In what should not be a surprise, Hector Ambriz was optioned back down to AAA Oklahoma City earlier today. This will now be the second time the often criticized reliever has been demoted this season.
Hector Ambriz (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Don’t get me wrong, Ambriz has been very frustrating to watch in the majority of games he has appeared in this season. But so has the whole bullpen. With Ambriz though, we expected some more. This is despite the fact that the reliever really did not have much of a track record at the major league level.
Last season in 18 games Ambriz had a 4.19 ERA which is nothing to get excited about. However, this year was even worse for the 29-year old journeyman reliever and his 5.70 ERA. Now, I’m not defending Ambriz at all, I’m quite pleased to see him go back to Oklahoma City, and I’m hoping that we don’t see him again this season. But, in reality all he did was perform based on his track record.
Ambriz became a symbol of the bullpen’s failure. As a whole, aside from the now departed Jose Veras, the Astros bullpen has been terrible this season. And that might be a compliment.
When a team has 35 wins for the season on July 29th, chances are they have more weaknesses than strengths. But when it comes to the bullpen, the Astros have an extreme weakness that stands out from the other aspects of their team.
Aside from turning mediocre relievers into closers and then spinning them off in trades, Jeff Luhnow has not had much, if any, success in building a bullpen. This year is no different as it was proved yet again that having middling relievers like Ambriz in your bullpen will not end well.
I am aware though, that building a bullpen costs money. Well, that or you need to be able to develop some young relievers at the minor league level. But with that you have to walk a fine line because if a young pitcher is any good, chances are they are being developed as a starting pitcher. That has begun to change as teams have placed a renewed emphasis on the bullpen.
The problem though, is that for the last few years the Astros farm system has been devoid of talent, and the bullpen has been the hardest hit area.
Hopefully now we are done with Ambriz and relievers like him and we can get on the right track of building a bullpen. Unfortunately though, I think I might be getting ahead of myself as that will take some time.