The Houston Astros in 2022 have fielded the top rotation (statistically speaking) and one of the top three bullpens in the 2022 season.
The pitching staff has had a run each season that seemingly started in 2017 (some would say 2015) and has carried the Astros to this point. Houston is seeking to get back to their sixth straight American League Championship Series which will put them second all-time, with only the Atlanta Braves in front of them who did it nine years in a row.
With the Yankees in a bit of a tale spin, it seems it would have to take a surprise team to knock them out of climbing back into the ALCS.
What have we seen this year from this pitching staff? It started with the return of Justin Verlander from a two-year layoff due to Tommy John surgery. Astros fans have watched him hit 99 miles per hour on the gun and become vintage Verlander, nearly throwing no hitters and amassing 16 wins up to this point in the season.
Verlander could easily have at least four other wins but looking at should have stats doesn’t help when a title is in clear view. He is my top choice for the A.L. Cy Young and has been since the month of June.
It hasn’t only been him, the arms of Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia have given the Astros a starting rotation that boasts the most IP per game in 2022.
The starting pitchers are 61-31 (1st in MLB), 693 strikeouts (4th in MLB), .215 BAA (2nd only to LA), 1.09 WHIP (2nd in MLB). Pretty solid work for this group.
I did not include Jake Odorizzi since he was traded at the deadline, he would have added a 4-3 record, when he was on…he was on. Now he’s a Brave and the Astros offloaded a bad contract which I think benefits the club in the coming year.
With that being said, the Astros are set up nicely for the playoffs with these six pitchers. In the weeks to come I will lay out who I think should be the starting four and who will be best suited in a bullpen role. I don’t envy Dusty, the pitching coaches or James Click when it comes to having to make that call. From here we must move into the relief pitchers and see what the Astros have to offer the competition.
In 2021, the Houston Astros went after arms that helped them solidify their playoff spot and ultimately led them back to another World Series. Many would say if the Astros only had Verlander and McCullers Jr. the outcome might have been different. The pitching didn’t hold up, and the offense went silent.
Let’s not dwell on the past, but it does lay a foundation for Astros fans to be excited about this team’s relief pitching lineup compared to 2021.
In 2022, we have seen a heavy use in the bullpen of the following pitchers logging at least 40 innings pitched or more by Phil Maton, Bryan Abreu, Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero, and Hector Neris (50 IP most on the RP staff). The usage of relief pitchers may be some of the reason we aren’t seeing the spot on, nail in the coffin production we have come accustomed to through the early parts of the season.
Maton was lights out in the 2021 postseason, and as of late has been less than stellar. Still a very good option in the pen, this Right-handed reverse split magician has worked an immaculate inning in 2022. If you were to look at social media, you would think that he would be a waste of an option, but his overall track record would say differently. Recency bias is a real thing.
There are so many names to choose from that have seen a great amount of success in 2022. Rookie Seth Martinez, veteran flame thrower Ryne Stanek, Neris, Montero, Abreu, Maton and Ryan Pressly. I want to pick a few of these pitchers that I believe will play a big role in the postseason.
Abreu who is having a great season. The Astros have always been high on this hard throwing, spin master Abreau. There has never been a doubt as to his potential. The major question for most of his career has been can he harness the spin enough to keep the velo the same and throw the ball in the zone? Can he just get close enough to create swings and misses? He has done that this season.
In April and July, he had rough months ERA wise, in July that was a result of one 4 run outing. So even that is skewed. The month of August he’s at 0.00 ERA and a WHIP of 0.75. He did the same thing in June. Abreu will contribute this postseason.
Stanek and Martinez are the two other relief pitchers I think will have major contributions. In all honesty I think any of the aforementioned pitchers will have contributions to this team. Currently Seth is in AAA Sugar Land, however I see him coming up. He had one issue with Left-Handed batters, I assume he fixes that and becomes a role player.
Here is how they compare as far as usage and strikeouts (complied 8/24/22)
In conclusion, the Astros have a wealth of talent when it comes to pitching. I will continue to tout this pitching staff and may dive into the Bullpen in greater depth soon.
The Astros do have work to do with a few arms that need to make minor adjustments, when the playoffs come just know this team will be laser focused.
Brett Chancey is the co-host of the Locked on Astros Podcast. He can be followed on Twitter/Instagram @htownwheelhosue or @stros411 on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook.