Yesterday we covered the last month of Astros Batting. Today we cover the pitching stats.
Astros Season pitching through June 30
One would hope that in a month in which three of the best hitters in the league were absent from the lineup due to injury, the pitching staff would pick up the slack. That did not happen in June. Although the ranking of the staff as a whole compared to the league, and the starters as well, remained about the same as the last time we checked in on May 25, what had been clearly the top ranked bullpen in the AL before this month suffered a dramatic decline.
The following chart for June will show a decline of the staff in general but especially by the bullpen.
Astros Pitching, June 1st - June 30th, 2019
Although the ERA of the starters in June was a half run higher than the season average at the end of May, the peripheral statistics did not change much. But the bullpen, which was ranked first in almost every category at the end of May, was one of the worst bullpens in the AL during June in terms of ERA. In terms of peripherals it was mostly just average. Certainly it was not the kind of pick-me-up performance you would hope for when the big bats were down with injury.
Fans have argued whether the home run bug especially plagues the Astros staff. Short answer, yes. Home runs are indeed a problem for the Astros staff. For the year the staff has given up 131, 4th most in the Al. In June the staff allowed 55, the most in the AL. Luckily, low WHIP limits the damage.
Astros Individual Pitching, Season through June 30.
(pitchers with more than 10 innings)
The Astros look about 2 1⁄2 deep in starting pitching, and 3 1⁄2 deep in relief pitching based on these season statistics.
Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole made the All-Star team, deservedly so. But we are witnessing the predicted regression of each. In the case of Verlander, his ERA is rising to meet his peripherals, and in the case of Cole his ERA is dropping to match his peripherals. According to FIP and xFIP Cole has out pitched Verlander this year.
Wade Miley is the half pitcher because, despite his stellar ERA, one has to expect more generous run allowance from him in the future based on his peripherals. He has outpitched his peripheral all year, but watch out, when regression is long delayed, it usually strikes back later with a terrible vengeance. At times this year, both Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh have performed well, but both have been inconsistent, probably due to pitching around arm problems in both their cases. Peacock is on the IL. McHugh has just returned and is currently pitching out of the bullpen.
In the bullpen the Astros have a dependable trio to close a game after the sixth inning, but, of course, that’s just not enough. Hector Rondon is the half reliever here because, like Miley, his ERA looks good, but his peripherals are very doubtful. After Rondon the Astros’ bullpen is a crapshoot.
For season stats go HERE
Individual Pitching Performances, June.
After a season of seeming pitching into bad luck, Gerrit Cole finally had a month where his ERA was considerably better than his FIP/xFIP, a sparkling 1.89. Wade Miley actually came in ahead of Verlander in ERA this month, Verlander topping the 4 mark. Framber Valdez pitched his way back to AAA trying to cover the #5 starting role despite good outings against Baltimore and Toronto. Brad Peacock fell apart, but hopefully we can attribute that to “shoulder soreness” from which he will recover.
In the bullpen Will Harris and Roberto Osuna remained steady, but Ryan Pressly hit rough waters this month, giving up 4.35 runs/ nine innings, and a FIP which was even worse. Every good relief pitcher goes through these spells, so let us hope Pressly returns to some semblance of the form that got him on the All-Star team.
Collin McHugh returned from IL and in almost four innings of relief looked strong. Perhaps he can work his way back into the rotation, where someone needs to step up.
Josh James showed continued improvement that had carried over from mid-May, sporting about a 3 ERA with solid peripherals. But if I had run this search for the last 30 days, rather than for June, his ERA would have been 6.75, owing to the meltdown he suffered July 2nd in Denver.
If this is the pitching staff the Astros take into the playoff there should be some concern. This is a hollow staff right now, both in the starting rotation and the bullpen. After Cole and Verlander there is no one whom I would want to see pitching a game three in the playoffs, Miley looks like a fourth starter to me. Perhaps Peacock or McHugh can return to full health and full form, but that seems like a risky assumption. Even Verlander’s recent decline is a bit worrisome, especially his penchant for allowing home runs, a dubious statistical category in which he currently leads the league (23).
A bullpen of 3 1⁄2 isn’t good enough either to go all the way in the playoffs. Part of the problem is the failure of the youth movement to mature as hoped. Josh James and Framber Valdez have not yet developed consistency. Cionel Perez has moved backwards in his development. Corbin Martin looked promising but then fell apart, possibly due to arm problems. He is currently injured. And do I need to mention Forest Whitley, who was supposed to be this year’s Walker Buehler, but who turned out to be a total flop at AAA, and is now resting his arm. ETA for Whitley is no longer 2019.
But it is highly doubtful that this is the staff we see in the playoffs.