Rookies, quality starts no good when bullpen leaks like a sieve

Whether it’s little league, high school, college or professional, pitching and defense are the keys to any successful baseball team. Few teams win without those elements and no team wins consistently.

Throw in a anemic hitting group, one of the worst defenses in the AL, and you have a 100-loss team. But, as you know, starting pitching has not been the issue for this year’s Astros. If the team had kept Jose Veras, or invested in the back end of the pitching staff, perhaps the kick to the finish line would have been different.

Take a look at some of these numbers.

71 quality starts, 51 wins.

  • You can interpret those stats any number of ways, but it seems clear the Astros have provided enough starting pitching this season to make a decent team. Sure, you’ll lose a 3-2 or 2-1 game here or there, but even a decent bullpen combined with 71 quality starts should be enough to get to 60 wins by this point, no?
  • Think about it like this: Boston has won 91 games with 87 QS and Texas has 81 wins with 71 QS.

Houston is 18-28 in one-run games and 13-17 in two-run games. Here’s a rundown of some of the lower-scoring games.

  • 0-1 in 1-0 games.
  • 3-1 in 2-0 games.
  • 0-1 in 3-0 games.
  • 4-5 in 2-1 games.
  • 2-5 in 3-1 games.
  • 4-3 in 3-2 games.

2.56 ERA for rookie starters.

  • Since July 12, four rookie starters have not only been impressive, they have been dominant. During that span, Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock, Brett Oberholtzer and Paul Clemens have pitched 172 1/3 innings in 28 starts for a combined 2.56 ERA. Folks, the top teams in the league haven’t posted those numbers.

Meanwhile, the bullpen this season has been horrific. Of course, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but consider these 2013 bullpen numbers:

  • 60 save opportunities.
  • 28 blown saves.
  • League-worst 5.13 ERA.
  • League-worst 229 walks.
  • League-worst .275 batting average against, 22 points higher than the closest team!
  • League-worst 82 HRs, 24 more than the closest team!
  • League-worst 1.55 WHIP.
  • League-worst .833 OPS against, .150 higher than the Astros’ team.

Okay, I’ll stop. But consider that just 21 blown saves could have resulted in a 14-game swing in the Astros 51-98 record. Can you say 58-91?

The obvious good news is that the Astros have apparently found the some solutions for the rotation. The bad news is that the team will need to clean house — with a couple of possible exceptions — in the bullpen.

With that news, here’s a little either/or to start your week:

  • Best chance to be successful in 2014 rotation: Cosart, Peacock, Oberholtzer, Clemens.
  • Not convinced on this one, could be a paper tiger: Cosart, Peacock, Oberholtzer, Clemens.
  • Could make some noise in Houston at some point in 2014: Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz, Asher Wojciechowski or Nick Tropeano.
  • In the dugout, most likely to be gone by December: Bo Porter, hitting coach John Mallee, pitching coach Doug Brocail, bench coach Eduardo Perez.
  • Who do you blame the most for the team’s pitching woes: Jeff Luhnow, Bo Porter, Doug Brocail or Drayton McLane?
  • What has contributed the most to Astros losing close games? Bullpen, lack of hitting, or defense?

28 comments on “Rookies, quality starts no good when bullpen leaks like a sieve

  1. Best chance at success – Cosart, albeit moderate.

    Paper tiger – Oberholtzer. Will get exposed if he logs 150 + innings.

    If we are lucky 3 of the 4 will make some noise. Wojo looks the closest.

    Brocail – sometimes you are just victim to your circumstances.

    Pitching woes – none of the above. You forgot to mention Purpura.

    Close games – all of the above. They are taking turns.


  2. I think Peacock has a good chance because he has decent command and four pitches and has raised his ceiling.
    Still not convinced about Clemens.
    Wojo could make some noise because he’s at AAA already.
    Luhnow had some bad luck with Ely, White and Owens and Weiland. Porter didn’t know enough about pitchers, Brocail doesn’t know enough about helping pitchers and McClane didn’t let his GM’s spend enough on drafted pitchers.
    Most likely to be gone, Brocail, but I think they’ll all stay.
    I think managements decision to not spend money is the #1 reason for losing close games. The Astros DH position and pinchhitters have produced horrible results with horrible statistics! The Astros bullpen has produced horrible results with horrible stats and those are the two factors in close losses. The players in those positions are the responsibility of the GM.


  3. – Best – Cosart. I think Peacock is eventually a .500 guy on a bad team and could be Max Scherzer on a really good team. If Cosart can keep the walks from getting to home plate his talent will win out.
    – Paper Tiger – Clemens. I really liked him when he came up earlier in the season, but there were too many relief appearances where he just got shelled. I actually put the blame for this on Porter. I would have said Oberholtzer, but even if he doesn’t make it as a starter you should get some good returns from him in the pen.
    – Noise – Wojo. Let’s see what Appel does in spring training. For him to hit Houston in 2014 we almost need to see him start and excel early at CC. However, given the guys 1oldpro pointed out (White, Ely) it may be crowded in OKC. That would limit promotion opportunity.
    – Gone by Dec – Is it possible for Mallee to keep his job? The K total alone should be enough. Considering the abysmal performance by the offense across the board though…
    – Blame, pitching – Tie – Luhnow / Porter. Luhnow needed to get some veteran stability out there. Instead, we took a flyer on Veras (who was very good in Hou) and a rule V guy. Porter has made some terrible moves out there. In the first half I thought he was trying to make Paul Clemens’ arm fall off.
    – Blame, losses – Age / Inexperience. They’ve found just about every way conceivable to lose the games this year. I guess it could be worse though – someone lost a game on a passed ball this weekend.


  4. First, I find it interesting that Dennis Martinez gets a pass on the relief pitchers. If Bo stays (and it is 99% that he will), then he picks his coaches. And I am in there with OldPro in that lack of spending really showed its ugly head during the season.


  5. – Best chance of success in 2014 – Cosart followed by Peacock
    – Paper tiger – though I’ve liked him – I’m worried they may figure Oberholtzer out. He does not throw hard enough to just blow folks away.
    – Make noise in 2014…. Asher W-alphabet
    – Out by December … Mallee – I think Brocail has done a decent job with the young starting pitchers … the hitters seem to have no idea how to work a count without striking out.
    – Pitching woes … blame on Wade/McLane – the cupboard was pretty bare high up – though Wade will get credit as some of his trade returns hit the big time.
    – Losing close games – blame the bullpen the most – lack of timely hitting hurts also.

    And the Jose Altuve – Search for the Missing Base on Balls has now reached 124 plate appearances and counting without a walk….


    • Yeah, recall last week when I had high hopes they would show us they cared and run off a string of wins blah, blah, blah…we’re sitting on 99 losses with 12 to play.


  6. Please excuse me for being cynical again, but when I think back to the start of the season, and Luhnow’s statement about “exceed expectations” — I have to wonder how crappy he really thought this team was going to be if 51+ wins exceeds his expectations.


    • Castro got 95 starts behind the plate this year, and 18 more as the DH. He was very carefully used. So what next? He’s easily the best bat on the club right now, but is marginal defensively and it becomes more and more apparent that his knees will not hold up for a whole season as a catcher. The club has been touting Singleton as our up and coming franchise first baseman for the past two years. Is Castro’s future with this club as a DH? I’d give him a new glove to work with as soon as he’s healthy. If nothing else, it might serve to wake Singleton up from his slumber.


      • I agree……….his knees are going to give out, sooner than later. THAT is exactly
        why I have been jumping up and down about drafting a catcher high in this next draft.


  7. The face plant slide into Phillips hind quarters did not bother me as much as a player trying to stretch a single with nobody out and down by 4 runs. Dumb.


    • Altuve’s situation alone would have me looking for a new hitting coach for 2014. We’ve got an entire minor league system preaching the value of OBP and yet Altuve has gone in the opposite direction.


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