Props To The Rockies’ Bullpen (So Far)

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One of the 2014 Rockies’ biggest liabilities, the bullpen, has been one of the 2015 Rockies’ biggest strengths.

Last season, I could not have been more bearish (bearisher?) on the Rockies’ bullpen. They looked bad in spring training and they never looked back. It was consistently one of the Rockies’ most problematic units, and it amassed some downright shameful numbers (bottom two in MLB in WAR, ERA, FIP, HR/FB, and I could go on but I won’t).

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Most people felt that the bullpen was an obvious choice for positive regression going into 2015. How could it not be? While records for badness certainly can and will be broken, there was very nearly nowhere to go but up for this pen. Quality additions like John Axford and especially the spring training demotion of Rex Brothers showed that the front office was at least willing to consider what might make this group of guys effective. And then we have the curious case of Boone Logan, who was injured, garbage, or both all last season and really must still have some semblance of the $16 million guy somewhere in his bones.

All that matters, though, is the facts, and those tell a story we already know: the bullpen is better. Small sample size, blah blah, every one of those guys has a Kendrick-on-April-6th and a Kendrick-on-April-11th performance in him, but still: Check it out.

  • They’ve collected .5 WAR so far this season, better than all but three teams (the Braves and the Reds, who have .6, and the Dodgers, who also have .5). Given that the bullpen wound up on the wrong side of zero in their WAR accumulation in 2014, this is a good start.
  • Their ERA is 0.98. It’s below one! That’s already so different from last season I don’t even know how to articulate it properly. This is not first in MLB, which tells us a couple of things: One, it’s still not as good as it could be and two, it’s not uncommon for a team to start out crazy good and falter down the line. Certainly that number will go up, or more likely WAY up. But it’s low now, and at the end of April 2014, it was already pushing 5.00. Their ERA- is 26!
  • The bullpen hasn’t given up a single home run yet!!
  • They’re throwing groundballs at a rate of 61.4%, third-best in baseball, as it should be given the park we’re dealing with.
  • Their K/BB rate is 25.4%, which is nuts. The starters’ rate is only 5.7%.

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I could say more, but stats aren’t my thing as much as storytelling, and the story I want to tell is that the 2015 bullpen is an enormous upgrade on the 2014 one. It has not been perfect–LaTroy Hawkins’s blown save last Wednesday and Christian Friedrich really did nothing to help Kyle Kendrick’s line last night. But it’s been good. My best hope for 2015 is that the starting pitchers will stay healthy enough and go deep enough into games that this bullpen can continue to be effective. I am hoping that against hope, but hoping nonetheless.

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