Bullpen by committee. No, thank you.
The Houston Astros are innovators. Trendsetters. The team that employs a “decision sciences” department refuses to conform to the “traditional” strategies that are commonly used in the major leagues.
Bo Porter (Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
Tasking one specific pitcher with protecting leads in the ninth inning is one of those antiquated strategies that doesn’t make sense scientifically.
Yet the Astros are one of maybe two teams in the majors currently taking the “bullpen by committee” approach. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but wait. It gets better.
One would think that science would dictate the use of one’s best pitcher available in “save situations”. Apparently not.
Apparently it’s smarter to use inexperienced pitchers in these high pressure situations. You see, that’s the kind of “out of the box” thinking that separates the Astros from other teams. (by about five games in the standings by early May)
Apparently, pitchers that have been discarded by other teams and will work for the MLB minimum salary are the ones best suited for ninth inning duty when your team is clinging to the smallest of leads. Rule 5 draft picks and guys that were traded for Rule 5 draft picks are ideal. Science tells us so.
After Anthony Bass failed to protect a 1-run ninth inning lead in Baltimore last night, we learned that something other than science played a role in that particular decision.
Okay. That sounds like a good enough reason to go with Bass. And, after Paul Clemens came in and absorbed the loss in the tenth, we needed a good excuse for why Qualls was left on the bench.
Chad Qualls should be the Astros closer (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
Qualls, the highest paid member of the current Astros bullpen, has seen only two save opportunities all season. His last such opportunity, which came way back on April 19th, didn’t go so well. But, since then, Chad has reeled off seven straight scoreless appearances.
That’s seems more like the kind of pitcher Houston needs on the mound in those rare occasions that there is a ninth inning lead to protect.
Yes, I realize that Qualls currently sports a dreadful 1.9 WHIP. But he also boasts a 2.53 FIP and an ERA+ of 105, both of which are tops among Astros relievers not currently on the disabled list.
I know I’ve been saying it since February, but it seems painfully obvious that Qualls is the
best only candidate for closer on this team. We can only hope that tonight’s message from Bo Porter is a thinly veiled power grab by the Astros’ skipper. Seriously. Porter needs to grab the bullpen by the horns and prove that he’s capable of making some good decisions. Otherwise, he’s going to be looking for a new job sooner rather than later.