All Things Astros and a whole lot more
Yes, the 2015 Houston Astros fielding is better. They were tied for the fourth most errors in the AL in 2014 and they are currently tied for the fourth least errors. Yes, despite terrible BA and OBP numbers, the 2015 Astros are doing a better job scoring runs. They were 14th in runs/game with 3.88 last season and are currently a middle of the road eighth at 4.31 runs/game this season. Yes, the starting pitching, even with the fifth starter hole has been decent again in 2015. Pitchers in that spot finished 2014 tied for eighth with a 3.82 ERA and are eighth again in 2015, but at a higher 4.18.
So, what is left? What is left is the group that has made the most progress from last season and has had a profound direct statistical impact on the team and frankly, an equally as big psychological impact on the team’s performance: The bullpen.
The statistics are mind blowing when considered in context:
Both Will Harris and Tony Sipp have given up a single earned run in 13 appearances apiece. First time closer Luke Gregerson is 8-of-9 in save situations and veteran Chad Qualls has tossed in 4 saves on top of that. Josh Fields has given up one run in the seven games he has appeared in since he returned from injury. Pat Neshek is on a run of eight scoreless appearances and has not walked a batter all season. Situational lefty Joe Thatcher has been OK in his LOOGY type role and Kevin Chapman was OK for the short time he was up. Sam Deduno has been a bit sketchy, but he has also had to sacrifice for the team, bouncing around from a long relief to a spot starter role on a dime.
In one area the relievers have been average and that is they have let a league average 34 percent of inherited runners score. A lot of that can be left at the feet of Thatcher who had a couple real bad outings early on this season. If you drop him out of the equation,the rest of the pen has allowed only 25 percent of inherited runners to score – a very good number.
Just as important as the actual improved performance by the bullpen is what the better performance by the ‘pen means to the team.