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Astros’ bullpen has been dropping the ball in the postseason


The Astros took a 4-0 lead into the seventh inning of ALCS Game 4 on Tuesday night, appearing to be on their way to a 3-1 series lead over the Yankees. Instead, they ended up losing 6-4 and the series is even at two games apiece.

The bullpen gave up five of the six runs in the seventh and eighth innings, continuing a trend of unreliable pitching this postseason. Here’s a look at each individual pitching performance for Astros relievers since the start of the ALDS.

Pitcher IP H R ER BB SO HR
Chris Devenski 1 0 0 0 0 2 0
Will Harris 2/3 2 0 0 0 0 0
Francisco Liriano 1/3 0 0 0 0 0 0
Joe Musgrove 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
Chris Devenski 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 1 0
Luke Gregerson 1 1 0 0 0 2 0
Ken Giles 1 2 1 1 0 1 0
Francisco Liriano 1/3 2 1 1 0 0 1
Lance McCullers 3 3 2 2 2 4 0
Chris Devenski 0 3 3 3 0 0 0
Joe Musgrove 1 1 1 1 0 0 1
Luke Gregerson 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
Justin Verlander 2 2/3 1 1 1 2 0 1
Ken Giles 2 1 1 1 0 1 1
Chris Devenski 1/3 0 0 0 1 0 0
Ken Giles 1 2/3 1 1 1 1 4 1
Will Harris 1/3 1 1 1 0 0 1
Collin McHugh 4 0 0 0 1 3 0
Chris Devenski 1/3 1 1 1 1 0 0
Joe Musgrove 2/3 2 2 2 0 0 0
Ken Giles 1/3 3 2 2 1 0 0
Luke Gregerson 2/3 0 0 0 1 0 0
TOTAL 24 2/3 25 17 17 10 20 6

For those keeping score at home, that’s a 6.20 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 3.65 BB/9, 2.19 HR/9, and an even two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio.

It’s not that the Astros’ bullpen isn’t talented. Though the club posted only the 10th-best ERA (4.27) in the American League during the regular season at 4.27, the staff was second-best in strikeout rate (28.6%) and K-BB% (19.4%). By ERA retrodictors, the bullpen actually pitched much better than ERA indicated. xFIP, for example, put the Yankees’ bullpen at 3.69, nearly three-fifths of a full run better.

The back of the bullpen is particularly hard to handle, as Ken Giles (2.30), Chris Devenski (2.68), Will Harris (2.98), and Joe Musgrove (1.44) each posted superb ERA’s. The bullpen has the ability to be dominant, but they have not been up to the task thus far. It has exposed the Astros, who have looked strong otherwise in the playoffs after winning 101 games in the regular season. If the ‘pen doesn’t shape up quickly, the Astros may miss their chance to get to the World Series for the first time since 2005.

Justin Verlander laughed at after saying Astros were “technologically and analytically advanced”

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Justin Verlander was at the annual Baseball Writers Association of America banquet last night, on hand to accept the 2019 Cy Young Award. Normally such things are pretty routine events, but nothing is routine with the Houston Astros these days.

During his acceptance speech, Verlander made some comments about the Astros’ “technological and analytical advancements.” The comments were greeted by some laughter in the room as well as some groans. At least one person on hand claimed that other players present were visibly angry.

It’s hard to tell the context of it all without a full video — maybe Verlander meant it as a joke, maybe the reactions were more varied than is being described — but here’s how reporters on hand for it last night are describing it:

If it was a joke it was ill-timed, as not many around the game think the sign-stealing stuff is funny at the moment. Especially in light of the fact that, despite having several opportunities to do so, Astros players have failed to show any accountability for their cheating.

And yes, that includes former Astros Dallas Keuchel, who was praised for “apologizing” at a White Sox fan event on Friday, but whose “apology” was couched in a lot of deflection and excuse-making about how it was just something that was done at the time and about how technology was to blame. Keuchel also tried to minimize it, saying that the Astros didn’t do it all the time. Which is rich given that the most prominent video evidence of their trash can-banging scheme came from a blowout Astros win in a meaningless August game against a losing team. If they were doing it in that situation, please, do not tell me they weren’t doing it when games really mattered.

Anyway, I’d like to think Verlander was just trying to take a stab at a joke here, because Verlander is the wrong guy to be sending to be sending any kind of messages diminishing the cheating given that he has a pretty solid track record of holding other players’ feet to the fire when they get busted.

For example, here he was in 2018 after Robinson Canó got busted for PEDs:

Of course, consistency can be a problem for Verlander when his teammates are on the ones who are on the hook. Here was his response to Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta being suspended in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal:

“Everybody makes mistakes. He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”

Verlander, it should also be noted, was very outspoken about teams engaging in advanced sign-stealing schemes once upon a time. here he was in 2017, while still with the Tigers, talking about such things in a June 2017 interview with

“We don’t have somebody, but I’m sure teams have a person that can break down signals and codes and they’ll have the signs before you even get out there on the mound.  It’s not about gamesmanship anymore. It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Which makes me wonder how he felt when he landed on the Astros two months later and realized they had a sophisticated cheating operation underway. If the feelings were mixed, he was able to bury the part of them which had a problem with it, because he’s said jack about it since this all blew up in November. And, of course, has happily accepted the accolades and the hardware he he has received since joining Houston, some of which was no doubt acquired by virtue of a little extra, ill-gotten run support.

Anyway, wake me up when someone — anyone — associated with the Astros shows some genuine accountability about this.