Where’s Sergio Leone when you need him? Can he get out left-handed hitters?
Despite a fistful of dollars, the Astros’ bullpen again posted the worst ERA in the majors. The 4.80 of 2014 might have been bad, but — shockingly — it was better than the 2013 version’s 4.92. A similar improvement might just turn Houston’s “ugly” bullpen into one that’s merely “bad.”
Good seems out of the question, unless Luhnow spends a few dollars more out of that $20 million Crane will allegedly pony up for 2015. The trick, of course, will be to spend that money wisely instead of burying it in a grave … or in Jesse Crain‘s bank account.
Out of 20 relievers, Houston had only a fistful pitched better than the team average ERA in 2014: Matt Albers (10.0 IP, 0.90 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8/3 K/BB), Jose Veras (32.2 IP, 3.03 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 37/16 K/BB), Chad Qualls (51.1 IP, 3.33 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 43/5 K/BB), Tony Sipp (50.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 63/17 K/BB) Jake Buchanan (26.0 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 17/9 K/BB), Josh Fields (54.2 IP, 4.45 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 70/17 K/BB), and surprisingly Kevin Chapman (21.1 IP, 4.64 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 19/11 K/BB).
Calling this group “good” is a bit relative. Chapman had a horrible WHIP. Albers pitched two weeks then disappeared. Veras spent half the season stinking for another team. And Qualls seemed to be on Oakland’s payroll every time we played them.
The next seven were mostly bad. Some were sometimes good. In this set, Jorge De Leon, David Martinez and Sam Deduno pitched with small enough sample sizes — less than 10 innings in Houston — they aren’t worth mentioning. That leaves Mike Foltynewicz (18.2 IP, 5.30 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 14/7 K/BB) who pitched well on several occasions especially as the season was winding down, Darin Downs (34.2 IP, 5.45 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 27/19 K/BB), Paul Clemens (24.2 IP, 5.84 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 16/13 K/BB) and Jerome Williams (47.2 IP, 6.04 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 38/16 K/BB).
And The Ugly
From Kyle Farnsworth‘s 1.97 WHIP to Brad Peacock‘s status as a starter, and Jose Cisnero‘s and Raul Valdes‘ horrible performances and limited innings, the six remaining relievers really just amounted to Anthony Bass (27.0 IP, 6.33 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 7/7 K/BB) and Josh Zeid (20.2 IP, 6.97 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, 18/7 K/BB).
For a Fistful of Dollars
Almost certainly, the Astros will bring back Chad Qualls, Tony Sipp, Josh Fields and Mike Foltynewicz. If Veras and/or Buchanan return, well, those guys are all part of the reason Houston’s second-half ERA for relievers was about half a run lower.
For a Few Dollars More
Houston could fill its final spot or two with the likes of Pat Nesheck and Andrew Miller if they are not re-signed. My guess is this will be a position Luhnow tries to fill with a trade. Or someone like Tommy Shirley from AAA could make the jump, though what Houston needs is a real closer since they have a bunch of returning setup men, seventh inning guys and long relievers.
But by simply avoiding the Farnsworths and Jerome Williamses of the world, this bullpen could easily be better than in 2014.
Questions to Consider
- Should the Astros try to re-sign Jose Veras? If so, is he their closer?
- What about Jesse Crain or, despite buying him out, Matt Albers?
- There were a lot of blown saves in 2014, but only six of them belonged to Qualls, who saved 19 games. Should Qualls be the closer … except against Oakland?
- Predicting a trade or a free agent signing with so many variables is a veritable shot in the dark. Still, any favorites for the Astros to shoot at?
- And finally, Sergio Leone made some great westerns. What is your favorite western?