Friday, August 24, 2012

Bullpen crumbles as Colorado Rockies winning streak ends in Chicago

Despite Friday's struggles, Belisle has been huge for the Rockies.
Don't dust off the parade confetti just yet.

The Colorado Rockies couldn't hold a 3-0 early lead over the Chicago Cubs. They were plagued by poor work from the bullpen, and the sloppy defensive play that Rockies fans have become accustomed to in the 2012 season.

Starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz continues to show flashes of why he was so highly thought of when the Rockies sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for the lefty as the centerpiece of the deal. He went five strong innings, giving up just two hits. However, both of those hits were solo home runs, helping the Cubs chip away at the 3-0 deficit before his departure. In 72 pitches, Pomeranz threw 43 strikes, a step in the right direction.

Pomeranz left the game with a 3-2 lead, and a chance to win his second game of the season. However, an area of strength for the Rockies all season long finally failed them.

After Josh Roenicke continued his personal trend of doing nothing but throw strikes and get outs, Matt Belisle, fresh off of his first save of the 2012 season, gave up three runs, two earned, on three hits while recording just one out. As the game unraveled behind sloppy defensive play and bad pitching.

The game was a quick reminder of just how bad things have been in 2012. Poorly played defense, undisciplined at-bats and the inability to hold the lead plagued Friday afternoon's affair the same way it has plagued the Rockies all season long.

The major difference between Friday's game and the rest of the season was the ineffectiveness of the bullpen, specifically Belisle.

After Roenicke continued his brilliant season it looked like the Rockies were well on their way to victory. Instead, Belisle struggled from the get-go.

There is no one who can blame Belisle, or fault him for one bad outing. The guy has done nothing but go out on a nightly basis and take the ball and throw strikes and get outs. Surprisingly, his season has been extremely good. Despite the overuse, his ERA is just above 3.00 for the season.

To gain a better understanding of just how much Belisle has been used, his 63 appearances leads the National League for all relievers. Those 63 appearances come on the heels of a season in which he appeared in 74 games, in which he posted 72 innings. During the 2011 season, the talk was about how much the Texas-native had been used. Those who thought he was overused in 2011 couldn't have imagined the amount of use the Rockies would ask of him in 2012.

The fact is, the 75-pitch, 4-man rotation should have taken its toll on the Rockies bullpen long ago. However, for whatever reason, the bullpen has barely bent, let alone broken despite the workload.

Without pitchers like Roenicke and Belisle being extremely successful, the Rockies might be in an even worse place than they already are. The failures that Belisle experienced today could easily be chalked up to simple overuse. At some point, something has to give. If anything, Belisle was simply due for a setback.

The Rockies have been rescued by the bullpen. Their 75-pitch theory has had many baseball people shaking their heads, but the fact is, it could have been much worse had the bullpen not been as effective, and stayed as healthy as they have.

As the season wears on, and the bullpen continues to eat more innings, it shouldn't be much of a surprise if the overused bullpen has a few more bad outings that cost the Rockies games.

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