If we take a look back at the offseason, we can see Astros fans worried about not having an established closer for the 2021 season. GM James Click and the rest of the staff decided to leave Ryan Pressly as the ninth-inning guy and take care of their other needs.
High- and low-profile relievers were brought in to reassemble the bullpen, but none of them had closer experience except for Steve Cishek. The veteran right-hander didn’t even make the team and ended up pitching for the Angels in ‘21.
It was Pressly’s job to lose. And, so far, he’s embraced the full-time role. The decision has paid off for the Astros at least through a month and a half.
After 19 appearances, Pressly’s won two games, and lost one, (the bogus walk-off loss last night that wasn’t his fault at all) and registers seven saves in seven opportunities while carrying a 1.31 ERA across 20.2 innings of 17 hits and three runs. The 32-year-old has walked three and struck out 21.
If you want more, Pressly’s FIP is a great 1.55. Besides, he owns a 0.98 WHIP, opponents have posted a .223 WOBA, and he’s yet to allow a home run. He’s cut his BB/9 in half compared to 2020: from 3.0 to 1.5.
While doing my research to write these lines, what intrigued me more about the veteran righty was how he’s become a different pitcher entering 2021. He seems to be pitching more to contact, and that contact translates into more ground balls, which also helps Pressly take less time between outs.
Opponent contact percentage has gone up for Ryan from 65.2 to 77.0 percent this year, his highest number since 2015, when he was with the Twins. This is much better when you realize his GB% went from 48.1% to 63%, also his highest mark by far.
And even though grounders hit off Pressly have a high average exit velocity of 92.2 MPH, he’s been helped a lot by the Astros’ defense. Despite taking into account that exit velo, his batting average against is a low .207. Of every 10 ground balls, the closer has got eight outs. Not bad!
As if it wasn’t enough, Pressly has been the kind of pitcher you want when facing a tough scenario. In 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Texas native has surrendered only three hits (all singles) and opponents have posted a .188/.278/.188 line. Even better: in high-leverage environments, his rivals are 6-for-31 (five singles) with nine strikeouts and a .194/.242/.226 line.
Sure, there’s still a long way to go. But so far, the Astros and their fans should feel safe with Ryan Pressly trying to secure wins.
(Editors note: Research on batted ball/contact statistics was from 5-17-21)