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Missing bats, another perk unlocked by Cristian Javier

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The 24-year-old is fooling hitters more often, a key to his early notable success.

Los Angeles Angels v Houston Astros Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Cristian Javier has been a blessing for the Houston Astros since he made his MLB debut last year. After an outstanding season in 2020, fans were more than pleased with the young right-handed pitcher. But there was always room for improvement and Javier still had some upside left to explore. So far this season, he’s doing just that.

One of the big reasons Javier’s has a 2-0 record, and a 1.32 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 13.2 innings to begin the new campaign is his improved ability to miss bats.

In 2020, the 24-year-old was barely below league average (24.4%) in terms of whiff percentage (22.5%). But this season he’s raised that mark to 32.5%, which is a tangible improvement in Javier’s behavior on the mound.

After being not even close from first place last year, that 32.5% is the ninth-best percentage among American League pitchers with a minimum of 50 plate appearances in 2021:

Javier’s success has a lot to do with how he’s treating the opposition. He’s just producing more strikes and more swing-and-misses, as he’s increased his 1st Pitch Strike % (from 44.4% to 49.1%), his Chase % (from 23.6% to 29.9%), and has lowered his Contact % (from 80.1% to 72.4%).

Where are we seeing signs of Javier’s unearthed upside? Well, now his fastball is averaging 93.2 MPH, one more mile per hour than 2020. And if that seems good, his slider went from 78.6 MPH to 81.1 MPH. That combination is disturbing his rivals, as you will see below...

Fastball: 29 AB, 6 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 8 SO, .207 BA, .310 SLG

Slider: 15 AB, 1 H, 1 2B, 10 SO, .067 BA, .133 SLG

Combined: 44 AB, 7 H, 2 2B, 1 3B, 18 K, .159 BA, .250 SLG

It’s time to be excited to see Javier pitching all the way through a 162-game regular season. Even though the campaign is still in its early stages, he already gave us this gem: eight straight outs via the strikeout on Thursday against the Angels...