It is the priority of the Houston Astros this offseason to upgrade their bullpen. While they have been reported to have interest in high profile arms, explicitly closers, such as Andrew Miller and David Robertson, these players are not what the Astros are seeking.
Brian McTaggart, when pestered by the many tweets about “why” would the Astros be interested in either of the aforementioned names, responded with a simple statistic. He said something that included 54 blown saves in the past two seasons. Most people, including myself, assume that a blown save occurs in the 9th inning. But in going back to the results of the 2014 season, this intuitive thought is not the simple truth.
It is true that Josh Fields and Chad Qualls combined for 10 blown saves last season. Jerome Williams (3), Anthony Bass (2), Kyle Farsnworth (1), Jose Cisnero (1), and Raul Valdes (1) combined for the same number of blown saves. Good news! None of the players in that second sentence are going to be on the roster in 2015.
Of those ten blown saves, only 4 of them occurred in the 9th inning. And guess what? Most of us have survived. And to another awesome point: who can remember any of these moments? Blown saves are just a blip on the radar unless they are in the 9th inning. One of Williams blown saves, however, is quite memorable for me. Another story that can be told, but certainly not via this medium.
Qualls and Fields experienced their fair share of struggles during 2014. I have even exaggerated Qualls’ appearances against the Athletics in the past on this site. One of the awesome Astros fans on Twitter, however, brought to my attention a statistic. Did you know that in terms of Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), that Fields had a better mark in 2014 than that of elite reliever David Robertson? ‘Tis true. While Fields had a dreadful ERA of 4.45 on the year, his FIP was much more favorable at a 2.09 figure while Robertson posted a 2.68 FIP in his walk year.
Now I am not suggesting that signing Robertson would be a poor decision. But looking through the actual results of the 2014 season leads me to believe that the Astros may be best to spend less in the bullpen. Acquire quality depth, maintain the lead in the middle innings, and give the ball to Fields or Qualls.