Last year, the Astros traded for a player recognized as one of the top young closers in all of baseball. They also traded for a reliever with an ERA over 3.81 for his career up to that year and had posted a 3.40 ERA that season. Shockingkly, it could easily be argued that the reliever with a career ERA near 4 outperformed one of the best closers in the game.
Ryan Pressly, Filthy 81mph Curveball and 92mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/MkUJq73e2h— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 14, 2018
Ryan Pressly 2.54 ERA (2.47 FIP) across 71 IP, with 12.80 K/9, 2.79 BB/9
Roberto Osuna - 2.37 ERA (2.45 FIP) across 38 IP with 7.58 K/9, 0.95 BB/9
Aroldis Chapman - 2.45 ERA (2.09 FIP) across 51 IP with 16.31 K/9, 5.26 BB/9
Craig Kimbrel - 2.74 ERA (3.13 FIP) across 62 IP with 13.86 K/9, 4.48 BB/9
Kenley Jensen - 3.01 ERA (4.03 FIP) across 71 IP with 10.3 K/9, 2.13 BB/9
It doesn’t take long to realize that Pressly was not only as good as the Astros new reliever, but was easily in the same league as some of the best closers in the game. But somehow this actually sells Pressly, Luhnow, and Strom short. Now let me preface that Pressly’s time in Houston is clearly a Short Sample Size, but let’s take a look at it.
While in Houston these were Ryan Pressly’s stats:
In 26 games totaling 23.1 IP - 0.77 ERA (1.49 FIP), 12.30 K/9, 1.2 BB/9
#Astros Ryan Pressly 2018 Pitch Quality— MLB Quality of Pitch (@qopbaseball) January 12, 2019
Curveball 5.20 QOPA (Top 7% MLB)
Horizontal Break (Top 2% MLB) ‼️
Velocity (Top 6% MLB) ‼️
Location (Top 27% MLB)
Low Rise (Top 37% MLB)
Vertical Break (Top 47% MLB) pic.twitter.com/07RRzKQbot
Pressly only gave up 3 runs during his stay with the Astros so far, 1 of which being in the playoffs. The 0.77 ERA would have been the lowest ERA in baseball out of the 530 pitchers who threw more than 20 IP in 2018 (Slightly edging Treinen at 0.78). On FIP, he also would have ranked at #1, beating out Edwin Diaz (1.78).
Ryan Pressly, 84mph Curveball and 97mph Fastball, Overlay/Slow. pic.twitter.com/ymD99QoCZm— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 25, 2018
For the entire season, Pressly xWOBA (.241) was in the top 3% of all of baseball. Here is a graph of his xWOBA by month:
His xWOBA in Augst? .158
His xWOBA in September? .161
Ryan Pressly's average curveball spin rate by year since 2015... I'm very interested to see if this trend continues next year pic.twitter.com/4yHdtZgHHy— Daren Willman (@darenw) January 12, 2019
It’s easy to stop and think that it was only 23 innings. Pressly has been a mediocre pitcher his whole career. He outperformed nearly every elite reliever in baseball and has never even sniffed an All-Star game.
But then you look at the advanced stats, and everything indicates that his results were not luck driven. He showed improvement prior to his arrival in Houston, and putting his spin rate (2nd best in baseball at 3,225 behind Garrett Richards) with his velocity into Strom’s mold has consistently spelled success.
I know the Astros are not avid believers in the “Closer” role, but I think there’s a legitimate argument for him to take the role over Roberto Osuna.
My personal opinion, based on the stats I see is that Ryan Pressly will be one of the most dominant relievers in the game of baseball in 2019.
I’m predicting an ERA under 2, his K rate staying above 11, and him becoming our “go-to” in clutch moments.
Do you think Ryan Pressly will meet my predictions?
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