Houston Astros 2015 Season Recap: Will Harris


30 Players in 30 Days: Will Harris

The Colorado Rockies drafted Will Harris in the 9th round of the 2006 MLB amateur draft, and he debuted with the team six years later in 2012. He allowed 16 earned runs in just 20 games for the team in 2012 and was claimed off waivers by the Oakland Athletics the following April. He spent just a few days with the A’s, and didn’t make an appearance before he was demoted and subsequently claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With the Diamondbacks, Harris bounced between Triple-A and the big league club for two seasons, posting a 3.42 ERA in a combined 81 innings while striking out 9.7 hitters per nine innings. Harris ended 2014 on a high note, though, as he allowed only one run over his last 16 1/3 innings of the season while striking out 19. The Houston Astros took note, and on November 3, 2014, they made their first move of the offseason to bolster their bullpen by claiming Harris off waivers. Stats from Baseball-Reference.

Harris was an afterthought in the Astros’ 2015 bullpen to most after the signings of Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson, but he was another diamond in the rough that would soon shine brightly. The 6’4″ reliever made his debut in the 9th inning of game two on the season – pitching a perfect inning on just eight pitches. He was called upon three games later and threw another scoreless inning, allowing only one hit. The next night, Harris came on in extra innings and struck out three over two more perfect innings.

Harris – with a mid-90s fastball and hard curveball – dominated hitters in April: 12 IP, 2 H, 14 Ks, 4 BBs, 0 ER. Harris didn’t allow a single runner to cross home plate until May 6 in his 11th appearance when he allowed a home run in a blowout loss to the Texas Rangers.

In his next ten games after allowing the home run, Harris strung together ten more consecutive scoreless appearances over 11 2/3 innings pitched. He would get touched up by home runs in each of his next two games, both solo shots. In fact, through the end of June all four runs Harris allowed came via solo home runs.


By the July All-Star break, Harris had some of the best numbers in the league. His 0.87 ERA, 0.726 WHIP, and .116 AVG against him were numbers hard to accomplish even in a video game.

Of course, he made his appearances in lower pressure situations than others garnering All-Star recognition. That would soon change, though, and going into the second half, Harris was no longer a ho-hum waiver claim – he was a lock in the bullpen and a key to the team’s late-inning success.

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Harris’ dream season came down to Earth in the second half. His .130 BAbip was unsustainable considering 1/4 of his first-half hits against him were home runs. For reference, future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera‘s lowest season BAbip was .212 in 1999.

Harris threw two scoreless innings to begin the second half, but ran into trouble on July 23 in Boston. Harris came on in the 8th inning with the Astros up 4-2 and allowed another solo home run, this one to David Ortiz. He gave up a single to the next batter Hanley Ramirez, and he advanced to second on a steal but retired the next two hitters. A.J. Hinch pulled Harris for Gregerson to attempt a four-out save. He couldn’t shut the door, though, as he gave up a 2-2 double and Harris was finally on the hook for more than one run in an outing in 2015.

Harris’ next appearance came two games later against the Kansas City Royals in the bottom of the 9th of a 1-1 game in relief of Neshek. Harris escaped the inning and was called on in the 10th, but only recorded two outs before he gave up a walk-off single to Alcides Escobar.

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It’s expected that a reliever’s numbers are going to be a little worse when he goes from a mid-relief guy to one of the guys. He was still a strong bullpen option down the stretch, but like just about every other member of the Astros bullpen, he posted his worst month in September: 12 IP, 5 ER, 5 H, 5 BB.

In 32 second-half appearances, he only allowed a run in seven of them and never allowed more than two in a game all season. He was the closest thing the team had to a true “shutdown” guy in 2015. In 32 at-bats against him with two outs and runners in scoring position, Harris allowed only two runs and hitters had a .067 AVG.

The postseason is where things got rough for Harris. After throwing a scoreless 1 2/3 innings in the Wild Card Game and Game 1 of the ALDS, he came on in the bottom of the 7th inning in Game 2 with the score tied at 4. Harris gave up a first-pitch triple to Alcides Escobar and a single to Ben Zobrist to push the score to the eventual 5-4 final.

In Game 4, Harris came on in the top of the 7th inning with one out and the Astros protecting a 3-2 lead. Harris struck out Alex Gordon and escaped the inning on a caught steal. Astros fans know how the story goes from here. Hinch sent Harris back out after the Astros four-run seventh inning. Harris allowed four consecutive singles and one run to cross before he was pulled for Tony Sipp. Two more of his runners scored, making it the only time all season that Harris was on the hook for more than three runs in an inning.

Harris set career bests in innings pitched (71), ERA (1.90), WHIP (0.901) and H/9 (5.3). He did all of this while striking out hitters at a career-low 8.6 batter per nine.

More Houston Astros Season Recaps:

  1. Vince Velasquez
  2. Tony Sipp
  3. Jonathan Villar
  4. Preston Tucker
  5. Mike Fiers
  6. Hank Conger
  7. Chad Qualls
  8. Jon Singleton
  9. Joe Thatcher
  10. Marwin Gonzalez
  11. Josh Fields
  12. Jake Marisnick
  13. Pat Neshek
  14. Jed Lowrie
  15. Luis Valbuena
  16. Scott Feldman
  17. Evan Gattis

What to expect in 2016

The Astros are banking on the magic that Harris found to kick off the 2015 season. His 2.2 WAR was the best by any reliever on the team.

Next: Houston Astros Winter Trade Series: Carter Capps

Even though 2015 was only his fourth year in Major League Baseball, Harris will turn 32 next season. Harris’ role in the pen next season will depend on offseason moves, but it’s likely he’ll replace Chad Qualls as the main mid-to-late inning reliever.