CHRISTIAN BERGMAN SHOULD NEVER HAVE MADE IT TO THE MAJORS AS A 24TH ROUND PICK. PROBLEM IS, HE DOESN’T SEEM TO HAVE THE STUFF TO STAY HERE AS A RELIEVER OR STARTER. BUT GREAT HAIR AND INTERESTING TATS.
The starting rotation as planned early in Spring Training 2014 was to be: Chacin, DLR, Chatwood, Anderson, and Nicasio. A great thought at the time.
Chacin injured before season started and only 11 starts
Chatwood, injured and on DL to start season, blown elbow by end of April
Anderson, great, injured and gone for 2 months, good, gone for the season
Nicasio, never injured, started out okay, bombed by midseason, in bullpen by end of season.
So when only 1 of your planned 5 gives you 30+ starts, you start to go to other options.
First up, Jordan Lyles, solid year, broken hand, missed 2 months.
Second up, Eddie Butler, bad outing, sore shoulder, one more outing.
Third up (as far as long-term Rockies goals), Tyler Matzek, good rookie year.
Fourth up, Franklin Morales, so-so for a 5th starter on a bad team, okay from the pen.
Fifth up, was the Rockies 2010 24th round pick Christian Bergman (and it should be noted already, that of the group of Butler, Flande, Jurrjens, Hernandez, and Friedrich, Bergman turned out to be the best option).
Over the past few years Bergman had performed pretty well for the Rockies in the minors. He was outstanding in 2012 at High A (a bit too old for that league) going 16-5 with a 3.65 ERA and a 1.217 WHIP and in 2013 he excelled again at AA going 8-7, with a 3.37 ERA and a 1.082 WHIP (at about age level for the league). A lot of people saw a guy who could be a 5th starter alongside 2011 20th round pick Daniel Winkler (who sadly was grabbed by Atlanta in the Rule 5 this year). While it is true that both players had good minor league results, it is also true that right-handed pitchers picked that low usually are able to get by with guile and control, rather than stuff. At the major league level that doesn’t work so well, and so 2014 gave Christian the chance to show the big league team whether he could handle hitters in the NL West.
Bergman was in Colorado Springs until June when the parade of injuries opened the door for him. He wasn’t great in Colorado Springs, but he was okay, and by June 1 the team had been simply emptied by injuries to the rotation. And so next up was Christian.
His first three starts gave a typical profile of a 5th starter:
|6/9 ATL||6.0 inn||6 hits||2 ER||4:2 K/BB|
|6/14 @SFG||6.0 inn||8 hits||3 ER||3:0|
|6/20 MIL||3.0 inn||9 hits||7 ER||3:0|
And of course what happened on the 20th? Yes, that is right, in the 3rd inning, second batter, lined a pitch off his hand, for a single. Bergman then surrenered a homer to the next batter before getting an out and allowing another homer. He got the final out of the inning (a strikeout of the pitcher) but he was done at that point. I love Bergman’s after game quote, “It’s fine,” Bergman said. “It’s not broken, it’s just really swollen. Hopefully it cools down in the next couple of days.”
And that is why pitchers aren’t doctors. Bergman was on the shelf for 2 months, the third hand break of the season for Rox pitchers (to go along with Lyles and Anderson). More than a couple of days of course. But Bergman would return in mid-August and remain for the rest of the season:
|8/24 MIA||6.1 inn||9 hits||4 ER||1:2 K/BB|
|8/29 @ARI||5.1||2 hits||1 ER||5:5|
|9/3 SFG||6.0||9 hits||2 ER||0:0|
|9/9 @NYM||6.0||6 hits||2 ER||1:0|
|9/15 LAD||5.0||9 hits||6 ER||7:1|
|9/21 ARI||5.2||6 hits||2 ER||3:0|
|9/28 @LAD||5.1||11 hits||7 ER||4:0|
And so there is your opening season for Bergman. For the season he went 3-5 with a 5.93 ERA and a 1.555 WHIP while the team went 4-6 in his starts.
What to make of these starts? First, he shows what all rookies face, especially those who are more 4th and 5th starters – inconsistency. He had 3 really awful games, and 6 games where he allowed 3 or less runs (only 4 qualified as quality starts due to only going 5.1 and 5.2 innings). When he was bad he was really bad, especially against the Dodgers who simply feasted on him. When he was good he was able to allow hits and get out of innings. He does show the potential of being a serviceable 5th or even 4th starter.
That said the biggest issue with Bergman is his stuff. You have to be able to get strikeouts in this league, especially at key times. And when you have 5 starts with 3 or less strikeouts, that clearly shows your stuff is not exactly hard to miss. Additionally, he struggled at times with his control, especially right after the long layoff. Now that might just be a blip, but when you are already pretty easy to hit, giving extra baserunners is a big issue.
For the season his BABIP was .335, which is really high and demonstrates his need for strikeouts. At home his BABIP was .364!!!, which explains the 6.47 ERA. On the road, where his BABIP was a more normative .291, his ERA was still 5.16, but he kept the team in more games. Unless he can either add a pitch (something off-speed like a better change), change his delivery to hide the ball better (doubtful) or become even better at his control (ala Greg Maddux), what we saw this season of his stuff doesn’t bode well for a long and successful career.
He also struggled in some interesting ways:
- With 0 outs he gave up a .260BA/.301OBP/.704 OPS line. But with 1-out it jumped to .350/.381/1.031 and remained high with 2-outs, at .342/.358/.966. You want to see consistency in these situations. Is he really focused early in the inning and losing that focus after getting the first out? That first out is supposed to key the inning, but for Bergman it begins the trouble.
- If you allow runners you have to strand them, which Bergman didn’t, allowing a .305/.354/.947 line with RISP. He was only a little better in 2-out and RISP (as you might expect based on his numbers with 2-outs), allowing a .296/.345/.974. Just keeping a few of those runners from scoring could mean the difference between wins and losses in games he pitches.
- He also struggles the first time through line-up, allowing a .313/.341/.907 to batters when he sees them first, doing better in the 2nd AB (.267/.300/.777) before crashing the 3rd time through (not surprising with his stuff) at .349/.379/.966. As a 5th starter the team might be willing to live with 5-6 innings, and only facing batters twice in most cases.
- He also seems to operate better with a normal rotation approach, pitching far better with 4 days off (allowing a .279/.324/.795) than 5 days (.341/.356/.992) which is not unusual with older pitchers (as opposed to a Tyler Matzek) whose bodies find routine better and who need sharp control to succeed.
Christian Bergman was a 24th round pick for a reason, but he has already provided more value to the team than most 24th round picks ever do. Sadly his stuff simply doesn’t translate to being a reliever (even a long-man), and so his future has to be as a starter. If he can get a little better with each pitch, improve at the margin, he might turn out to be a serviceable 5th starter, and a home-grown one at that. But with the likes of Jon Grey, Eddie Butler, Tyler Anderson and Kyle Freeland coming in the next season alongside the likes of Jordan Lyles and Tyler Matzek, his window is open for long.
2014 Season Grade:
C: Christian was pushed to the majors after only 15 starts in AAA, and only those starts at altitude. He really struggled at home in part because of that, and in part because of a few bad pitches in a few games. He did give them 4 6 inning starts, went at least 5 in all but one start (the broken hand game), and gave the team a chance to win, with the 4-6 record, which was right around the team’s .404 winning percentage, and filled in when needed most. He wasn’t spectacular, and he sure wasn’t flashy, but he deserves a passing grade for the year.
As of 1/21 the team hasn’t signed any veterans to compete for the 5th spot in the rotation. With the first spots locked in for DLR, Lyles, Matzek and Chacin (assuming health), he will be competing with Tyler Anderson for that #5 spot. The advantage there might be the desire of the team to go with only 2 lefty starters, pushing Anderson (who had a great season in AA, though with too many 6 or fewer inning games) back to AA or AAA. I am going to bet he spends at least part of the season in the #5 spot and the rest at AAA.
15 G 15 start 4-4, 4.75 ERA 1.333 WHIP
He has to impress quickly if he is going to take hold of that 5th spot and make himself part of the future.