Colorado Rockies: How the bullpen has quietly become a strength

DENVER, COLORADO - AUGUST 01: Pitcher Tyler Kinley #40 of the Colorado Rockies throws in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field on August 01, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - AUGUST 01: Pitcher Tyler Kinley #40 of the Colorado Rockies throws in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field on August 01, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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The Colorado Rockies bullpen has been good lately.

After the first month of the season, you may not have thought that we would be saying this but it’s true.

Rockies manager Bud Black said that he thought that the bullpen would be better after it was one of the biggest disappointments for him in April and the Rockies bullpen has done very well recently.

From Opening Day through May 16, the Rockies had a bullpen ERA of 5.84, which was the worst in the NL and second-worst in baseball, and a FIP of 5.26, which was also the worst in the NL and second-worst in baseball.

But since May 17, the Rockies bullpen has logged 37 2/3 innings of work and in that span, they have an ERA of 3.58, which is 12th in baseball.

They also have a FIP of 3.58 as well, suggesting that the Rockies bullpen has not had any good or bad luck, but a true outlook into how they are pitching. That FIP is 11th best since May 17.

The ERA would be even better if not for Yency Almonte’s appearance on May 22, when he didn’t retire a batter but allowed three earned runs. If not for that outing, the Rockies would have a bullpen ERA of 2.87, which would be 7th in baseball since May 17.

In that span, the Rockies bullpen also dropped their walk rate from 4.64 BB/9, which was 24th, to 3.82 BB/9 and increased their strikeout rate from 8.45 (27th in baseball) to 10.27 K/9, which is 14th in that span.

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Carlos Estevez allowed his first earned run since April 11 when he allowed a solo home run on Tuesday. In his last nine outings (going back to April 15), he has 10 innings pitched while only allowing two runs (one earned), walking nobody, and striking out 11 with a .171 opponent batting average.

Daniel Bard has lowered his ERA from 7.11 to 4.29 since May 14 as he has had seven straight outings (8 1/3 IP) without allowing an earned run, striking out 14 and walking three while allowing only four hits.

Since May 15, Tyler Kinley also hasn’t allowed a run as he has only allowed one baserunner in 8 IP since then. In that same span, Robert Stephenson had an ERA of 2.45 and striking out six in 3 2/3 IP.

Since the beginning of May, Jordan Sheffield has pitched in 10 2/3 IP and he has allowed just five hits and three earned runs, amounting to a .143 opponent batting average and a 2.53 ERA.

During Bud Black’s pregame media availability via Zoom, we asked him what he has seen from the bullpen recently and he said that Estevez being healthy and consistent and Bard making some “subtle changes” in his mechanics as well as pitch location have been key recently. Sheffield has been the Rockies most consistent reliever thus far in 2021 but Black mentioned how all four of them have been good lately.

Along with Chi Chi Gonzalez, who has pitched well in the rotation but just recently switched to the bullpen, the Rockies have five or six guys who are pitching well. Black said that to get into the upper echelon of bullpens, they need to have at least six relievers at any given time that are pitching well for them.

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Perhaps the Rockies bullpen is getting more of it’s stride after a poor start and poor seasons for each of the last few years. And if the Rockies aren’t in contention come July but the bullpen is still pitching well, some of those relievers may even get the Rockies a decent return on the trade market.

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