30 Players in 30 Days: Joe Thatcher
Joe Thatcher joined the organization in the offseason on a one-year, minor-league deal, but spent most of the 2015 season with the Houston Astros. The left-handed specialist spent his first six seasons with the San Diego Padres before playing parts of 2013 and 2014 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels.
In 2015, Thatcher appeared in 43 games for the Astros, but only pitched a total of 22 2/3 innings as he was mostly called upon late in games to get only one or two outs against left-handed batters. On the season, he posted a 3.18 ERA, a high 1.54 WHIP, and struck out 10.3 batters and walked 4.8 per nine innings.
Thatcher made his debut with the Astros on April 8 against the Cleveland Indians. In the top of the seventh inning, A.J. Hinch pulled starter Scott Feldman and called upon the lefty to face the left-handed hitting Lonnie Chisenhall. Thatcher only needed three pitches to strikeout Chisenhall.
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Thatcher was great for the team early on and between April 22 and June 22, he allowed only one run over 12 1/3 innings with 17 strikeouts and a .190 AVG against him.
The life of a reliever is tough. There is less room for error, and you can fall out of favor very fast. The same is magnified for a lefty specialist. July was not kind to Thatcher as he allowed four earned runs, seven hits and four walks over seven games and 1 2/3 innings.
On July 21, the Astros recalled Vince Velasquez and designated Thatcher for assignment. Thatcher elected free agency, but the Astros resigned him a few weeks later on Aug. 5 to a minor-league deal. With Triple-A Fresno, he appeared in nine games for the month of August, allowing only one run over 8 2/3 innings.
On Sept. 1, rosters expanded, and the Astros selected Thatcher’s contract from Fresno. Thatcher was solid in September for the Astros as he threw in six games and allowed only one hit, but did walk four.
The team opted to go with Oliver Perez as their lefty specialist in the playoffs, though, and Thatcher appeared in his last game as a 2015 Houston Astro on Oct. 2 against the Diamondbacks in a scoreless inning of work.
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What to expect in 2016
Every lefty in the Astros 2015 bullpen is a free agent this offseason, but only expect the team to work on getting Tony Sipp back. While Thatcher was a serviceable middle reliever for the team this season, the team knows there are other options in the market.
Thatcher will be 34 years old next season, so he still has a few years left in him if he chooses. His slider is his go-to pitch as he rarely throws his fastball over 90 MPH. Control issues plagued Thatcher in 2015, but he will likely find a similar role with another team in 2016.