Houston Astros’ reliever Will Harris was claimed off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks on November 3rd, and nobody batted an eye. Yet, the 30-year old righty could become a key cog in the Houston bullpen if his streak continues.
What streak you ask? At the end of last year, Harris had recorded 16 consecutive scoreless appearances. Add in the two that he has this season, and the streak is at 18 and counting, covering 18 2/3 innings. He has allowed just one hit in his three innings of work in a Houston Astros uniform.
Harris may have a career 4.13 ERA, but the last run he allowed was on August 18th in Washington (per ESPN). The next day the streak began, as Harris worked a scoreless seventh inning, recording one strikeout.
According to FanGraphs, Harris predominantly throws his cutter, which averages about 91.6 mph. He also works in an 81 mph curveball 12.5 percent of the time, and last season threw a changeup, but according to the site, he has yet to throw that offering with the Astros. The following table shows why he has been so effective.
While many relief pitchers are throwing gas and trying to rack up strikeouts, Harris pitches to contact. This graph shows the whiff rate (swings and misses) for different areas of the plate. I chose to show you his whiff rate against left-handed batters since he is a righty. The table compiles all of the data from when his scoreless outings streak began.
Going back to FanGraphs, their data shows that Harris is a ground ball pitcher, with a career rate of 1.22, and an early-season rate of 1.33 with the Houston Astros.
So what does this all mean? With the roll that Harris is on, manager A.J. Hinch should feel comfortable putting him in any situation. While he may not have been one of the big-name free agent signees this winter, Harris could have just as big of an impact in Houston this season. With the woes that Chad Qualls had against Oakland last year (12 runs in four innings), perhaps Hinch will start expanding Harris’ role in the upcoming series with the A’s.