When your favorite team is 54-81 heading into the final day of August, there are sure to be some major disappointments on the team. That’s especially the case if the team seemingly has the talent to succeed but just can’t put it together, as is arguably the case for the Colorado Rockies.
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With that in mind, I spent some time searching for this year’s biggest disappointment. Sure enough, there were plenty of options. We had stars like Carlos Gonzalez under-perform. Nearly every starting pitcher, with the exceptions of Jorge De La Rosa and Jordan Lyles, could fall under this category. Rex Brothers, who was supposed to be this team’s best reliever, has a (gulp) 5.86 ERA and 38 walks in 50.2 innings.
But, while they all disappointed, none of those guys are this season’s most disappointing Rockies player. Who is? Relief pitcher Boone Logan.
The Rockies saddled Boone Logan with perhaps unfairly high expectations when they handed him a generous three-year, $16.5 million contract in December. The instant reactions to that deal were predictably negative, as it’s risky to give any reliever a multi-year deal, let alone a 30-year-old one with a career 4.39 ERA in about 300 innings headed into this season.
To make matters worse, Logan is a lefty with a history of being a LOOGY. In other words, he was a lefty specialist who was going to in large part pitch no more than an inning per outing. In order for the Rockies to have given Logan this contract, they must have been convinced that he would be able to repeat his 2010-13 success with the Yankees, when he went 19-7 with a 3.38 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 176 innings. As a result, fans had the same expectation. It would take a pretty darn good LOOGY to meet the expectations generated from a three-year, $16.5 million contract.
Logan’s chances of meeting expectations took an early hit as, after having surgery in October to remove bone chips from his elbow (don’t ask me why the Rockies decided to sign an injured reliever to such a hefty contract), he wasn’t able to pitch for most of spring training.
He recovered in time to be mostly healthy heading into the season, though, and forced a groundout against the only batter he faced in his first game for the Rockies on April 9. For the rest of April, it looked like Boone Logan was going to be a valuable part of the bullpen. Although he had a blowup against the Phillies, he was generally effective and finished April with a 2.89 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 9.1 innings.
After April, it went downhill fast for Logan. He allowed six runs in just 4.2 May innings, running his ERA up to 5.79. It’s not as if a lack of stuff was the issue, as Logan racked up six more strikeouts in May and continued to throw his devastating (against lefties) slider. The issue was that Logan was elevating some pitches, and he paid for it: in his 14 innings through the first two months of the season, he gave up four homers.
I’d like to take this time to criticize the Rockies’ front office yet again. Why on earth would you sign a relief pitcher who is mistake-prone and relies on fly ball outs to a three-year deal? The homers weren’t an isolated incident; Logan gave up seven long balls in 39 innings in 2013.
To make matters worse, he got injured again on June 4th and missed the next month. When he finally returned, he threw just 2.1 innings before heading back to the DL for the third time of the season. When he got back from that third injury, he was just as bad as he had been before, giving up seven runs (including two homers) in the next 7.1 innings. And then, on August 24th, Logan’s season mercifully came to a halt, as he was placed on the DL (for those keeping score, this was time #4) with elbow inflammation.
Logan’s 2014 numbers to this point, and they aren’t pretty, look like this: 25 innings, a 6.84 ERA, 11 walks, 32 strikeouts, and and six homers allowed. Opponents hit .310 off him. Oh yeah, and remember how he was supposed to be good against lefties? Not so this year: they tore him apart to the tune of a .318/.392/.545 triple slash line. When you make a living on getting left handers out and opposing lefties are hitting like Corey Dickerson against you, that’s not a good thing.
Why on earth would you sign a relief pitcher who is mistake-prone and relies on fly ball outs to a three-year deal?
It remains to be seen whether Logan will return this season to add to his numbers, but if the Rockies were smart, they’d hold him out for the rest of the season, because it looks like this is not going to be his year.
To end this on a positive note, I think a fully-healthy Logan can still be a contributing part of this maligned bullpen. He’s been pretty banged up this year (hence the four trips to the DL), and I’d take what he’s done (or failed to do, namely get people out) with a grain of salt.
It’s obviously fair to say that Logan’s career with the Rockies has gotten off to an awful start, and it looks like the front office was mistaken in thinking it would be wise to sign a lefty specialist to a three year deal. But he’s shown he can strike hitters out, and he probably won’t allow more than 5% of the hitters he faces to homer off him again. That 2.16 homer per nine innings ratio is sure to go down, as should the .379 BABIP.
But while Logan’s gotten unlucky this year, he still hasn’t been anywhere near good, and it’s tough to imagine a pitcher who has just two pitches (fastball and slider), can’t pitch to righties, and is both walk and homer prone being successful, especially when his home park is Coors field.
To review, this has to be considered a throwaway season for the Rockies’ big 2013 free agency coup. Let’s hope he can come back stronger next season.