On the heels of a disappointing loss on Wednesday, along with a dust up in the media, the Astros were probably hoping for a quiet end to the work week. Well, that desire didn’t materialize today. Instead, the club now has to deal with another long-term absence to a key player. This time it is Ryan Pressly who is going to the IL for the foreseeable future. Jake Kaplan of The Athletic breaks it down below:
Ryan Pressly will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee tomorrow, sidelining him four-to-six weeks, Jeff Luhnow said. The Astros are hoping Pressly can return for the final days of the regular season but this obviously casts into doubt his availability.— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) August 22, 2019
The time frame of recovery should be the primary concern for Pressly and the Astros. At this current juncture, Pressly, who has a 2.50 ERA/2.83 FIP in 50 1⁄3 innings this season, could return as early as the end of the third week in September. If his recovery time is closer to six weeks, then we may not see him again until the postseason. October 3 is six weeks from today and the AL Division Series commences on October 4. That is cutting it rather close if the All-Star’s recovery doesn’t progress smoothly.
However, based on GM Jeff Luhnow’s comments via Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston (KRIV), the organization is “cautiously optimistic” about Pressly’s return prior to the conclusion of the 2019 regular season.
Jeff Luhnow on Ryan Pressly: "Ryan's an All-Star reliever and a really important part of our team. It's unfortunate we're going to lose him for a little while. The plan is (for Ryan) to have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee tomorrow morning to address his current issue.. pic.twitter.com/rkNhiMsc9m— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) August 22, 2019
The Astros’ bullpen will obviously be tested in the coming weeks. However, there are some capable arms that have contributed quality results in the past. But in high leverage situations, an area where Pressly has generally excelled as an Astro, the club may face an interesting dilemma on who to trust the most.
High Leverage Situations - 2019
|Pitcher||Totals Batters Faced||wOBA|
|Pitcher||Totals Batters Faced||wOBA|
For context, Pressly has faced 44 batters in situations labeled as high leverage, which only trails Roberto Osuna’s total of 91. In all, the former has limited those opposing batters to a .312 wOBA, which is generally inflated due to two poor performances against the Cardinals and White Sox in recent weeks. Like most reliever’s performances, however, there is some volatility involved and high leverage situations are no different. It is easy to read too much into the numbers. That said, I would be remiss not to inform you of the data.
Simply put, the Astros have other relievers in high leverage spots to utilize. In terms of usage this season, Will Harris and Hector Rondon stand out. Harris, for example, has the second-lowest wOBA allowed at .268 in such situations. To probably mild surprise, Rondon has a .277 wOBA allowed when he is utilized in a similar fashion. While their respective ERA’s (5.00 for Harris; 6.75 for Rondon) is unsightly in high leverage, their wOBA’s do indicate positive results. And before one stresses out even more about ERA, which only paints a portion of the canvas known as pitcher analysis, both Pressly (8.44 ERA) and Osuna (4.50 ERA) have high earned run averages in such situations. Due to the small samples generally involved in leverage situations, it is easy to see an ERA skew towards the higher end of the spectrum if there are even one or two suboptimal results.
It would be irresponsible of me not to also mention Josh James. The right-handed flamethrower, who is on the IL at present, is expected to rejoin the active roster at some point in September. While he sports an ugly 11.57 ERA in high leverage spots (again, small sample), James has only allowed two hits out of the 29 total batters faced. Walks are a bit of an issue for him, but his .251 wOBA allowed represents one of the best marks on the club. Recent newcomer, Joe Biagini, represents another option in high leverage situations with a .223 wOBA allowed out of 34 total batters faced this season. It also shouldn’t be entirely dismissed whether other relievers on the roster (Collin McHugh, Joe Smith, Brad Peacock, and Chris Devenski) will receive more opportunities when the stakes are higher.
The Astros find themselves stretching their depth more than they would like in August. The timing of Pressly’s injury and subsequent recovery leaves little wiggle room for potential delays. That said, the team’s bullpen is still a quality one, even without Pressly. It may also be time for an impromptu Happy Hour, but that’s just me.