Looking at the leaderboards, everyone can see that the Astros have one of the better bullpens in baseball. Perhaps among the best, depending on your metric of choice. There is plenty to like about this season’s staff. A significant component of that success is derived from the depth general manager James Click and his front office have accumulated in the past calendar year.
One of those depth pieces — if you can even call him that for much longer considering his current success rate — is Seth Martinez, the 27-year-old right-hander who has yet to allow a run across 17 innings in the majors this season. Only two other pitchers have had a longer scoreless streak to start their 2022 season. Only Ryan Pressly’s start to the 2019 season, when he threw 21 scoreless innings, bests Martinez’s start in franchise history. The ironic part with Martinez’s historic scoreless performance is that he has been somewhat overshadowed by his teammate Ryne Stanek, whose 18-inning scoreless streak is the active leader in baseball entering Thursday.
So, where is Martinez’s success coming from?
By the numbers, his success this season lies in a couple of different categories, most notably his .159 BABIP and a tendency to avoid barrels, of which he has only allowed one. His 1.6 percent barrel-per-plate appearance rate is only second to Pressly’s 1.4 percent rate. Although he has the second-highest flyball rate among the relief staff at 52.3 percent — first is current starter Cristian Javier — Martinez managed to keep the ball inside the park. He has arguably benefited from the ball that has brought down the league-wide offense, as flyballs haven’t produced as much damage in 2022 (.428 wOBA) as they did last season (.457 wOBA).
While he doesn’t throw for high velocity or possess an abundance of spin, Martinez mixes his pitches, with his four-seam fastball and slider playing well off each other. The question in the longer term is how long he can maintain a low BABIP considering his .159 mark is far below the league average of .287. Honestly, it won’t last forever. Regression will come for Martinez as it does for us all. But when that regression does occur, if he can still manage to avoid those barrels, he may not see a dramatic spike in his results when his fortunes trend the other way. Regardless, his name will remain in the record books for the Astros as he has a streak to start the season that isn’t easily replicated. Just ask Pressly.