HomeTeamsRockiesJune Check-In On Rockies Pitching

June Check-In On Rockies Pitching

It is June and the season is officially more than a third done. Teams have passed the point of saying things are “too soon to tell” and are now instead in the summer rundown to the Trade Deadline. Now is the time that teams must objectively look at their rosters and ask what is missing. For the Colorado Rockies, those questions point directly at the bullpen.

The 2024 season began with Kyle Freeland returning as the Ace of the starting rotation for the third year in a row. The horror show that Freeland demonstrated on Opening Day, when he gave up 10 runs as he futilely tried to stop the hitting parade in the third inning by the Arizona Diamondbacks, was dispiriting for fans because it showed the Rockies pitching was going to be a big weak spot this season. That lackluster performance trend, including a record-setting number of early deficit starts, showed that the Rockies could not keep other teams from jumping ahead early and often because the starting rotation could not seem to keep the runs off the board in the first three innings.

Then the usual streak of early injuries for this ball club happened, and several starting players went on the injured list including Freeland, but this had an unexpected effect rather than tanking the season early. The Rockies starting rotation came alive in the wake of Freeland’s absence. The result was a great turnaround performance from the starting pitchers for the month of May led by Cal Quantrill and Austin Gomber. As the starters began to stretch out their performances to 90+ pitches and 6+ innings, the Rockies started to win with greater consistency including a 7-game streak.

Unfortunately, there was not a balance at the backend of the bullpen with some dependable closer options. In Spring Training, the talk was that Tyler Kinley and Justin Lawrence would share the responsibility of being the Rockies’ go-to closing powers that could show-up in the ninth for some cutch pitching. That was not what happened. Instead, Kinley has recorded two saves out of 24 games pitched with an ERA of 8.06, and Lawrence has recorded two saves out of 20 games pitched with an ERA of 5.91. Neither pitcher has been a credible 9th-inning threat with the ability to go out and get three outs to end the game. Several times, these two have been involved in 9th-inning losses when home teams were allowed to rally back for the win. Kinley is still in the mix heading into June, but Lawrence is on the injured list and at home spending time with his newborn baby.

The piece of the puzzle that is missing now for the Rockies is that threatening and dependable closer. What the Rockies need is a Robert Suarez type pitcher. The San Diego Padre’s closer currently has a 0.69 ERA after 26 innings pitched. Suarez is credited with 17 saves and zero blown saves, which gives him a 100% save percentage. He currently has 24 strikeouts and has only given up two runs this season. At 33-years-old, Suarez is not an anomaly of talent. The RHP is not even the leader on the list of closers, but he is the highest ranking closer with that dependable 100% save percentage.

The closest the Rockies bullpen comes to Suarez’s numbers is in Jalen Beeks who currently has six saves.  Beeks, a 30-year-old lefty, does have 23 strikeouts in 27.2 innings pitched. However, it is the 11 runs that hurt Beek’s numbers and make him a much less reliable closer. Beeks was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay Rays last November, and he really blossomed in the Rockies bullpen after floundering a bit for the last four years with the Rays.

In the Rockies’ last game of May, Beeks was sent in at the bottom of the 8th with two outs, two on, and the game tying run at the plate. Freddie Freeman, the Los Angeles Dodgers hitter with an .876 OPS, was someone who could be expected to usher in a late inning hitting streak. However, Beeks went to the mound and struck Freeman out in the clutch to strand the runners and retired the side. Beeks then returned in the bottom of the 9th to make short work of the next three batters and take home the save. Definitely a great example of clutch performance, and a flame the Rockies should be fanning as the possible answer to their need for a better closer option as they head into the summer.


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