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Bullpen management will be a key factor for the Astros in the postseason

Manager Dusty Baker has to be better handling his bullpen pieces if he wants this team to succeed in October.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros’ bullpen is not going through its best time. Since August 25, it has the second-worst ERA in the Major Leagues: 5.98, only better than the Athletics’ 6.75. Key men such as Yimi García, Kendall Graveman, and even closer Ryan Pressly have failed during a crucial stretch for Houston, a team that can’t allow this to happen if it wants to succeed in what will be its fifth consecutive postseason appearance.

Manager Dusty Baker has been constantly questioned about his bullpen management as of late, for bringing in Pressly in non-save situations, to cite an example. Pressly came to the mound on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Mariners without a chance to save and it didn’t go well for the Astros. Their closer surrendered four hits and four earned runs over 1 2/3 total innings. At this stage of the season, Baker should know that Pressly hasn’t been that efficient when there’s not a save opportunity.

· Ryan Pressly in save situations: 2.03 ERA | 0.79 WHIP | .165/.216/.253 | .469 OPS

· Ryan Pressly in non-save situations: 2.70 ERA | 1.13 WHIP | 237/.274/.322 | .596 OPS

Another argument against Baker’s bullpen management is how he uses lefties Blake Taylor and Brooks Raley. Even though both have been better since the All-Star game, they aren’t reliable, comfortable options for the late innings with a close score.

Wanna know why? To bring a few facts to the conversation, Taylor’s rivals have posted a .893 OPS against him in high-leverage situations. As a matter of fact, Taylor has a 5.56 ERA and a .306/.407/.510 slash line throwing in the eighth inning, the second episode he’s appeared the most times.

Regarding Raley, his opponents hit for .327/.373/.564 averages off him with runners in scoring position and he’s had an ugly time in high-leverage environments as well: .321/.390/.472.

And, hey, I know being a manager is not an easy thing. In fact, handling a bullpen is one of the most difficult tasks as a skipper. But Baker is a veteran who’s been in charge of MLB teams for almost three decades. If he wants this team to succeed in the biggest scenario this year, he needs better bullpen management.

Another thing the Astros should focus on is trying to get to the week of the regular season with a bigger lead in their division. That could allow Baker to give some rest to the big four (García, Stanek, Graveman, and especially Pressly) and get to the first playoff series with fresh arms, hopefully, leaving their struggles behind.