This Week In Astros Pitching

July 19, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell (64) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the second inning at PETCO Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

It’s been a rough week for the Astros as the losses continue to mount. With the way things have been going you might think that everything has been bad, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case. The pitching, while not being great, has also not been horrible and has had some good performances sprinkled on top of some not so good ones. With that being said let’s take a look at the breakdown of the Astros staff for the past week.

  • Overall – 52 IP, 6.92 K/9, 4.67 BB/9, 4.50 ERA, 3.70 FIP
  • Starters – 33.1 IP, 6.75 K/9, 4.59 BB/9, 4.86 ERA, 3.87 FIP
  • Relievers – 18.2 IP, 7.23 K/9, 4.82 BB/9, 3.86 ERA, 3.39 FIP
  • Last night’s late game not included

    Starting Rotation

    As shown above the Astros starters did not have that great of a week, but were a little unlucky as the groups FIP is a full run better than the staff’s ERA. Things would have looked quite a bit better if Harrell’s stellar outing was included, but I didn’t have time to update the stats after the late game. Astros starter’s had a rough time pitching deep into the game as Happ’s 6.1 innings were the most pitched by a starter this week. Control was also an issue for the group as they gave up a combined 17 walks in their 33.1 innings, and things look a lot worse if you take out Happ’s one walk and his 6.1 innings pitched.

    Wandy Rodriguez

    Wandy got off to a rough start after the All-Star break. In his two starts he pitched a total of 10 innings and allowed 9 earned runs, while walking 4 and striking out 8. Not the best way to audition yourself to contending teams. If you’re looking for a bright side then it has to be that he missed a few bats with those 8 strikeouts, being that his strikeouts are down so much compared to last year.

    All of Wandy’s pitches are generating less swing and misses compared to 2011. According to brooksbaseball.net Wandy’s fastball is generating 7.67% whiffs, sinker 5.84% whiffs, curveball 9.75% whiffs, and changeup 9.82% whiffs. This is compared to a 9.54% whiff rate on his fastball, 2.36% on his sinker, 12.84% on his curveball, and 11.15% whiff rate on his changeup during the 2011 season. However Wandy has been more effective overall this season compared to last season and this is due largely to the fact that each of his pitches is generating groundballs at a higher percentage than last year.

    Wandy will be one to watch as he probably has two more starts left before the trade deadline. Will he dominate and entice a GM into making a move for the southpaw, or will the interest remain lukewarm leaving Luhnow no choice but to hang on to his lefty. It could come down to the waiver wire in August again as well, which would give Wandy more time to raise/lower his value. Time will tell.

    Lucas Harrell

    I didn’t talk about the outing in the stats above, but how great was Lucas Harrell’s performance against the Padres last night. The best part about it was that it came on the road (albeit Petco) where he has really struggled this year. Harrell has a 6.21 ERA in road games versus a 1.99 ERA at home, which makes last night’s performance all the better. Harrell was able to take advantage of a generous strikezone and was in control for most of the night. 5 of his 6 strikeouts were looking, and the majority of those were with his two-seamer against lefties inside that tailed back over the plate.

    Harrell has improved each month of the season so far. Below is a look at his month-to-month splits.

  • April – 3.77 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, 4.29 FIP, 4.76 xFIP
  • May – 5.24 K/9, 4.19 BB/9, 4.52 FIP, 4.15 xFIP
  • June – 6.23 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 3.50 FIP, 3.68 xFIP
  • July – 11.70 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, 2.96 FIP, 2.54 xFIP
  • Bud Norris

    Norris had one start this week and it was a quality start, though he had to work very hard to keep it that way. His control was missing as he walked a total of 6 batters’, but also managed to strikeout 6. Bud continues to strike guys out at a good clip, but his walk rate has crept back up on him after he was able to keep it below last year’s mark for most of the season so far. He had a stretch where he battled injuries, and now that he seems to be healthy hopefully he can settle in and get back to performing like he did last year.

    J.A. Happ

    Happ had a good outing this week, and continues to have a decent year despite what the overall numbers say. He pitched 6.1 innings of shutout ball and only allowed 4 hits, 1 walk, and struckout 4. The biggest improvement that Happ has made this year compared to last year is being able to cut down on the free passes given up. His walk rate is at the lowest it’s been (3.36 BB/9) since his break out season in 2009 (3.04 BB/9). His strikeout rate of 8.45 K/9 this year is the highest he’s had it in the majors, and he’s also generating groundball outs at a rate of 46.9% which is also a career best. All this adds up to a nice bounceback season for Happ so far despite the high ERA.

    With all the Wandy trade talk out there you have to wonder if Happ may have as much trade value as Wandy (which unfortunately probably isn’t a lot). Like Wandy, Happ is also more than just a rental player which is something that is valued more this season due to the new CBA rules. There may be a big discrepancy in both pitcher’s ERA, but in terms of future performance Happ’s xFIP of 3.95 is comparable to Wandy’s of 3.89. Add in the fact that Wandy is owed quite a bit more than Happ and it could be something to think about.

    Jordan Lyles

    The Astros former top prospect had a rough outing this week. He ended up allowing 5 earned runs in his 6 innings pitched while striking out 3 and walking 2. He also gave up a total of 11 hits in the outing although 9 of those hits were singles. He has shown glimpses of what he can be in the first half, but has been unable to put it all together with the club this season. If we are looking for positives here then it has to be the fact that his groundball rate has improved from 40.8% last season to 51.9% this season. He is also still experimenting with his curveball, so if he can find some consistency with that pitch then we could see some improvement from him. Lyles has been better against righties this year with a .249 batting average against than he has against lefties allowing a .331 batting average against.

    Bullpen

    The Good

    Everybody’s favorite punching bag out of the pen lately Fernando Rodriguez did not allow a run to score in his 2.1 innings pitched this week. He did however walk 3 batters, but also struckout 3. Joining him with scoreless outings were also Wesley Wright, Rhiner Cruz, and Wilton Lopez. It is nice to see the solid performance from the latter as Lopez was making his return from injury this week. His absence was felt while he was on the disabled list and the Astros bullpen is much better with a healthy Lopez in it. Lopez went 3 innings, walked no one (big surprise), and struckout 2. Rhiner Cruz also pitched 3 scoreless innings and only allowed 1 hit, 1 walk, and 2 strikeouts. Wesley Wright allowed 1 hit in 1.1 innings of work while walking no one and striking out 1.

    The Bad

    The Astros haven’t had a whole lot of leads lately which means that we haven’t seen a whole lot of Brett Myers, which is a shame because it seems like he pitches better in save situations. This week was no exception as he allowed 4 hits and 1 earned run in his 1 inning of work. Our closer’s K rate is now down to 5.87 on the year. Enerio Del Rosario pitched a total of 3.2 innings and allowed 2 earned runs while striking out 3 and walking 2. Fernando Abad really had it rough as he allowed 4 earned runs in his 1.2 innings worth of work.

    I wouldn’t say that Brandon Lyon was bad this week as he only allowed 1 earned run in his 2.2 innings of work but he was unpredictable. He would really have me on the edge of my seat closing games if say Myers were traded and Lyon took over the closer’s role.

    Checking in on WAR

    Not that it’s the best way to judge a pitcher’s performance, but I did find it interesting to see where some of our pitchers stood in terms of fWAR compared to last year. Wandy’s 1.6 WAR has already surpassed his 2011 total of 1.5. Bud Norris was last year’s WAR leader at 1.8, so it seems like Wandy should have no problem surpassing that mark provided that he is not traded at the trade deadline. Surprisingly Lucas Harrell is next with a mark of 1.2 on the season. Happ had a WAR of 0.3 last year so his 0.6 mark so far this season doubles that. Norris looks like he may not hit last year’s total unless he puts together a good second half.

    As far as the bullpen is concerned Mark Melancon was last year’s WAR leader at 0.8, followed by Wilton Lopez at 0.5. Wesley Wright was also positive at 0.1, and Sergio Escalona and Juan Abreu were at an even 0. Everyone else was negative. This season Lopez sits at 0.5 already, Lyon at 0.4, Enerio Del Rosario at 0.1, and Xavier Cedeno is even. Everyone else is in the negative. Brett Myers sits at 0.1.

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