Colorado Rockies fans had high hopes coming into the 2018 season. The team got off to a decent start and the early struggles of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers landed them in first place in the division.
Then the calendar turned to June.
The Rockies have fallen two games below .500 and now sit six games back in the division. The offense has actually improved in June but the pitching, primarily the $100 million+ bullpen, has pitched so poorly that hasn’t mattered.
When a team invests so deeply in a group of players that wind up as this big of a disappointment, it is only natural to blame the general manager. But in this case, that would be a mistake.
Rockies GM Jeff Bridich had a tall task in front of him this past offseason. He had to reconstruct a bullpen that helped carry his team to the playoffs in 2017. And by all appearances, he did just that. The Rockies were lauded for their “super bullpen” before the season started but the ‘pen has failed to live up to that moniker.
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The bullpen is terrible and every starter (save Kyle Freeland) has been so inconsistent you never know what you’ll get. You could understandably blame Bridich for not going after a veteran starter but, at the time, it seemed like a reasonable move to trust Colorado’s bevy of young starting pitching depth. The starters have struggled, but the offense has picked them up most games, and typically they leave the game while the Rockies still have a chance to win.
The signing of Ian Desmond has been criticized to no end while the shortstop-turned-outfielder-turned-first-baseman wallowed in a season-plus long slump. But recently, it seems Desmond has finally broke out of his slump and become another dangerous bat in the Rockies’ lineup. He’s hit .282 over his last 24 games to finally lift his batting average over .200. He now has 15 home runs and 42 RBI, both among the league leaders. If he continues to hit like this, Bridich will eventually be praised for what has become a very controversial contract.
But everything else considered, Bridich’s legacy may hinge solely on the bullpen. If the high-priced relief corps had been mediocre, it would be a disappointment. But they have been much, much worse than mediocre. Right now, the Rockies would kill to have a mediocre bullpen.