It seems as though no matter how much the Houston Astros show improvement to different parts of their team, the bullpen continues to struggle. It happened in today’s game against the Detroit Tigers. The newly signed again reliever Jose Veras came in for two-thirds of an inning and allowed the Tigers to get back into the game by giving up a triple that allowed two runs to score.
The Astros spent money in the off-season to help the issues of a terrible bullpen last year. Yet no significant change has been made in terms of their success. There are a few names in there that are solid major league relievers. There are more names in there that shouldn’t be seen on a major league roster.
The money that the Astros spent in the offseason was the first time in a long time that the team had addressed needs by paying a free agent. They signed veterans who they thought would be somewhat successful while helping young guys transition to professional ball. It was a valiant effort for the Astros front office, which seemed to just appease the fans by making an attempt to throw money at a position of need. Here we are at the end of June and the bullpen is still bad.
With the signings of Chad Qualls, Jerome Williams, Matt Albers and Jesse Crain in the offseason, the Astros looked to be drastically improving their bullpen. The years prior for most of these players were very good. Unfortunately for the Astros, many of these signings have not paid off in the least bit. In fact, they seem to be a waste of money and roster spots for a team looking to get young.
Qualls had a very good year for the Florida Marlins last season. Finishing with an ERA of 2.61 with 62 innings pitched, he was very sharp. He was striking out batters at a rate of just over seven batters per nine innings. He has continued this with the Astros and is, so far, the best signing for relief help the team made.
Qualls has filled in nicely as the Astros closer. He is 10-for-12 in his save attempts with a 1.91 ERA. He is striking out just under one batter an inning and walking less than one hitter per nine innings. He is the most reliable arm the Astros have in their bullpen, which brings me to the unreliable.
Albers, who had a good year with the Cleveland Indians last season, was off to a great start with the Astros. He was striking out seven hitters per nine innings and had an ERA of .90. Then, eight games into the season he was injured. He has yet to pitch for the Astros since the injury as their bullpen struggles. It seems his $2.25 million salary was wasted if he can’t get right and help the Astros the rest of the way.
The biggest waste of money the Astros spent in the offseason was for Crain. He was expected to miss only the first month of the season with a shoulder injury, but has yet to throw a single pitch for the club. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow has recently come out and said there is no timetable for his return. $3.25 million wasted by the Astros’ front office. They will be lucky if they get anything out of him this season.
At least the Astros have gotten some innings out of Williams, even though they have been fairly terrible. Williams is sporting a hefty 5.91 ERA and was being held to mop-up duty in games. He was recently given a shot to pitch in meaningful time in last night’s game versus the Tigers and promptly gave a three-run homer to Ian Kinsler to blow the game. It is time for the Astros to just cut ties with Williams and let a young kid get some experience. Watching a young kid get lit up is much easier than watching a veteran at the end of his career do the same thing.