Ahhh, the Winter Meetings are upon us. Rumors. Trades. Signings. Speculation. It's already flooding social media and news outlets to the point of completely ruining work productivity for a lot of baseball fans.
For Astros fans, it's primarily going to involve the search for a closer to anchor the bullpen. One that has velocity a-plenty.
Rumors are that the Washington Nationals are going to shop Drew Storen in these Winter Meetings and the Astros are reportedly interested. He fits those two aforementioned qualities, since he averages about 95 MPH with the fastball and has ninety-five career saves. The Nationals have reason to trade him. He doesn't have much future with them since his cost control ends next season and with the addition of Jonathan Papelbon, the closer position is taken. They're also interested in other late-inning arms. They've demoted him from the closer position three times. They don't seam to have much confidence in him and I doubt he's willing to sign an extension if he's been demoted three times.
But, does Storen fit what the Astros like in their pitchers?
The short answer is no.
However, it's a bit more complicated than that and might not tell the real story.
The Astros have been very consistent in their avoidance of "Inverted W" pitchers over the last few years. They didn't really seem to have an issue early in Jeff Luhnow's tenure, but have since changed. The acquisitions of Brad Peacock, Alex White and Asher Wojciechowski haven't turned out very well. Plus, they dealt away the two most notable "Inverted W" pitchers they had in Jarred Cosart and Nick Tropeano.
That right there is pretty telling of the style of pitchers they target.
Yet, in all of those examples the pitcher wasn't an established guy. They were pitchers that they were going to have to continue to develop or refine at the major league level.
Storen is established and fits into a class that the Astros haven't toyed with. He's an established pitcher that has proven to be capable of performing in the role the Astros are looking to fill.
Storen has had some varying peripheral stats. His walk rate has been from 1.76 to 3.58. His strikeout rate has been as low as 7.12 but as high as 10.96 (last season). Then his ground ball percentage has been as high as 53.7% but as low as 38.4%. Even his advanced metrics vary with FIP ranging from 2.40 to 3.62.
His best seasons, FIP-wise, were 2012 and 2014. He had a 2.40 and 2.71 FIP, respectively, and those were his best seasons with GB%, 53.7% and 52.5%. 2015 wasn't bad with a 2.79 FIP, but he went completely the opposite direction with a career low in GB% (38.4%). However, he countered that low with the 10.96 K/9.
His stuff over the seasons have been fairly consistent with this season showing one of the largest changes in movement on the slider, which coincided with increased usage and increased strikeout rate. But, he's had big changes in his pitch usage and locations.
Storen's best years are 2012, 2014, and 2015, yet there are hardly any similarities in the three seasons.
Same can be said for his pitch locations.
Not much consistency.
So, this is what it comes down to. Storen has very good stuff and is very adaptable. He's very unique in that his arsenal is versatile enough to have success with very different approaches.
That has a lot of value to a pitching coach like Brent Strom. With young pitchers, he has to work on final touches with stuff, mechanics, approach, reading swings, etc. With marginal veterans, he has to try to extract value where others couldn't with some of those same things. With a veteran like Storen, he doesn't have to worry much about stuff. He knows something will work. But, he can get creative with the pitch sequencing because his stuff can get outs in so many ways.
So, Storen makes more sense for the Astros than on the surface.
Things are getting weird. I might be a proponent of acquiring an Inverted W pitcher.