There isn’t really another way to put it or even sugarcoat it … the Colorado Rockies bullpen has been atrocious this season. A perfect example of the bullpen’s ineffectiveness came on Tuesday night as Colorado relievers gave up nine runs and walked seven batters in four innings as the Washington Nationals rolled to a 15-6 decision at Coors Field. Additionally, rookie starting pitcher Jon Gray has seen the bullpen squander leads in each of his last two starts where he has allowed a combined two runs in 11 innings.
So far this season, Colorado relievers have posted a combined 4.98 ERA and 1.50 WHIP while opposing batters are hitting .276 against them. Each of those marks is the worst in Major League Baseball. Sadly, Colorado’s bullpen struggles aren’t just setting marks for this season. They also rank among MLB’s worst over the last decade.
“Losing a game late is always frustrating,” Colorado manager Walt Weiss bluntly said recently.
Here’s a look at the worst MLB bullpen (according to ERA) each year over the last 10 seasons and how the current stats being put up by Colorado relievers compare.
2015 — Colorado — 4.98 ERA, .276 opposing batter average, 1.50 WHIP
2014 — Houston — 4.80 ERA, .260 opposing batter average, 1.39 WHIP
2013 — Houston — 4.92 ERA, .270 opposing batter average, 1.52 WHIP
2012 — Milwaukee — 4.66 ERA, .264 opposing batter average, 1.48 WHIP
2011 — Minnesota — 4.51 ERA, .270 opposing batter average, 1.46 WHIP
2010 — Arizona — 5.74 ERA, .282 opposing batter average, 1.62 ERA
2009 — Washington — 5.09 ERA, .268 opposing batter average, 1.58 WHIP
2008 — Texas — 5.15 ERA, .269 opposing batter average, 1.54 WHIP
2007 — Tampa Bay — 6.16 ERA, .303 opposing batter average, 1.72 WHIP
2006 — Kansas City — 5.41 ERA, .279 opposing batter average, 1.55 WHIP
Yes, the Colorado bullpen is on track to be the worst statistically in MLB in the last five seasons. The Rockies have become a team that is simply unable to hold a lead or keep the opposition off the scoreboard in the late innings. Colorado is dead last in MLB in ERA from the seventh inning on (4.94), eighth inning on (5.45), and ninth inning on (5.58).
The Colorado closer position has once again undergone another change in recent days as John Axford has been inserted back into the closing role after Tommy Kahnle has struggled mightily. Over the past 10 days, since earning back-to-back saves against the Nationals on August 7 and 9, Kahnle has given up nine earned runs and walked four in two innings during his last three appearances.
“Tommy hasn’t been affected by the situation. He’s getting into a lot of deep counts,” Weiss said. “His command hasn’t been perfect. For him, it’s a lot more about execution and keeping his pitches up in the strike zone.”
While Axford is returning to the closer role, he hasn’t exactly inspired confidence with a 6.14 ERA over his past seven appearances and 8.36 ERA over his past 15 outings.
The return of Axford to the closer’s role signifies the Rockies are running out of options when it comes to their bullpen and who they can trust in the late innings when the game is on the line. In a frustrating season in Denver, the constant implosion by the bullpen has become one of the team’s biggest pain points and sources of frustration. It also reaffirms the importance of revamping the Colorado bullpen in the offseason so that a historically bad season doesn’t repeat itself.