Results tagged ‘ bullpen ’
No one is more encouraged by how well the Astros’ bullpen has pitched in the last few weeks than interim pitching coach Doug Brocail, who took over June 14 when Brad Arnsberg was let go by the team.
Houston’s bullpen, which currently consists of five rookies, entered Saturday having posted a 0.95 ERA in its last 14 games. Astros relievers had allowed four earned runs in 38 innings pitching during that span. Still, the Astros are last in the National League with a 4.40 ERA.
“The guys are throwing well, especially from where we were,” Brocail said. “Every time we’ve called on them, they’ve done a good job. I think the important thing is they’re picking each other up. If a guy comes in and doesn’t get the job done, we’ve been really good lately about picking him up. It’s nice to see that we’re getting some things accomplished.
“When I came on, the big worry was ‘Oh my God, you inherited a bullpen that’s blown 19 saves.’ You know what? They’re all rookies. They’re going to make mistakes. They’re going to get better and hopefully learn from it and that’s where we’re at now.”
Right-handers David Carpenter, Enerio Del Rosario, Anuery Rodriguez and Fernando Rodriguez are rookies, along with left-hander Sergio Escalona. The only non-rookies in the bullpen are close Mark Melancon, who was a rookie last year, and set-up man Wilton Lopez, who’s in his second full year.
“The thing is, when you have some rookies you’ve got to make sure they’re communicating and talking to each other,” Brocail said. “We’ve tried to stress that.”
As an Astros fan, it’s probably hard to stomach the team’s 13-21 record considering they’ve blown nine saves this year — the most in the Major Leagues. The Astros have converted only five of 14 save chances, which translates to a league-worst 35.7 save conversion rate. Last year, the Astros blew 15 saves in the entire season.
The struggles of the bullpen, which is last in the Majors with a 5.54 ERA and .305 batting average against, were on full display Sunday when left-hander Fernando Abad gave up a three-run homer in the eighth inning to Ryan Doumit, allowing the Pirates to steal a 5-4 win.
The Astros have rallied to win three of the games in which they have blown a save, so it’s safe to say blown saves have cost them six wins. That’s the difference between being 19-15 and 13-21 – their record heading into Monday’s game against the Reds.
Although it’s unreasonable to expect any team to have not blown a save a month into the season (every team has blown at least one save), letting six wins get away can have a huge effect on the standings. A 19-15 record would put the Astros in first place in the NL Central (one of the blown saves was against St. Louis, which is currently 20-15).
Mark Melancon and Jeff Fulchino have both blown one save, but they’ve been pretty effective this year. Melancon has allowed 14 hits and struck out 12 in 16 2/3 innings, and Fulchino has allowed 15 hits and has struck out 15 batters in 16 innings.
Lyon, the team’s closer, has blown four saves and landed on the disabled list last week with biceps tendinitis and a partial tear of his rotator cuff after blowing a game in Cincinnati. Enerio Del Rosario (5.14 ERA), Wilton Lopez (5.14), Abad (7.50) haven’t been as effective as the team had hoped.
Here’s a breakdown of the Astros’ nine blown saves (games the Astros won are in italics):
- April 1 at Philadelphia – Astros lead 4-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning before the Phillies rally on Opening Day for three runs off Brandon Lyon to win, 5-4.
- April 8 vs. Florida – With a 2-1 lead through seven innings, Wilton Lopez gives up two in the eighth to blow a save in a 4-3 loss to Marlins.
- April 17 vs. San Diego – The Astros led, 6-4, through seventh innings before Mark Melancon gave up four runs (two earned) in the eighth. The Padres win, 8-6.
- April 23 at Milwaukee – Brandon Lyon allows one run in the eighth to tie the game, but the Astros score three in the ninth to win, 9-6.
- April 26 vs. Chicago – Jeff Fulchino gives up a run in the eighth inning of one-run game, but the Astros rally to win, 6-5.
- April 28 vs. St. Louis – The Cardinals erupt for nine runs in the sixth inning to wipe out a 4-1 deficit, with Fernando Abad giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning to blow the save. St. Louis wins, 11-7.
- April 30 vs. Milwaukee – Brandon Lyon allows a run in the ninth, but Astros score a run in bottom of inning to win, 2-1.
- May 4 at Cincinnati – Reds score three in the bottom of the night without an out off Brandon Lyon to win, 3-2.
- May 8 at Pittsburgh – Fernando Abad gives up a three-run home in the bottom of the eighth to Ryan Doumit to allow Pirates to win, 5-4.
Here it is: the eighth and final installment of the Astros’ position-by-position breakdown. Today we’ll take a look at relief pitching, which general manager Ed Wade says is one of the strengths of the team. Before we get to the bullpen, here are the links to the previous seven entries in the series (click on the desired position to view the entry): catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, outfield, starting pitcher.
2010 bullpen to begin season: Brian Moehler, Jeff Fulchino, Sammy Gervacio, Chris Sampson, Tim Byrdak, Matt Lindstrom and Brandon Lyon.
2010 end-of-season bullpen: Fernando Abad, Tim Byrdak, Gustavo Chacin, Enerio Del Rosario, Jeff Fulchino, Matt Lindstrom, Wilton Lopez, Brandon Lyon, Mark Melancon, Felipe Paulino, Henry Villar and Wesley Wright.
Others who made an appearance: Nelson Figueroa, Brian Moehler, Casey Daigle, Gary Majewski, Kevin Cash.
Combined 2010 stats of Astros relief pitchers: 24-23 record, 45 saves in 60 opportunities, 4.49 ERA (ranked 13th in the NL).
Free agents: None.
Arbitration eligible: LHP Tim Byrdak, LHP Gustavo Chacin, RHP Matt Lindstrom, RHP Felipe Paulino.
What happened: The Astros traded for hard-throwing Matt Lindstrom last December and plunked down $15 million on a three-year contract for Brandon Lyon to bolster the back end of the bullpen after losing both Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins to free agency. Lyon developed a cyst in his shoulder and was behind all spring, opening the door for Lindstrom to win the closer’s job.
Lindstrom got off to a terrific start, posting a 1.40 ERA in his first 19 appearances and going 10-for-10 in save opportunities. He blew three saves and posted a 5.23 ERA in June and began battling back spasms that eventually cost him the closer’s job and forced him to the disabled list in August. Lyon took over as closer in early August and finished with 20 saves in 22 chances and a 3.12 ERA.
Lindstrom, who led the team with 23 saves, and Lyon became the first set of teammates to save at least 20 games in the same season since the 1992 Cincinnati Reds.
Wilton Lopez, who the Astros acquired on a waiver claim in 2009, took on an important role in the back of the bullpen and wound up pitching in 68 games and posted a 2.96 ERA. The Astros also got good mileage out of lefty Tim Byrdak and right-hander Jeff Fulchino, who battled injuries and wasn’t as sharp as he was in 2009. Fan favorite Chris Sampson had a good first half and was eventually sent to the Minors after some struggles and designated for assignment. Alberto Arias, who was injured in Spring Training, and Sammy Gervacio were quickly shut down because of shoulder troubles.
As the year progressed, the Astros got a good look at right-handers Henry Villar and Mark Melancon, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Lance Berkman trade.
What’s next: Astros general manager Ed Wade doesn’t plan to do much to the bullpen in the offseason and sees it as one of the strengths of the club. Lyon and Lindstrom will once again compete for the closer’s job in the spring, though both could again wind up finishing off games at some point. The Astros like what Lopez brings to the back end of the bullpen and envision Melancon as a future late-game reliever.
Arias, who had surgery for rotator cuff impingement, could be in the picture next year along with Gervacio, who missed most of the year with rotator cuff inflammation. Gervacio had mixed results in the Minors but showed some good flashes with the Minor Leagues. Fernando Abad had a good Major League debut in his 22 appearances and will be a left-handed option, along with Wesley Wright.
Who’s on the farm: Left-hander Douglas Arguello, the pitcher of the year at Double-A Corpus Christi, will be in spring camp next year competing for a job. Abad and Villar, both of whom came up late in the season, could lead the next wave of youngsters in the pen. Don’t forget Chia-Jen Lo, who missed much of last year with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.