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Houston Astros: The Rise of Michael Feliz

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Apr 26, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Michael Feliz (45) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the seventh inning at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Houston, 11-1. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 26, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Michael Feliz (45) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the seventh inning at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Houston, 11-1. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Michael Feliz Rewards the Houston Astros’ Faith in Him.

Not much has gone right for the Houston Astros this year with their 17-26 start to the season. While it won’t be as bad as the 15-30 record in 2005 when the Houston Chronicle’s tombstone hit the front page of the sports section. With the team that the Astros had in 2005, they were able to fight back and make it all the way to the World Series that season. The 2016 Astros arguably has more offensive firepower, but the pitching staff is not as good as the 2005 bunch.

While the Astros pitching was a big part of this year’s struggles, it seems that the pitching staff is rebounding a little. Are they perfect? No, but there are going deeper, and the bullpen is performing better. One of the people on the rise after a poor start is Michael Feliz, who was once one of the top prospects in the Astros system, but he started off overmatched in the big leagues in 2015.

Fast forward to 2016, Feliz was still on the Astros Top-30 prospect list despite the poor showing in the big leagues, but he had an excellent spring training that led to him to making the opening day roster. His time with the Astros was short as he made one appearance after the early exit by Collin McHugh versus the Yankees in game two of the season. By the time Feliz came in, the Yankees were on fire, and he hard a hard time putting out that fire.

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Feliz pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up six runs with four walks and two home runs. It was your typical take the hit for the rest of the team as he stayed in to eat up innings. Following the game, the Astros sent him down for Chris Devenski. Devenski ran away with the opportunity and had bounced between the bullpen and rotation since then.

Feliz rejoined the Astros late April with Jake Marisnick going down to Triple-A to get an extra pitcher on the staff. His second 2016 appearance was almost as bad as the first, as he gave up four runs (three earned) in an inning of work. He finished April with a 15.19 ERA after giving up three homers in 5 1/3 innings.

Feliz was looking like a bust, but when Feliz took the mound on May 2, the tide turned for the young flamethrower. He came in with a different attitude on the mound, better control of his breaking pitches with great sink on the ball. In that game, he pitched two hitless innings with four strikeouts.

Including last night’s appearance, he has pitched three innings twice in a game without allowing a run both times. The only time that he has allowed a run in May was when he gave up the winning run in the 11 inning loss to the Red Sox. In five of the six appearances in May, Feliz finished the game for the Astros. The Astros were so confident with Feliz that they sent veteran Josh Fields down instead of Feliz when Lance McCullers returned.

In May, Feliz has a 1-1 record with a 0.77 with 19 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings. He has not allowed a homer in May. To show how impressive Feliz’s strikeout numbers look, he has 26 strikeouts in 17 innings.

What does he throw, he throws a mid-90’s fastball (93.8 MPH) with a slider (82.1 MPH) and changeup (83.8 MPH) in the low 80’s. While he has reached 98 mph, with his pitch speed differential, he doesn’t have to throw every pitch as fast as he can. When he first came up, he tried to blow people away before realizing that the breaking pitches would help get more outs.

Next: Houston Astros: Talking Stros With Alex Bregman (Interview)

Feliz has become one of the more reliable arms on the staff, but what is his future. Will he be a starter or backend of the bullpen type guy? Either way, I’m glad that he is one of the bright spots on this disappointing club.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference***

***Pitch Speeds from Fangraphs***

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