Friday, November 10, 2017

Let Me Blow Ya Mind

It's the finally the start of the off-season, the best time to be an Astros fan because at least we have hope and something to look forward to after another dreadful sea-- sorry, what? They won the World Series? Everything is great and nothing is bad and I can see new colors that I've never seen before and food tastes better and I'm sleeping and my back doesn't hurt as bad now?

I guess that makes all of these Who Should The Astros Go Sign posts kind of irrelevant now, but I'm going to do one any way because what else am I supposed to do until Spring Training?

Everyone who watched more than four innings of Astros baseball this year will tell you that their main weakness was not having a good left-handed reliever. That's probably being generous. Houston's two main LHP out of the bullpen in 2017 were Tony Sipp and Fransisco Liriano which is significantly less than ideal. It's the off-season now and it's time to look at who could fix this gaping hole in the Astros roster.


The Astros Pitchers Were Already Good Against Lefties

403 pitchers saw at least 50 left-handed batters in 2017. I looked at how they did against hitters they were facing the first time through the order. Do you want to take a guess of how many Astros finished in the top 10 in wOBA allowed?
Was your answer 3? Then you are either a wizard or a liar, and I am inclined to say liar. Pirates closer Felipe Rivero led the majors in this category because he is left-handed and throws 102 mph so that makes sense. Chris Devenski (5th), Charlie Morton (7th) and Staff Ace Brad Peacock (9th) represent the Astros. For context of how good these guys were, Clayton Kershaw finished 11th.

It would make sense, then, for me to tell you that the Astros were the sixth-best team in baseball at limiting left-handed hitters, allowing a .294 wOBA to just over 1,600 batters faced in 2017.

They aren't broken by any means, but there is always room for improvement.

Who Is Available

There are a few pitchers who actually throw baseballs with their left hand who could be beneficial for the Astros in 2018. Chief among them is a guy who reinvented himself last season with the Kansas City Royals and finished one spot behind Peacock on the aforementioned list, Mike Minor. After struggling as a starter at the beginning of his career in Atlanta, Minor became quite the weapon out of the bullpen for the Royals in 2017, posting a 2.55 ERA in 77.2 IP. The former 7th overall pick should command the most money of any left-handed reliever on the market this off-season.

Tony Watson, he of the one-pitch double plays in the World Series, is also a free agent. He was phenomenal for Pittsburgh in 2014 and 2015, sporting sub-2.00 ERAs both years before struggling in 2016 and 2017. He could certainly be a bounce back candidate.

The Astros could also try to make a splash by trading for a lefty (like Zach Britton) but they would probably have to give up a lot of talent (yeah, but it's Zach Britton) for a volatile position (but it's Zach Britton).

Houston doesn't necessarily need someone who has been a career reliever, as they showed when they traded for Liriano.

Ty Blach has been a top 10 prospect in the Giants system, but he struggled in his first full season in the majors as a starter, enough to lose his spot in the rotation in September. While he had a rough year, Blach was phenomenal when facing a lefty for the first time last season, allowing a .186/.230/.232 slash line to 74 of those batters. Perhaps if he has lost enough shine, the rebuilding Giants could look to sell.

Who Do The Astros Have In Their System

No one. Well, some people, but basically no one.

Cionel Perez was signed for $2 million out of Cuba last December and quickly worked his way to Double-A. The lefty could see action in Houston this year, though it is more likely to be 2019 before he makes an appearance.

Sean Stutzman was signed as a free agent out of Dallas Baptist in 2016. He advanced all the way to Triple-A with a strikeout rate out 9.3 in his minor league career. He's probably not a long-term option, especially considering he is no where near a 40-man spot, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.

Finally, Houston still has Reymin Guduan. Guduan was disappointing in his 16 major league innings last year, but the flamethrower will get another chance to prove himself at some point in 2018.

Whatever You Do, Don't Look At Josh Hader's Stats

Seriously, don't do it. You'll just be sad.