Welcome back to the bigs, Huston Street.
Sure, he’s actually been pitching throughout 2013 in his usual role as the San Diego Padres‘ closer (besides his annual DL stint, of course), in fact, he even has 15 saves in 16 attempts in the first half of the season to show for it. That said, you don’t have to look too much farther than that big -1.1 fWAR next to his name to know that … well, this just wasn’t the same guy that the Friars knew last season.
That guy was an All-Star who owned a double-digit strikeout rate at 10.85 K/9, a 1.85/0.72 ERA/WHIP, and most notably, he sure wasn’t a pitcher who gave up homers at an incredible 2.97 HR/9 rate in prior to the break.
Yes, that’s 10 home runs in 30.1 innings. Eat your heart out, Phil Hughes.
If it wasn’t for his second-half performance, the most incredible thing about Street’s 2013 might have been just how he owned a miraculously-low 4.15/.1.25 ERA/WHIP going into the All-Star break.
Fortunately, that’s not how his story this season is going to end because the veteran reliever has, in short, found himself. According to Corey Brock of MLB.com, it’s all thanks to a “new, improved slider”, but the Padres are just happy to have their closer back.
So how good has he been? Well, the 0.5 fWAR he’s accumulated in just 8.1 innings since the Midsummer Classic says it all, really.
Want more? Sure. For one, Street has found his strikeout touch back, setting down 11 batters by the K heading into play on Thursday. That gives him a healthy 11.88 K/9 rate, small sample or not. He hasn’t allowed a single run in his eight outings, and has been absolutely perfect in five of them, good enough for a 0.48 WHIP and an incredible .074 BAA.
In other words, the right-hander has been absolutely unhittable. The fact that he’s earned handshakes in his each of last eight opportunities is just perfunctory at this point.
All this, just from throwing his improved slider more (46.6 percent in second half vs. 30 percent in first half)?
Whatever works for the 30-year-old, I suppose. And you know, I have a feeling the the Padres, who are almost going to certainly look to trade the veteran and his reasonable $7 million 2015 team option by the 2014 trade deadline (barring them contending, of course), are happy that Street stumbled upon a new-found focus on his slider too … as long as it doesn’t eat up his arm, anyway.