The Colorado Rockies’ Welcomed Surprise

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The Colorado Rockies’ welcomed surprise to begin 2022 has been their bullpen. As of this writing, they lead all of baseball with nine saves—a significant improvement from their 2021 showing. That improvement is sorely needed if Colorado wants to be a .500 or better team. So far, so good.

Previous Years’ Bullpens

The 2019 Rockies bullpen had an ERA of 5.18, ranking them 28th in baseball. They were worse in 2020 with a 29th-ranked 6.77 ERA. While the 2021 season saw an ERA improvement (4.91)—fifth-worst in baseball—the bullpen had issues in other areas. Their 33 saves as a team, ranked 25 out of 30. They blew 30 “save” opportunities, placing them 26th.

Over the last three seasons, Manager Bud Black at times found himself forced to choose between sticking with his starters a little longer—and risk overworking their arms—or handing the ball over to his bullpen and risk giving up the lead. That’s not a good predicament for a manager.

Commitment in Spring Training

When Spring Training started, Black and pitching coach Darryl Scott stressed this team’s need to have the bullpen step up and be better this season. Every job was up for grabs. They challenged returning relievers and newcomers to avoid the big-inning(s) bullpen collapse that overwhelmed them the past several seasons.

Change in Starters

The new trend in the big leagues is keeping team starters at six innings or fewer. The start of the 2022 season has even shown that early on some teams have their starters going only five innings. While most of that can be attributed to the lockout-shortened spring training and the need to build pitching arm stamina to regular-season shape, bullpens have to be relied upon to hold leads and win games.

And it’s not just an issue for the Rockies. All teams need bullpen arms to be ready at all times. It doesn’t matter if they are long relievers, setup pitchers, or even closers. Any bullpen arm can be called up any time after the fourth inning and they need to be ready to answer the call.

Needed Quality Left-Hander(s)

The Rockies set out to get better performances from their left-handed relievers. They went out and signed Ty Blach to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training 2022 when the lockout ended. He surprised the coaches with his spring camp and made the team. Blach has pitched eight innings in five games. Other than his April 23 game—when he gave up four runs—he has pitched well. Expect him to be both a long reliever and one-inning arm all season.

The other lefty is Lucas Gilbreath. Although he has struggled so far, he is still going to be relied upon. What the Rockies need from him is to get back to his 2021 form. Gilbreath was their most consistent and, some said, best reliever all season. He had an ERA of 3.38 in 47 games, logging 44 strikeouts in 42 2⁄3 innings.

Closer Daniel Bard

Right-hander Daniel Bard has been a welcomed surprise for Colorado Rockies so far this season. We all know his story. He had a remarkable, inspiring return to baseball in 2020 after more than six years off the field and he dominated. However, he was simply terrible in 2021 and ended up losing his closer role when he posted a 5.21 ERA and blew eight saves.

So far in 2022, he has five saves in six games and has won a game. He seems to have found his fastball and slider again. If he keeps the homerun ball down and keeps the groundouts up, he should continue to be effective.

Never Enough

The Colorado Rockies’ welcomed surprise to begin 2022 has been their bullpen but you can never have enough effective bullpen arms. In today’s style of the game, there is nothing more volatile than a major league bullpen. We also know the bullpen is still the biggest thing holding teams back.

So far what the Rockies coaches and fans have seen has been a pleasant surprise. If the bullpen can maintain—or improve—their current competent and proficient play, the Rockies could see themselves hanging around in playoff contention.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

Players Mentioned:

Ty Blach, Lucas Gilbreath,

Daniel Bard