No one dare underestimate how terrible the Houston Astros bullpen was last year. They were dead last in nearly every statistic, including the all-important ERA, where they ranked in at a 5.00+ ERA. But that was the bullpen of last year, with rookies that had no experience and a closer that was traded away mid-season.
This year is a different story. The Astros made their bullpen their main priority in the off season and they overachieved, if anything.
The main acquisitions this offseason were Matt Albers, Chad Qualls and Jesse Crain. They also added Raul Valdes, Anthony Bass and Darin Downs as some added security.
Chia-Jen Lo, Josh Zeid, Kevin Chapman and David Martinez will return as the rookies that were not as successful as the Astros would have liked last year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t turn it around and grow into steady relievers.
The Astros are by far the most improved bullpen in the majors. Many are even anointing them the best bullpen in the AL West.
The Astros bullpen was responsible for around 40 losses last year. If even half of those losses were turned around, that would put the Astros with only 91 losses. That is nothing to celebrate, but after two consecutive 100-loss years, it would have been ample proof of improvement.
The improvement that the Astros have made this off season is tremendous. They’ve made some serious leaps towards contention, and no single area has made improvements as dramatic as their bullpen, which has some seriously reliable arms that can hold onto games.