Aug 29, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Houston Astros catcherHank Conger
(16) talks to relief pitcherPat Neshek
(37) in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Houston Astros beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
This is such a hard stat to nail down. Houston is 23rd in save percentage this year, right in line with the other can’t-win-on-the-road teams, where 13 of the 16 finished in the bottom 10 in their respective years. But, unlike most of those teams, the Astros appear to have a good bullpen.
Houston’s bullpen is 6th in ERA (3.20), 2nd in Batting Average Against (.216), 2nd in OPS against (.620), 1st in WHIP (1.09) and 4th in K/9 (9.04). Even their Defense-Independent ERA Ratio is respectable.
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All of this is to say there’s no logical reason why they shouldn’t be converting saves at a better rate than they are. Every indication is that they should be stronger at converting saves, except for Component ERA Ratio, where they are dead last in the majors. Congratulations, Bill James. You got it right again.
I wish I had a better idea of what that means for future decisions. Their bullpen is much improved over last year’s and is clearly a factor in their success, but sadly all I can say is they still have some work to do on that front. Maybe it’s entirely mental, and they don’t have the confidence to perform on the road when they know the offense can’t come up next to bail them out if they make a mistake. Hopefully there are people in the Astros front office who have a better grasp on why their good bullpen can’t buckle down when it matters most.