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Bryan Abreu Continues To Shine

MLB: New York Yankees at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the Astros’ profile in recent seasons, there isn’t much in terms of best-kept secrets on the roster. Chas McCormick and 147 wRC+ may qualify as one on the position player side. J.P. France stood out, well, prior to his recent starts. Could I include veteran Héctor Neris, even if his peripherals paint a somewhat different picture? Probably not, although he probably deserves more attention for the bullpen’s success. But there is one pitcher on this roster who I feel deserves more attention without a second thought: Bryan Abreu.

Bursting onto the scene last season, Abreu’s ascension as a key member of the Astros’ relief corps was integral to their eventual World Series run. I mean, Houston’s pitching staff last season was one of the best run-prevention groups that I can recall in recent memory. But the bullpen was arguably the best we’ve ever seen in the postseason, with a 0.83 ERA in 54 13 innings. Abreu, in particular, didn’t allow a single run while maintaining a 19:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 13 innings. He is likely the best reliever on a host of clubs. If it wasn’t for Ryan Pressly, he’d probably earn the bulk of closing duties.

Entering this season, I was curious to see how Abreu would progress and, also, regress. While I am a big fan of his profile, a reliever’s performance can prove volatile season-by-season and the bulk of his big league experience did occur in 2022. This season alone, we’ve the right-hander take a step back across a handful of categories, namely a small decrease in strikeout rate, a slightly higher walk rate, and a noticeably higher home run-to-fly ball ratio.


K%: 35.5%
BB%: 10.5%
HR/FB: 4.9%


K%: 34.5%
BB%: 11.0%
HR/FB: 10.9%

The fluctuations in Abreu’s strikeout and walk rates aren’t worth much concern. The net change is relatively negligible. While his overall whiff rate declined by 1.4% compared to last season, it isn’t an area worth stressing out about. The interesting difference between Abreu’s profile from last season to this season actually lies in the batted results. Namely, a nearly 12% decline in groundball rate, which accounts for the 2.4% increase in line drives and 9.5% increase in fly balls. It is worth noting that opposing hitters are hitting Abreu’s slider better this season compared to last, with a higher slugging percentage of .299 up from .220. And that launch angle has also gradually shifted up.

Expecting another sub-2.00 ERA felt too much to ask for an age-26 reliever. However, Abreu has come pretty close to matching his output from last season (1.94 ERA, 1.4 fWAR), if you value ERA (2.00) and WAR (1.2 fWAR). But taking into account some of the batted ball changes, it is clearer to see why Abreu’s xERA (3.37), FIP (3.18), and xFIP (3.40) are noticeably higher than his current ERA.

In a season when the Astros’ run-prevention machine has faltered a bit, Abreu hasn’t been one of the primary reasons. Sure, there has been some regression taking place, but the overall results remain largely positive. His profile still screams someone who could become the guy in a bullpen. He frankly deserves more attention among the general baseball public than he currently does. Regardless, Abreu continues to shine in any role and he still has room to grow.