When you take a deep look at the Astros’ bullpen, you’re probably looking at closer Ryan Pressly or late-inning relievers such as Rafael Montero, Héctor Neris, and/or Ryne Stanek. And since that’s a really tough core, I can’t blame you. But you’re probably forgetting someone, a pitcher who doesn’t make any noise and is actually being underrated. That is Bryan Abreu.
Let’s start by putting you in context. Abreu, who is just 25 years old, carries a streak of 18 scoreless appearances. Better yet: he’s allowed only ONE hit in his last eight games (9.1 innings). In September, across four apps through Friday, Abreu is yet to allow a baserunner and has seven strikeouts over five innings.
That’s pretty good, isn’t it?
In addition, Abreu owns a 4-0 record with a 1.88 ERA over 45 games (52.2 IP) with 75 punchouts and a 1.08 WHIP.
Even though the Astros are not loaded with left-handed relievers, Abreu has done an incredible job facing lefty hitters. He’s been even better against them than against righties as you can see below…
Vs RHB: .200/.296/.284, .581 OPS, 108 PA
Vs LHB: .187/.279/.209, .488 OPS, 104 PA
Among all the MLB pitchers with at least 17 appearances after the All-Star Game, Abreu is one of just two hurlers that are yet to allow a run. The other one is Padres’ Tim Hill, but he’s thrown only 15 1/3 innings, 4 1/3 fewer than Abreu.
I know the Astros don’t usually use Abreu in high-leverage situations, but when they do, he thrives. In 33 plate appearances in those scenarios, opponents have managed to post a .039/.212/.077 slash line with a .289 OPS.
Abreu’s improvement is one for the ages. He went from registering a 22.4 strikeout percentage in 2021 to an elite 35.4 in 2022. Even his control got better: from 11.2 BB% to 9.9 this year.
All I can guess is that Abreu put a lot work on his slider during the offseason. That pitch –whose usage went up from 37.3% to 47.1%– has been the key for him in 2022, and the improvement from 2021 has been pretty notorious…
Abreu’s slider in 2021: .246 AVG, .456 SLG, 89.8 MPH EV, 38.0 whiff%
Abreu’s slider in 2022: .152 AVG, .188 SLG, 85.7 MPH EV, 49.5 whiff%
Abreu might not be the Astros’ pitcher with the highest profile, but he’s certainly making himself a name in the Major Leagues this season. However, with the Astros heading to the postseason, his biggest challenge is yet to come.