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Alex Colome could be dominant in the bullpen

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But to know that, there are some wonky results in 2015 we need to sift through first

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

This season the Rays saw two distinctly different versions of Alex Colome, the starter and the reliever.

Coming into the season Colome was set to compete for the 5th spot in the rotation. As we all know the starting rotation was not what we expected to see coming out of spring training, and Colome's absence was part of the attrition that the starting rotation endured even before the season began.

It started when his reporting to camp was delayed by visa issues, compounded by a severe case of pneumonia, necessitating a delayed start to his season. This would prove to have a silver lining for the Rays by forcing them to acquire Erasmo Ramirez and push Nathan Karns into the starting rotation. Both would excel in their unexpected roles. Their strong seasons allowed the Rays acquire Brad Miller for Karns via trade with the Mariners this offseason.

The strong performances of Karns and Ramizez allowed the Rays to transition Colome to the bullpen in the beginning of July. A similar experiment had failed the year before, but improvements to shorten his warm-up regimen seemed to set up 2015 for success.

Below we will compare the 2 versions that we saw of Colome last season:

Role G IP K% BB% HR/FB LOB BABIP ERA FIP WAR
Starter 13 69.0 15.0% 8.2% 11.7% 72.6% .296 4.70 4.64 0.4
Reliever 30 40.2 27.0% 4.3% 0.0% 71.4% .358 2.66 1.71 1.4

Colome Starter/Reliever Comparison

Alex Colome was not bad as a starter, but he was also not as effective as you would expect for a pitcher with a 95+ MPH fastball. He was on pace for somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 WAR as a starter.

Luckily the Rays had other options and felt his stuff would play better out of the bullpen. Over the month of July he would transition to his new role in the bullpen, starting mostly as a multiple inning reliever. In doing so, he saw a significant increase in strikeouts and a decline in his walk rate.

Here is how Colome's performance over the three-month span developed:

Month G IP K% BB% HR/FB LOB BABIP ERA FIP WAR
July* 6 10.1 23.3% 2.3% 0.0% 75.0% .452 2.61 1.78 0.2
August 11 16.1 32.8% 5.2% 0.0% 90.9% .200 0.55 1.54 0.6
Sept/Oct 13 14.0 24.2% 4.8% 0.0% 59.1% .419 5.14 1.85 0.5

*Removed his 1 start on July 1st

The components that factor into FIP are all great (Ks, BBs, and HRs). The thing that sticks out are those months of July and September when BABIPs are extremely high. August was, by contrast, quite low.

In July, Colome was able to limit the damage from the high BABIP in regards to earned runs, but he wasn't as fortunate in September, a time when all of the bullpen struggled.

Looking through the September game log, Colome allowed runs in only four of 13 appearances, and in only three of the 13 was he charged an earned run. How does that provide such a poor ERA and BABIP? I fired up mlb.tv to look at the two games in which Colome appeared to struggle to find the culprit.

Are the on field results witnessed in September a sign of the wheels coming off of Alex Colome or was August more of what we should expect to see in future?

September 17 vs the Baltimore Orioles

On September 17 Colome came in to relieve Moore in the eighth innning in one of Moore's best starts of 7 IP, 2H, 0 runs, and 9Ks to try to preserve a 3-0 lead.

Coming into this game Colome worked three of the four previous games, including this relief appearance that made four appearances within five days. He was wild in this appearance, with 2 wild pitches that badly missed, one on a curve he spiked into the dirt several feet in front of home plate and one on a badly yanked fastball that Maile couldn't get to.

After Schoop got to second base on a single and a wild pitch, Colome got to two outs, but the pitch count was starting to mount.  Ahead to both Clevinger and Machado 1-2 in both at bats he rolled curve balls that caught too much plate that were put into play for singles.

After intentionally walking Chris Davis to load the bases, the at bat that broke the inning open was with Adam Jones. Jones check swings at an chest high fastball on the first pitch that he makes contact with and the ball gets over the 2nd basemen's head for a 2 rbi single.  He finishes the inning on a nice change-up on a full count to strike out Matt Weiters, but the damage had been done.

September 21 at the Boston Red Sox

On September 21 Colome was presented with the task of trying to preserve a 3-1 lead in Boston for Chris Archer.

The inning starts off rough as Betts leads off with an opposite field single on the first pitch. On a 1-1 pitch Dustin Pedroia hit a weak ground ball up the middle that Asdrubal Cabrera was able to get to but  couldn't get the ball to Logan Forsythe in time for the force out at 2nd.

After getting ahead of Xander Bogaerts 0-2 he leaves a fastball chest high over the middle of the plate that would have probably been hit out of any other stadium. It hits about 10 feet from the top of the monster to score a run, and leave runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs.

Colome forces David Ortiz to pull a grounder to Cabrera who makes a nice play from his relocated 2nd base position, but a run scores. Travis Shaw hits a weak fly ball but is able to score Bogaerts from 3rd for the third run of the inning.

Colome finished off the inning by striking out Rusney Castillo on 3 pitches in a noncompetitive at bat.

Conclusion

There were positive and negative impressions to take away from Colome's two poor multi-run outings. (For those checking my research, there was his also a relief appearance when he allowed 2 runs over three innings, credited with 2.1 IP).

Overall, Colome looked very good in striking out Hardy, Wieters, and Castillo. When he missed his spot, rolled in a curve, or caught too much plate his pitches were hit-able, but the batters weren't able to do more than take singles by going with the pitch.

The only ball that was hit particularly hard was the pitch to Bogaerts, which should have been a home run, but I didn't see anything to suggest that he should have such elevated BABIPs going forward.

Colome will eventually allow home runs, so his FIP won't always stay so shiny, but as long as he stays ahead and doesn't catch too much of the plate, he looks more likely to be a force in the back-end of the bullpen in the future.