Sometimes, the solution to a problem is just hiding in plain sight.
Such is the case in the Colorado Rockies‘ bullpen going into the offseason, where there are some major decisions to be made. While the team has finally seen the transformation from longtime closer-in-waiting Rex Brothers to just the closer, the folks who are supposed to get the ball to him are a little bit of a mixed bag with neither Matt Belisle or Adam Ottavino (though very good this season) being certain quantities.
Still, if the Rockies were to be looking for someone whom they can groom into the mold of a dynamite setup man, they surely wouldn’t go looking at the bottom of the barrel, right?
Well … Mitchell Boggs might be the exception.
Yes, I’m aware that this is a pitcher who had a ridiculous 11.05/2.45 ERA/WHIP through 14.2 IP with the St. Louis Cardinals earlier in the year as a failed closer, and that even with a 3.12/1.38 ERA/WHIP with the Rockies towards the end of the season, he still walked as many matters as he struck out through 8.2 IP, giving him matching but unimpressive 5.19 BB/9 and K/9 rates.
In fact, Boggs is currently ranked last in the team’s bullpen with -0.2 fWAR (tied with two others) … so why is he the secret weapon in the team’s bullpen?
To answer that question, you’ll have to look a little bit deeper and also take a bit of a leap of faith here. If you were to look at 2013 alone, there are lots not to like about the right-hander’s future with the Rockies. That said, there is a reason why the Cardinals gave him a shot at the job at the beginning of the season.
The simply point is that Boggs has been and will be better going forward, but there are some things that point for this season as being an outlier. The biggest of which is his home run allowed rate, which has spiked to stratospheric levels in 2013. Yes, pitching in Coors will likely lead to more home runs, as seen by his 28.6 percent HR/FB rate in his short stint in Colorado compared to 25 percent in St. Louis.
However … there’s just no way that the 25 percent was even close to being sustainable to begin with.
You know what Boggs’ career HR/FB rate is? 9.7 percent … including the cumulative 26.3 that he posted this year. That, if anything else, screams outlier from a mile away, as he’s had seasons worth of innings of not doing it.
On the other hand, he does possess good stuff. No, really. I know his 6.62 career K/9 doesn’t scream dynamite reliever, but he did post a .201 BAA with the Cardinals last season, and had a .219 BAA with Colorado this year (SSS caveat, obviously). More importantly, while he did get hammered for long balls, he did significantly improve his GB/FB rate to a career-high 2.26, and posted a 63 percent ground ball rate in Colorado.
… and you know how important that’s going to be for any pitcher’s success going forward.
It hasn’t seemed like it all season, but the 29-year-old is truly what you’d call a diamond in the rough, and could very well be just what the Rockies are looking for in a setup man — a big, hard-thrower with a track record of success who generates ground balls.
Of course, that is putting a lot of faith on that home run rate being a fluke … but I mean, there’s just no way it can be that bad, right?