Braves, who have killed the Rockies since 2011, winning 20 of the last 25. And Christian Bergman is nowhere near as hyped as Butler, who struggled on Friday, is. So I’ll just start off by saying that expectations need to be really kept in check.
Bergman is not a household name. In fact, I’d guess that before spring training, and maybe even now, most of you hadn’t heard of him or thought too much about Christian Bergman. That’s why I’m going to break down Bergman now and get you ready for his start tonight.
Christian Bergman was drafted by the Rockies in 2010 in the 24th round. He was originally probably meant to serve as a “minor league filler”, someone who is drafted not with the specific intention of being sent to the big leagues but being expected to give the system consistent innings and a good presence. As it has turned out, Bergman has been better than many would have expected. After a poor season in rookie ball, the 26 year old Bergman steadily moved up the system, moving from A- ball in 2011 to A+ in 2012 to AA in 2013 up to AAA this year.
Bergman is not a strikeout pitcher. In the last four years, he’s never struck out more than 6.7 batters per nine innings, and he’s at 5.8 this year. However, he does have fantastic control, likely better than any other starter in this system. He has a career BB/9 rate of 1.6, and it’s clear that the control is the reason he was picked over the more heralded and known Tyler Matzek, who has much better stats but walks a ton of hitters.
This year, Bergman has a 3.84 ERA for Colorado Springs, and again, the control has been there. Along with the lack of elite stuff (he normally goes fastball-changeup while attacking hitters, but doesn’t throw fast enough or nasty enough offspeed pitches to generate swings and misses), the fact that Bergman’s given up 34 homers in 246 innings across the last season and a half is also concerning.
So what should we expect? Although he doesn’t have the stuff that Butler has, Bergman’s start might end up looking similar. By that, I mean that he’s probably going to pitch to contact and leave some pitches down the middle. He’s going to give up hits, but he’ll be helped by the fact that he rarely walks hitters. If Christian Bergman gives the Rockies five or six innings while keeping his pitch count down and keeping them in the game, we should all be happy. Anything more would be awesome, but also probably unrealistic.
Bergman is not likely to become a great starter, but his first start will go a long way to determining whether he can stick in the major leagues or whether he is just a AAA pitcher there in case of an emergency. For today, let’s just hope that he keeps the Rockies in the game and the ball in the park.