The Astros Bullpen and Blown Saves

Reliever Sergio Escalona of the Houston Astros has taken over the lefthander spot in the bullpen.(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

I have seen some discussion of the Astros' blown saves in the game thread comments.  Let's have a quick look at this issue, just for fun (if you can call it fun).   The Astros have 11 blown saves compared to 5 saves.  Not surprisingly, that is the highest number of blown saves in the majors at this point.  On the surprising side, the Braves have the next highest number off blown saves with 10.  But the Astros are the only team with more blown saves than saves (actually, more than twice as many blown saves as saves).  The Angels have 9 saves and 9 blown saves, which is the closest to the Astros' negative net saves.

The Astros are on course for 41 blown saves. I'm not saying that will happen---I doubt it does.  After all, most teams will make major changes to their bullpen before they reach that kind of pinnacle of blown saves.  As a comparison, I looked at major league blown save leaders since 2000.  The 2004 Colorado Rockies have the most blown saves with 34.  The 2002 Texas Rangers are the next worse with 32 blown saves.   By the way, only 2 years ago the 2009 Astros were No. 2 in blown saves (behind the Mariners) with 26 blown saves.

That 2004 Colorado team had 36 saves and 34 blown saves, playing in one of the most difficult ballparks for pitchers.  The Rockies began the year with Shawn Chacon as their closer.  He was traded to the Yankees later in the season.  The 2002 Rangers bullpen (33 saves and 33 blown saves) also had an Astros' connection.  Former Astros reliever Jay Powell was tied for most blown saves with 4.  The Rangers also brought in closer John Rocker, who contributed to the blown saves.  Using the win probability stats, the Rangers' bullpen had 103 meltdowns that season (yikes!). 

If you look beyond the blown saves and use the more encompassing meltdown stat, the Astros are only 2d worst---23 meltdowns compared to the Cardinals 26 meltdowns.

If you want some better news about the Astros' bullpen, the advanced statistics indicate that the bullpen isn't as bad as the results so far.  The Astros' bullpen ERA is second worst at 5.05.  But ERA is not a good statistic for predicting future performance.  The Astros' bullpen x-FIP is a healthier 3.99; eleven teams in the majors have a worse x-FIP for their bullpen.  Only four teams have had worse luck, in terms of ERA underperforming FIP.   The Astros' bullpen BABIP is .326, and that is the highest in the majors; this also suggests that bullpen has been somewhat unlucky on batted balls.

Let's hope that the Astros' bullpen has some regression in terms of positive improvement.

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