The Colorado Rockies have always been a team whose pitching struggles have resulted in many losses over the years. From the starters to the back end of the bullpen, Coors Field has been unkind to pitchers throughout its 23 years. There have been a few pitchers in Rockies history who have enjoyed success at 20th and Blake such as Pedro Astacio and Jorge De La Rosa. However, it is a daunting task for those who pitch at Coors Field as it can inflate ERAs and diminish a pitcher’s confidence. Through the first two months of the season, Coors Field has rocked yet another pitcher’s confidence. Bryan Shaw is the latest victim of the stadium’s harsh pitching environment. Shaw came to Colorado after pitching in Cleveland from 2013-2017. While a member of the Indians, Shaw enjoyed success as he accrued a 2.59 ERA in 2014 to go along with five wins. However, as the Colorado faithful have discovered in 2018, Shaw had difficulty nailing down saves. During his five years in Cleveland, he blew at least three saves every season. In Game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, Shaw gave up the game-winning run that allowed the Cubs to clinch their first championship in 108 years.
Following the 2017 season, Shaw signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Rockies in an attempt to help fortify the bullpen. Shaw’s deal was part of General Manager Jeff Bridich’s $106 million spending spree during the offseason. With the signing of Shaw, Bridich not only brought a pitcher to Colorado who has four years of playoff experience, but who also has previously pitched in the National League West. Before pitching for the Indians, he pitched for two seasons as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Given that Shaw was familiar with the NL West and had pitched in the postseason, he figured to give Colorado’s bullpen not only an experienced veteran, but also a pitcher who could be a mentor to pitchers such as Chris Rusin and Harrison Musgrave. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Rusin and Musgrave have been tutoring Shaw in how to pitch at Coors Field and helping him find his place in the pen. While this is not necessarily a problem, it raises many questions regarding Shaw’s role with Colorado. If Bridich’s intentions in bringing Shaw to Colorado were to fortify the back end of the pen, Shaw has not shown that he is comfortable with those responsibilities. If it were still mid-April or late May, fans would likely be more forgiving. However, the Rockies have played 65 games which means less than 100 games remain in 2018. In the midst of a four-game slide and three and a half games back in the NL West, Colorado’s bullpen has been largely to blame for the plunge. Currently, Shaw has manifested a 7.03 ERA in 35 appearances. While a 7.03 ERA isn’t the highest figure out of the pen, his 10 home runs allowed are tied for first among Rockies relievers in 2018.
Bryan Shaw has been a liability out of the pen for Colorado in 2018. Bridich has been vocal about finding solutions from within the organization. He believes that the likes of Shaw, Wade Davis, and other members of the bullpen have simply hit a rough patch in the past few weeks. While that certainly may be the case, Bridich needs to consider all options leading up to the deadline that may help the Rockies compete. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu becomes a free agent at the end of 2018, so it could be in Bridich’s best interest to let Shaw and his $27 million go if he continues to under perform. There are several key contributors in 2018 who look to do the same heading into 2019. Players such as LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, and Charlie Blackmon are a few players who Bridich cannot afford to lose next season if the Rockies want to compete for a division title. Meanwhile, Shaw and other pitchers in the bullpen have been a hindrance to the club’s success and will likely be shown the door in late July.
If Shaw is relived of his duties with the Rockies next month, there are a few options for his replacement. Kirby Yates has appeared in 26 games for the San Diego Padres in 2018. He is 3-0 with an 1.08 ERA and two saves. Yates is known for his strikeout ability as he averages 11.16 strikeouts per nine innings. Currently, Shaw is averaging 8.72 strikeouts per nine innings which is an average figure among Rockies relievers this season. Because Shaw pitches to contact, he often allows the opposition to tee-off or finds difficulty in locating his pitches. He has relinquished 16 walks in 35 appearances which is second-most in the bullpen. Only Mike Dunn has given up more walks for Colorado as he has allowed 17. If the Rockies wish to sign a pitcher who doesn’t create traffic on the base paths, Luis Avilan of the Chicago White Sox could be a viable option. In 28 appearances, Avilan has fanned 21 batters while only allowing one home run. A former Dodger, Avilan had a productive final season in Los Angeles when he had 13 holds as well as a 2.93 ERA. He could be an immediate contributor in Colorado if the Rockies decide to make him an offer.
The Colorado Rockies are in position to make a run if they work out the kinks in the bullpen. By trading Shaw, that would be the first step in improving their postseason chances. As it currently stands, Bryan Shaw is the weak link who is holding the bullpen back. If he were to be released or traded, the Rockies would be able to sign a pitcher who will help them succeed in October. The signing of Shaw has been a failed experiment and it is time that Bridich cut his losses and part ways with him. A pitcher of Avilan’s or Yate’s pedigree would go a long way in Colorado’s return to the postseason for the second consecutive year.