Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What happened to the Regulators?

On May 23, the Astros' bullpen, a.k.a. "The Regulators," stepped into the studio for this video shootThat night, the 'pen threw two shutout innings as Houston completed a sweep of the Cubs; two nights later, they delivered 1.2 shutout innings to lock down a win for Lucas Harrell over Clayton Kershaw in L.A. Since then, however, things have gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Last night's 9th-inning near-disaster is just the latest in a series of cardiac attacks inflicted on Astros fans by the irregular Regulators since May 25. Houston has had seven relievers appear in at least 20 games so far; for those seven, let's look at the before & after shots:

THROUGH MAY 25GIPERABAABABIPK/9
Wilton Lopez2525.21.75.213.2657.36
David Carpenter1415.24.02.313.3738.04
Brandon Lyon1716.11.65.246.3188.82
Fernando Rodriguez1816.23.78.219.2448.64
Brett Myers1817.01.59.183.2007.41
Rhiner Cruz1214.02.57.213.2707.71
Wesley Wright2312.12.19.234.3249.49

SINCE MAY 25GIPERABAABABIPK/9
Wilton Lopez76.25.40.320.3166.75
David Carpenter1011.06.55.356.4389.0
Brandon Lyon1110.04.50.268.35710.8
Fernando Rodriguez119.110.61.278.3217.71
Brett Myers86.19.95.414.4072.84
Rhiner Cruz99.114.46.417.4176.75
Wesley Wright127.17.36.313.3188.59

Ouch. Obviously Rodriguez and Cruz are the worst offenders, but Carpenter's 4.02-to-6.55 ERA jump is the smallest drop-off of the bunch. What's going on here?

For comparison, the average NL reliever line in 2012 looks like this:

3.88 ERA, .245 BAA, .300 BABIP, 8.40 K/9

From that, we can see that most of Houston's relievers were getting lucky through the first 45 games - Wright and Lyon were closest to normal, and only Carpenter had a BABIP significantly above average. Since then, only Wright's BABIP has stayed about the same, but his actual BAA has jumped almost 80 points. Everyone else has seen their BABIP jump anywhere from 40 to 200 points, with consequently expected jumps in BAA. Strikeout rates aren't wildly different either direction, except for Myers, whose drop-off is potentially alarming. Brandon Lyon (believe it or not) is probably the least bad of the bunch, but no one out there - except perhaps new arrival Xavier Cedeno - is smelling like roses lately.

Even so, the Regulators can hardly be blamed entirely for Houston's slump the last 3+ weeks. The starters' collective ERA this month is 6.28, versus 4.43 in April and 4.05 in May. Starters also averaged almost 6.0 IP in April & May, versus 5.1 this month, so much of this "bad luck" could also be contributed to tired arms as Brad Mills has been leaning harder on the bullpen lately.

More - much more - could be said about all of this, but the bottom line is that Houston's relievers were, indeed, pitching out of their league for most of the first two months this season. As good as they were then, however, they're also likely not as bad as they've been since Memorial Day.

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