Somewhat obscured by Brian Fuentes ripping his manager after last night’s game is that the whole thing transpired because he was stripped of closing duties and then took his seventh loss of the season while pitching in a non-save situation.
Fuentes is now 1-7 with a 5.06 ERA through the A’s first 48 games, which puts him on pace to lose 23 or 24 times this season. Suffice it to say that would be an all-time record for a reliever. By a lot.
Here’s the current single-season relief losses leaderboard:
Gene Garber 1979 16
Mike Marshall 1975 14
Mike Marshall 1979 14
Darold Knowles 1970 14
John Hiller 1974 14
It’s no coincidence that every season listed above is from the 1970s, when relievers often logged 100-plus innings and racked up far more decisions because bullpen management didn’t revolve around the save stat. Gene Garber threw 106 innings with a 4.33 ERA in his 16-loss season, getting the save or a decision in 47 of his 68 appearances.
At first glance you might see that list and conclude that Mike Marshall must have been a terrible reliever, but that’s far from the truth. In fact, he was one of the best relievers of his era and probably the most durable reliever in baseball history. In the two seasons listed above in which he lost 14 games as a reliever Marshall logged 109 and 143 innings. And he had ERAs of 2.65 and 3.29 while winning 19 games.
Fuentes has little chance of breaking Garber’s record by losing 17 times, let alone 23 or 24 defeats, but he’s off to a helluva start.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.
Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.
There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.
That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.
The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.
One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.
Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.