Astros bullpen broken beyond repair


The Astros have the worst bullpen in baseball. Man, if I had a dollar for every time that phrase has been uttered this season I would be a rich man. Obviously this is nothing new. But today’s statement from Bo Porter is quite newsworthy.

Porter told Astros beat writer Brian T. Smith that no changes to the Astros horrible bullpen are in the works.

That’s nice to know (sarcasm). I mean, why try to improve such a glaring weakness?

Homeruns have been the biggest problem, especially lately. In each of the last three games the first “reliever” out of the Astros ‘pen has immediately coughed up a homerun that gave the opposition the lead. Two of those three were hit by the first batter the reliever was brought in to face.

Edgar Gonzalez, Jose Veras, and Wesley Wright walk from the bullpen with Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

If this isn’t a problem that needs to be addressed I don’t know what is. At some point the starting pitchers are going to start demanding to be left in the game. I mean, why not? If leaving the game means the next batter is likely to go deep why would a starter want to leave? The starters are going to eventually lose faith in the bullpen — if that hasn’t happened already.

How about some numbers? I’ll only highlight the ugliest, starting with the homers. Astros relievers have allowed 61 homers this year. The next highest total is 40. The HR/9 IP figures translate to 1.65 for the Astros and 1.11 for the second most terrible bullpen. That’s a mind-boggling 50% difference, meaning the Astros bullpen gives up three homers to every two homers that the second worst bullpen allows. At the other end of the spectrum the Braves bullpen gives up homers at a rate of 0.52 per 9 IP. (That’s more than a 3:1 ratio for the Astros.)

Jose Cisnero and Jose Veras are the only members of the ‘Stros bullpen that give up less than one HR per nine innings. Wesley Wright checks in at 1.22 which is acceptable but far from ideal. Everyone else is off the charts bad. In most lines of work, people who can’t get the job done are fired. Hector Ambriz, Travis Blackley, and Josh Fields fit into that category.

Something needs to be done — and it needs to be done immediately. There are plenty of arms in the Astros minor league system that are ready to show what they can do in the big leagues. The team has recently addressed the offense by cutting ties with Carlos Pena and Ronny Cedeno. Why not address the bigger problem?

More numbers, as promised. The Astros bullpen ERA stands at 5.03 entering tonight’s game. The next worst bullpen ERA in the majors is 4.51. Here’s the real kicker. Houston’s collective bullpen WAR is a negative 3.2. The second most terrible bullpen in the league has a negative 0.5 WAR.

I just don’t understand the “if we ignore it it will get better” approach. That usually doesn’t work.