The Post-Ottavino Bullpen

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Number zero was our bullpen hero. How does the relief corps fare in his absence?

Early in the season, I wrote a post praising the bullpen’s work so far. Of course, the caveat in all of that was how early it was in the season and how unlikely the pen was to sustain that success. Curiously, I didn’t even mention the stellar Adam Ottavino by name, maybe because I figured everybody already knew how great he was and didn’t need reminding. But I think we can safely say that he was a pivotal part of sustaining the pen’s success, and his absence has hit hard.

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At the time I wrote that post, the Rockies’ bullpen owned a 0.98 ERA. Since then, it has rocketed to 4.54. Part of the problem is the starters’ inability to go deep into games; Rockies relievers are 4th in MLB with 134 2/3 innings pitched already. It actually shocked me that they were not first. But we are also definitely missing Ottavino.

He last pitched April 25th, and in the month since then the bullpen has the 27th most strikeouts per 9, the 16th most walks per 9, and the second-worst WHIP. Compare that to how they were doing before Ottavino left: 15th most strikeouts per 9, 29th most walks per 9, and the 19th best WHIP. That’s bleak, folks.

Of course, there is good news here. John Axford has pitched very well as the fill-in closer, and I still feel confident that he was an excellent pickup for the Rockies. He’s striking out almost two batters for every one that he walks, and while his 4.50 BB/9 is higher than I’d like, it’s not as high as we feared it might be given his track record the last couple of seasons. His WHIP sits right at 1.00, and he’s only allowed 1 run. He has only pitched 8 innings this season after spending time on the family emergency list, so it’s too early to spot any real trends in his performance. But I’m encouraged to know that we have a fill-in with his capabilities, especially when depth has been such an issue for the Rockies in the past.

Another interesting thing is that the Rockies really aren’t surrendering that many home runs, pre- or post-Ottavino, but especially post, when the bullpen has only allowed .42 homers per 9 innings, better than any team in baseball except the Reds (another surprise, since they pitch in Cincinnati so much). Their HR/FB rate in the last 30 days is actually the lowest in all of baseball at 4.8%. I know everyone is sick of the rain, but the humidity gets at least partial credit for this stat, so let’s count our blessings. It’s not the only reason, though–the pen is just killing it when it comes to keeping the ball in the park.

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I wish we had Adam Ottavino back, and I know that when we do, the bullpen will improve greatly. But the situation is slightly less horrific than we might have thought. Things are bad, but they could be much, much worse.

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