Robert Stephenson was acquired by the Colorado Rockies last offseason in what ended up being GM Jeff Bridich’s penultimate trade with the team. The Rockies and the Cincinnati Reds made a deal to acquire pitchers that were in need of a change of scenery. Jeff Hoffman was sent to Cincinnati and Stephenson to the Rockies (along with some minor leaguers going both ways as well).
Stephenson had struggled with injuries in his career so he was hoping to stay healthy and have a fresh start in the Rockies bullpen.
In 2021, he did suffer an upper back tightness that cost him six weeks in the middle of the season but still, he was one of the best Rockies relievers.
In 49 games, he had a 3.13 ERA with a 153 ERA+, a 3.63 FIP, and an opponent slash line of .241/.316/.408. It was even better in his final 32 appearances as he had an ERA of 2.03, a FIP of 3.36, and an opponent slash line of .211/.318/.358. He allowed one earned in his final 15 appearances.
2022 projections expect regression for Colorado Rockies reliever Robert Stephenson
Despite Robert Stephenson getting better as the 2021 season developed for the Colorado Rockies, ZiPS projects that Stephenson will regress significantly. It projects that he will have an ERA of 4.44 in 52 games with a 4.29 FIP, a 111 ERA+, and an fWAR of 0.4.
In 2021, Stephenson had an fWAR of 0.5 and an rWAR of 0.8.
Given the wide margin of error for relievers, the capriciousness of relievers, and Stephenson’s history of injuries and ineffectiveness for the Reds, it’s easy to see why it projects a regression.
However, since Stephenson was relatively healthy in 2021 compared to recent years and since he was better as the season developed, he could very easily be much better than the 2022 projections.
In 2022, the Rockies will rely on Stephenson to be one of their setup men so the Rockies will need him to be more like the 2021 Stephenson than the projections for the Rockies bullpen to make a step forward this season.