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Statistically speaking: Rockies' bullpen suffering meltdowns

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By David Golebiewski
Thursday, July 24, 2014, 10:33 p.m.

The Pirates ravaged the Rockies bullpen last weekend, scoring a combined seven runs off Colorado's relief corps while earning a series sweep.

Late-game heroics once again could determine the outcome of this weekend's matchup at Coors Field. The Rockies have a meltdown-prone bullpen, while the Pirates stay cool under the late-inning pressure.

Colorado's relievers lead the majors in “meltdowns,” a stat that measures how often a pitcher decreases his team's chances of winning a game by six percent or more. Used as an alternative to blown saves, meltdowns give a purer measure of how often a reliever starts a fire he can't put out.

The Rockies hold a double-digit lead in meltdowns and could challenge the 2009 Nationals (109 meltdowns) for the single-season team record during the 40-year period for which Fangraphs has data.

Team Bullpen meltdowns

Rockies 69

White Sox 56

Cubs 53

Marlins 52

Rangers 50

Adam Ottavino has been the most meltdown-prone reliever in the majors this season (racking up 14 so far), and Rex Brothers (10), Matt Belisle (nine), Nick Masset and Chad Bettis (six apiece) also have triggered many offensive eruptions. The Rockies aren't known for standout pitching performances, but the 2014 bullpen is on pace to shatter the single-season team record for meltdowns (102 in 2012) and has posted the third-worst park-and-league adjusted ERA (13 percent below average) since the franchise came into existence in 1993.

While Colorado's pitchers scuffle at the end of games, the Pirates offense thrives when outs are at a premium. They have the fourth-highest team on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) from the seventh through ninth innings (.704), with Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Russell Martin and Josh Harrison proving especially clutch. That helps explain why the Pirates have the most one-run wins (23) in the majors.

Batter OPS Innings 7-9

Andrew McCutchen .971

Neil Walker .900

Russell Martin .888

Josh Harrison .796

MLB Avg. .676

Source: Baseball-Reference

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

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