A few days ago, Astros pitching coach Brent Strom suggested Ryan Pressly was the leading candidate to be the team’s closer in 2021. However, Strom brought four other veterans to the conversation: Joe Smith and newcomers Pedro Báez and Steve Cishek.
On Crawfish Boxes, we’ve brought to you the best things of this group to evaluate who should close games for the Astros this upcoming season...
Stat you should know: 1.13 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 66 Ks in 47 2⁄3 innings (49 appearances) at Minute Maid Park since joining the Astros.
It seems this is his job to lose. He became the closer last year after Roberto Osuna got injured and saved 12 games in 16 opportunities. Pressly overcame a rough start and enjoy a strong finish with a 2.03 ERA and 20 strikeouts in his final 13 1⁄3 innings.
Pressly has excelled as a setup guy over his career and has been outstanding since joining the Astros from the Twins, back in 2018. Peripherals loved him in last season except for the exit velocity numbers (89.7 MPH) and Hard Hit % (42.6).
RHP Pedro Báez
Stat you should know: 90 holds between 2015 and 2019, sixth-highest mark in MLB.
The guy that averaged 30.2 seconds in between pitches in 2016 has a pretty good case as well even though he’s never been a full-time closer. Báez enjoyed a successful seven-year run with the Dodgers in which he never finished a season with an ERA over 3.35.
Báez owns an impressive 1.096 WHIP over 356 career innings. He’s good at avoiding hits though he carries a 3.0 lifetime BB/9. The 32-year-old Dominican, who won the 2021 World Series with Los Ángeles, has the added value of a long resumé the in postseason: 29 1⁄3 episodes in 31 games (3.99).
What you’re going to see next is Báez’s career performance in high-leverage situations, an important aspect if you want to be a closer. Just I M P R E S S I V E...
RHP Steve Cishek
Stat you should know: 3.13 ERA in 255 career save situations (257 strikeouts across 230 1⁄3 innings).
Asides from a rough 2020 season, Cishek has had a long, respectable career. Not for nothing he owns a 2.78 lifetime ERA across 594 appearances and 576 innings. He already knows the division, as he pitched and closed for the Mariners in 2016, that could play in his favor.
The thing here is Cishek agreed to a Minors deal with an invitation to Spring Training, so he will need to have a good spring camp to win a spot in Dusty Baker’s Opening Day bullpen. But assuming he can do so, Cishek is the most accomplished and experienced hurler besides who comes next: Joe Smith. To support his case, the 34-year-old has amassed 132 career saves, more than the rest of this group combined.
RHP Joe Smith
Stat you should know: 2.27 ERA in 37 save situations in 2014, when he saved 15 games for the Angels.
Smith didn’t pitch in 2020 and will turn 37 years old on March 22, but he has a similar past to Pressly’s, as he’s been great since joining the Astros. Smith has saved 30 games throughout his 13-season journey, including 15 in 2014 as a member of the Angels.
If this works for you, the righty owns a 9-1 record with 37 holds since 2017. He doesn’t give up home runs (0.7 lifetime HR/9) and has a 2.51 career ERA pitching in the ninth inning (118 1⁄3 episodes).
Even though Pressly is the leading candidate, the battle is not closed. Spring Training will do its job very, very soon.
Oh yeah. Weird things happen in a 162 game season. Who knows, we might even see the Canoli, Paredes Enoli. Stranger things have happened. ( Like him even pitching in the big leagues last year)