Let’s be realistic. There is no such thing as a perfect bullpen at 5,280 feet. It’s just not achievable for the Colorado Rockies.
Just ask general manager Jeff Bridich, who spent $106 million on Wade Davis, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw. None of them are currently with the team, and none of them made it to the end of their contracts they signed with Colorado. The start of the perfect bullpen was to put an end to the era of the Colorado Rockies “super pen” or what turned out to be the bloated pen. That happened when Davis was let go last September after 10 runs in less than five innings, finishing the season with a 20.77 ERA. It was a nice try to solidify the bullpen but, like most Rockies pitching, it is better to build from within.
With that note, in this article, we will be building the perfect, or rather, the best bullpen the Rockies can put together with what they have. Specifically, we will discuss the best options for the back of the pen.
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That starts with Scott Oberg showing up for the 2021 season fully healthy. If that were to happen, ideally Oberg would be the closer for next season. In 2019, Oberg was a bright spot in a lost season with a 6-1 record, 2.25 ERA, and 58 strikeouts in 56 innings with five saves.
But Oberg was never able to make a follow up in 2020 as he was shut down for the entire season with blood clots in his pitching arm, something that prematurely ended his 2018 season. He was making a solid recovery just a month ago, so hopefully that translates and continues into the new season.
Going in reverse order, the best option in the eighth inning is Mychal Givens. That’s mostly because he had that role when he was in Baltimore. The Rockies acquired Givens at the end of August this year. In the month he played with Colorado, he not surprisingly struggled with a 6.75 ERA in 9.1 innings. The bright side is that he has a 3.41 career ERA and brings veteran leadership to this bullpen that’s lacking big names and experience.
In 2020, with his time in Baltimore, he only gave up two runs in 13 innings. Hopefully the month in purple pinstripes was a fluke. He has a diversity of pitches featuring a great four-seamer broken up by a deceiving slider. It is enough to have Bridich pull the trigger on him at last season’s trade deadline and his prior experience should lead Rockies fans to believe that he can come back with a vengeance.
Speaking of a comeback with a vengeance, let’s end with the best story in baseball in 2020. In a year that drained each and every one of us, it was a refreshing and uplifting change of pace to hear the comeback story of Daniel Bard. The righty reliever hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2013 until the Rockies announced Bard made the 40-day roster in 2020. In between, he spent time with five different teams suffering from injuries and the yips. Bard came back with more than just a feel-good story about his return.
He became an important piece of this Rockies bullpen posting his best year since 2011 with a 3.65 ERA in 24.2 innings with 27 strikeouts and just 10 walks. He showed he can pitch in any situation as he recorded six saves and his overall performance rightfully earned him the NL Comeback Player of the Year. That closing role was more by necessity with the lack of a good option to close games in 2020. This is a season Bard (perhaps in earlier innings, like the seventh) can build confidence to help fill out the “perfect” back end of the bullpen for the 2021 Rockies.