Jesse Crain (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

The Bullpen Just Got Better


Watching the Houston Astros all of last season, everyone knew the bullpen was a glaring weakness. Honestly, you didn’t even have to watch the games, and most fans couldn’t, to know that.

Entering this off-season Jeff Luhnow made it known that he was looking to improve the much maligned bullpen for 2014. Luhnow also cleared out a spot on the 40-man roster two weeks ago by out righting Rhiner Cruz to AAA Oklahoma City.

Today, Luhnow made good use of the open roster spot by signing Jesse Crain to a one-year contract. The 32-year old reliever, who played his college ball for the Houston Cougars, had a minuscule 0.74 ERA over 38 games last season prior to being shut down with a strain to his pitching shoulder. Crain also had surgery after the season to deal with his biceps inflammation. All indications are that Crain is healthy, and he should slide right into the late innings bullpen mix.

In his 10 year career, Crain has appeared in 532 games and has a 3.07 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. The right-hander only has four saves, but he does have 125 career holds.

Over the last four seasons, Crain has come into his own as a reliable set up man recording ERA’s of 3.04, 2.62, 2.44, and 0.78 respectively to go with WHIP’s of 1.24, 1.08, 1.24, and 1.15. He also struck out 238 batters in 218 innings.

Crain has done a very good job of keeping baserunners stranded over the last three seasons, averaging about an 85% LOB rate. The advanced ERA stats also support Crain’s performance over the last few seasons as he will prove to be a valuable addition to the late inning collection of arms for the Astros.

The difference between Crain and the other two bullpen arms added so far this off-season, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers, is that Crain relies much more on the strikeout than his new bullpen mates who are ground ball pitchers. It is important to have a variety of pitchers to call upon in the bullpen as Luhnow closed out 2013 well with this move. There are now some proven options for Bo Porter to call upon in relief.

Tags: Houston Astros Jesse Crain

  • Larry Luttrell

    Now the Astros can get a power hitter in Nelson Cruz. What u going to lose a Draft pick. Used the Draft Pick you are supposed to be getting from the Orioles.

    • Ray_Kuhn_28

      Cruz certainly is an interesting option. From what I gather his price is still super high, and that’s why he is still available. i heard four years, $75 million, but no way he gets that. He’ll probably get a deal closer to the one Granderson got, but i have a hard time giving Cruz 4 years. That being said, its works investigating at least. And yes the the pick they would lose is the one from the Orioles for Norris

  • Jeremy Lindley

    Heck yes, the Astros just need one pitcher from Japan, another power hitter (Cruz) and a new owner that actually has money and we will be good to go. I wonder if we could get Tanaka and Garza. Beware of Tanaka though, he is not as good as advertised I guarantee you. In Japan whenever one team is throwing their ace, the other team throws their worst pitcher out there so Tanaka doesn’t face the other teams best pitchers he faces their worst

    • Ray_Kuhn_28

      Haha, sign me up Jeremy. Don’t see any way where the Astros get both, and Garza is more likely. No draft pick attached to him which helps. And I do agree with Tanaka, but he is still a very talented pitcher.