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How Stretched Out are the Astros and What Difference Does it Make?

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As we ramp up to opening day, nothing gets the juices flowing like the talk about pitchers getting stretched out. In a non-lockout world, pitchers report in mid-February, get their first spring start around March 1st, and slowly move toward a 5-6 IP final start in SP, meaning they’re ready to throw circa 100 pitches, if proving effective, in an actual game.

So, with 7 days until opening day against Shohei and the Angels on 4/8, how are things looking? Let’s go pitcher by pitcher.

  1. Framber Valdez. Rubber-armed Framber was given the OD nod. On March 28 he threw pitches over 3 IP. Presumably he’ll throw 45-55 pitches in his scheduled Saturday start. Meaning he might throw 70 pitches on opening day. In 2021 he averaged 15.5 pitches/IP. So we can expect 4-5 IP on opening day. He won’t really be stretched out until his 3rd start, and that’s if he doesn’t get yanked early.
  2. Jack Odorizzi, 4/9 starter. threw 27 pitches on 3/22. Presumably he’s been on the backfields since then, maybe throwing 40 IP. He’s not on the slate for another ST start. Will he come in as a scheduled reliever? It would be weird if he only threw 2 IP the entire ST (we know they do work on the backfields but still). He was 17.6 P/IP in 2021, around his career average. Can’t see him going more than 4 on 4/9.
  3. JV, 4/10 starter. JV has been the most visible of starters. and he threw 4 IP on 3/29, striking out 6. He’s pitching Sunday, and he’s clearly the most stretched out. Not worried.
  4. Jose Urquidy. He threw 40 pitches on 3/30. He’s scheduled to pitch on 4/4. I imagine he pitches 4/10, only because it would be a long wait. He may get up to 60 pitches, and would be on 5 days rest for 4/10. He’s pretty efficient (15.2 P/IP last year) and our bullpen will be severely taxed at the end of the 4 games against an impressive Anaheim offense.
  5. Luis Garcia. The big hoss threw 35 pitches on 3/27 and will probably reach 50 today. He could also pitch on the backfields between now and 4/12. He was 16.1 P/IP last year, so even if he’s stretched out to 80 pitches, can’t see him going more than 5 IP.

Conclusion: Expect some default tandem-start stuff. Jake O scheduled for 4, and Javier scheduled for 3. Maybe they keep Solomon on the team as a 9th reliever. Or Bielak. Expect those 3 + maybe Bermudez to be shuttled between Houston and Sugar Land. Also, one bad start sets back the ramp up. If a starter gets shelled and throws 33 pitches, they’re not getting “stretched out.” They’re at the same length.

Every team will be dealing with this situation. As Astro fans, we know how yummy it is to feast on the underbelly of a weak bullpen. Relievers 5-10 will make a huge difference, as will guys who can get through an inning efficiently and possibly give another IP (looking at you, Bryan Abreu and Blake Taylor).