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Reliever of the Year: Daniel Bard dominates as rarely seen by a Rockies' closer

Patrick Lyons Avatar
October 19, 2022

During his successful career as a Colorado Rockies closer, Brian Fuentes was named to the National League All-Star Team in three different seasons and saved 115 games with the franchise, most amongst any pitcher in team history.

Brian Fuentes Awards for Best Relief Pitcher

The step back for the starting rotation for the 2022 Colorado Rockies meant increased opportunities for the relief corps.

As such, Colorado’s bullpen pitched the fourth-most innings in team history.

Though a modicum of improvement was made across several pitching statistics from last season, only one reliever made significant improvements.

The pair of Justin Lawrence and Alex Colomé had their moments, but were unable to keep their respective earned run average below 5.00, something only four Rockies regulars could manage for the entirety of the season. 

Tyler Kinley was tremendous before requiring season-ending surgery to repair his right ulnar nerve. His 630 ERA+ is the highest ever by a Rockie and 11th-highest in the history of baseball for a pitcher with at least 24.0 innings pitched. It was not a full-season sample size, but it was incredibly impressive nonetheless.

Lucas Gilbreath put together another above-average campaign following a remarkable rookie showing in 2021. His successful campaign in 2022 made his the first left-handed reliever with consecutive years of a 112 ERA+ or higher since Chris Rusin did it in 2016-17. (Most in franchise history – five times – is the man for whom this award has been named.)

Jul 5, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Lucas Gilbreath (58) delivers a pitch in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dinelson Lamet didn’t debut in purple until August 9, but his 3.00 ERA (2.77 at Coors Field) over his first 18 innings and .194 batting-average-against suggest he may have recovered from the arm troubles that had bothered him since the end of 2020.

Let’s not forget Jake Bird. He was outstanding in Triple-A and quickly earned Bud Black’s trust upon arriving in Denver. The 26-year-old saw his earned run average jump half-a-run on the final road trip of the year, but he still ended at 4.91, a rarity for a rookie reliever with Colorado.

Carlos Estévez was even better than last season when he won this award. It was arguably the best in his six-year career the Rockies. The 6’6″ gentle giant will be rewarded nicely in free agency this offseason.

However solid the numbers and contributions were by any of the relievers previously listed, there was one man who stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Daniel Bard

Simply put, we may have just seen the single greatest season for a closer in Rockies history.

Daniel Bard recorded 34 saves, third-most in National League. Not only does that rank as the sixth-most in in team history, but it represented exactly half of Colorado’s win total in 2022. (Only José Jiménez with 41 saves for a 73-win team in 2002 and Shawn Chacon with 35 saves for a 68-win team in 2004 can lay claim to that.)

Bard gave up only three home runs which helped keep his earned run average below 2.00 on the season. Of the 268 seasons posted by a Rockies’ pitcher with at least 60 innings pitched, his home-runs-per-nine (0.499) is the seventh-lowest for the franchise.

His 1.79 ERA (60.1 IP, 12 ER) is the second-lowest in a single-season behind Rex Brothers’ 1.74 ERA (67.1 IP, 13 ER) in 2013.

A save percentage of 91.9% (34 saves, 37 opportunities) was tops in MLB this season and proved second-highest in team history. Huston Street’s 94.6 save percentage in 2009 (35 saves, 37 opportunities) is better.

Jul 7, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Diaz (35) and Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Daniel Bard (52) shake hands after defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Only 27 players have ever posted an ERA+ of 200 or higher for the Rockies and less than half of those were by pitchers with less than 20 innings.

Just six appeared in more games than Bard’s 57 this year. And no one from that group saved 20 games or more.

The most runs surrendered in an outing were two, something that happened on two occasions. He also worked more than one inning on six occasions, something rarely seen by Rockies’ closers.

Of the 11 seasons that a Colorado closer racked up 30 saves or more, only Dave Veres in 1999 had ever thrown more innings than games played. Now, Bard joins that list (57 G, 60.1 IP)

Under contract for two more years thanks to a $19 million extension in July, Bard could very well win this award a few more times.

Should he end up notching 30 saves in the process, he would tie the only man in team history to reach the milestone more than once: Brian Fuentes.


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