Even though people were claiming for the Astros to use Cristian Javier as a starter, the young right-hander began the 2022 season as a bullpen arm. Exactly three months ago and after three appearances as a reliever, Javier was inserted into the Astros’ starting staff on April 27 as the team carried a six-man rotation until Jake Odorizzi got injured.
Fortunately, the move has paid off big time for Houston and Javier has proved he has what it takes to start. Since April 27, Javier owns a 3.48 ERA over 75 innings with 103 punchouts while opponents are hitting .182 off him. His brief experience features three 10-strikeout games and a brilliant outing against the Yankees that ended up being a combined no-hitter at Yankee Stadium on June 25.
Since the cited date, Javier has had three awful performances: allowed seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Nationals on May 14, five earned runs in 3 2/3 against the Mariners on June 6, and five other runs over five innings against the Royals on July 6. Subtract those starts and Javier’s ERA would be an outstanding 1.87.
Speaking of what Javier can do as a starter, he has 33 career starts so far, usually the equivalent of a full season without injuries or restrictions. In those outings, he’s put up solid numbers beginning with a 3.51 ERA. Also, Javier has a 14-8 record across 172 innings with 204 strikeouts and a 1.064 WHIP. As a reference, no pitcher had numbers like those in 2021.
In ’22, Javier has helped his own cause with a marvelous, effective combination of his four-seam fastball and slider (87.1% of his total pitches this year). Against those two pitches, opponents have hit for a .172 batting average over 268 at-bats with seven home runs and 106 strikeouts.
Javier’s dominance is also due to his great fastball. Among pitchers with at least 150 plate appearances that ended with a four-seamer in 2022, Javier’s fastball has the second-best run value in the Majors (-12, the same as Justin Verlander’s). Plus, the 25-year-old righty has the second-lowest opponent batting average with his heater (.174), the fourth-lowest slugging percentage (.303), the fifth-highest whiff percentage (28.2), and the sixth-highest strikeout percentage (29.4).
We’re talking about an elite pitch that’s not even among the hardest of the game. Although Javier can touch 96 miles per hour with his four-seam fastball, it averages 93.8 – far away from Sandy Alcántara’s average of 97.9 MPH, to use an example.
Thinking of what could happen in the long run, I know that throwing a third pitch a bit more might eventually help Javier to remain a starter. But so far, so good for the Dominican right-hander. Test passed as a member of the rotation.