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Astros’ bullpen has been dropping the ball in the postseason

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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.

Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.