The Astros were bad this season. You simply do not lose 100 games for the third season in a row without being bad. That cannot be argued.
But some areas of the team were worse than others. And with baseball being a team sport that requires contributions from all 25 men on the roster, the whole team paid for those inefficiencies.
Nowhere on the Astros were said inefficiencies more noticeable, frustrating, and perhaps even preventable than the bullpen.
Houston’s bullpen blew 15 games in which the team was leading after seven innings.
While it is not like those games ultimately impacted anything other than the frustration level of the fans and players, it doesn’t make it any easier to digest. We have, and will continue to, discuss the specific pitchers who were responsible for the struggles. It is not like Bo Porter and Jeff Luhnow did not try find a successful combination in the bullpen this season, but most of the time it just was not possible. The necessary pitchers simply were not in the organization this year.
With the return of Josh Fields off of the disabled list and the promotion of Kevin Chapman, Josh Zeid, and Chia-Jen Lo from the minor leagues, at least there was optimism. However, even their performance have been spotty and inconsistent at times. But at least with them, there is hope and potential.
Fields and Chapman have likely done enough to earn a spot in 2014 bullpen, and I would venture to guess that, at the very least, Zeid and Lo deserve to be in the discussion.
As the Astros begin their ascension next season, repairing the bullpen in my opinion should be the number one priority. Houston is set up the middle and the minor league system is abound with both position players and starting pitchers. The bullpen is the one area that must be augmented through free agency or the veteran trade market.
It is important for the young players on the Astros to learn how to win and also to experience winning at the major league level. The young starting pitchers deserve to be rewarded for their efforts as opposed to just receiving a no-decision.
What I do like though, is that it appears Luhnow will be focusing on the bullpen this offseason. The early impression I get, is that the Astros will be spending some money this offseason, and the bullpen will reap some of those benefits. Below is a quote from Luhnow that was published in the Houston Chronicle by Jose de Jesus Ortiz that gives me some optimism for next season.
“We’re going to make some investments in bringing in some players from outside the organization,” Luhnow said, “with the goal in mind to help us be more competitive, to shore up the bullpen, maybe add another bat to the lineup and put these guys in a position where if they go out and give us enough innings, we’ve got the ability to score enough runs for them and finish the game and put a ‘W’ up there.”