Now that Minute Maid Park has been open for 12 years, still with its reputation for being a band box (even though it hasn't been for about six or seven years now), it's hard to remember what the environment was like for pitchers in the Astrodome.
Certainly, the stadium didn't seem like it was super pitcher friendly. Center field was a lot closer than it is in MMP and balls in those alleys could scoot. But, for the most part, the Astrodome played like a pitcher's playground.
There's not a better illustration for that than looking at some of the relievers to pass through there in team history. Since Houston moved into MMP, they've had some successful relievers, but they've been high strikeout guys. In the 'Dome? Didn't matter.
For example, let's take a look at Juan Agosto, a reliever for Houston that played for five years. He had an ERA+ of 112, which is very good. It also takes into account his environment, which was very pitcher friendly, so even after adjustment, he's still an above-average pitcher.
But, man, was he the antithesis of what you think of with a dominant reliever. Agosto ended up with just 138 strikeouts in 300 innings in Houston. He also had 111 walks, which is a lot. He had a fairly tiny home run rate for his career, so it wasn't the spacious, dead-ball nature of the 'Dome that helped him. But, that park did contribute to his success.
In his best season, Agosto was 10-2 with four saves in 75 games. Only three guys in team history have won 10 or more games while losing 2 or less, Randy Johnson and Charlie Kerfeld. Both are probably more fondly remembered Astros players.
I think with the volatility of relievers, it was easier to pitch in a place like the Dome, because they didn't have to worry as much about the errant longball. Sure, they gave them up, but taking even a little bit of pressure off a reliever can work wonders.
Maybe I'm reaching here, but after writing up two straight relievers who seemed pretty pedestrian, yet put up great numbers in the 'Dome, something had to be up. Anyone care to speculate on this?