Counting Down the 100 Greatest Colorado Rockies: 97. Matt Belisle
Opening Day is April 3 against the Brewers and it can’t come soon enough. To help cope with the pain of a baseball free life, Rox Pile will be counting down the 100 greatest Colorado Rockies in franchise history.
This list isn’t completely arbitrary but it does not rely strictly on numbers. Other factors will include major contributions, team culture, fan appreciation and overall importance to the club. This order is in no way definitive. It is meant to spark conversation. Let us know your thoughts at @RoxpileFS on Twitter. Let the countdown begin! Let baseball start soon.
97. Matt Belisle
You may be asking how much of an impact can a relief pitcher have on an organization? Especially one who started their career with the Colorado Rockies signing a minor league contract. At one point it just seemed routine to see Belisle come out of the Rockies bullpen. He felt almost as reliable as your dog making you feel better after a bad day. In this decade his name stood out as possibly the reliever you could count on most. Along with Adam Ottavino. His 5.2 WAR ranks among the top Rockies relief pitchers.
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Success didn’t come automatically when he came to the team in 2009. Belisle was arguably coming off his most difficult season in 2008 pitching for the Cincinnati Reds where he only made six starts going 1-4 with a 7.28 ERA. He eventually was sent down to Triple-A but this move might have revived his career because he was converted into a full-time relief pitcher. He improved his first year out of the bullpen in Colorado going 3-1 but his ERA was still at 5.52. He was eventually sent down but came back to the team late in the season. Something must have clicked in Colorado Springs because he came back posting a 1.42 ERA in September in October. In the NLDS against the Phillies, he didn’t give up any hits or runs. He took over for Jason Hammel in Game 3 in the fourth inning.
All that translated into what became Belisle’s breakout year in 2010. He pitched the most innings of any reliever in baseball that year with 92.0 a number some Rockies starters would be happy to reach. He pitched in a wide variety of situations and quickly became Jim Tracy‘s favorite option out of the bullpen. He appeared in 76 games and had a 2.93 ERA. This all came when he was 30 years old. This performance wasn’t a flash in the pan though. He followed in 2011 and 2012 with a 3.25 and a 3.71 ERA respectively. The later coming in a season where the bullpen was counted on much more because of the four-man rotation. It’s hard to imagine but the pitching performances in 2012 could have been much worse were it not for Belisle.
In 2013 and 2014, Belisle regressed but would have been a much welcomed addition to the bullpen in 2016. It was weird to see him in a Cardinals uniform in 2015. He performed well there also with a 2.67 ERA in 33.2 innings. Last season with the Nationals he posted a 1.76 ERA in 46 innings. Belisle built a winning formula for a relief pitcher in his six years in Colorado. He kept his walks down and he kept the ball all the ground. Matt Belisle, you’re welcome back any time.