Houston Astros: Nobody to Blame for the 2015 Collapse

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A.J. Hinch has made very few mistakes.

Jul 6, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch (14) points to the bullpen during a pitching change in the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY SporA.J. Hinch has made very few mistakes.

Why is the bullpen collapsing? Is it because Hinch is not putting them in the position to succeed? Hardly. Throughout the season, Hinch avoided short-term thinking, refusing to tax his bullpen as a whole, or use each reliever on consecutive days. This team was managed with September and October in mind. If the pitchers are tired, their fatigue was not preventable.

As far as usage, the Astros have a clear pecking order:

  • Will Harris and Luke Gregerson have been the top relief pitchers on the team.
  • Pat Neshek is best used as a righty specialist, as he has a clear platoon split, with RHB at .184/.245/.314 vs. Neshek career.
  • Oliver Perez is best used as a lefty specialist, as he has a clear platoon split, with LHP at .231/.318/.365 vs. Perez career.
  • Josh Fields and Velasquez (strikeouts), Chad Qualls (grounders) and Tony Sipp (multi-inning lefty) have situational value when the primary options are not realistically available.

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Hinch has adhered to this, even in tight spots. Most recently, he allowed Harris to face Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and David Murphy to open the eighth inning on Wednesday. Replacing him with Neshek for a series of lesser righties who seemed especially susceptible to the platoon advantage Neshek has against RHBs. Harris could not put Trout away after two strikes, he is the best player on planet earth, and later Neshek gave up a fly ball that kept carrying to David Freese. Just like that, the game was lost. That’s baseball.

On offense, Hinch has pinch-hit aggressively to gain a platoon advantage, using 40-man pieces like Jonathan Villar, Matt Duffy, Max Stassi and others in exactly the roles that would maximize the team’s chances in the later innings.

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