Last night just reaffirmed to me how good a certain Astros reliever is in his role.
I could write about the Astros starting rotation and how well they have pitched to start the season. Or how the lineup has yet to put it all together in a single game. Yet, I won’t as that isn’t the most interesting topic so far this season.
Instead, I want to discuss the Astros secret weapon out of the bullpen: Chris Devenski and his changeup.
You may remember Devenski’s changeup from last season. It was by far his best pitch in terms of generating whiffs (108) while maintaining an .193 batting average and a .240 slugging percentage. For comparison sake, his fastball last season generated just 56 whiffs, which came in 226 more times than his changeup. Fangraphs has a pitch value assessment and Devenski’s changeup generated a 9.8 wCH, which was the third-best out of all qualifying relievers last season.
And last night was just more of the same results from Devenski and his changeup that we have become accustomed to since his debut last year.
This was before Devenski came out for his fourth inning of relief last night in the Astros extra-innings affair with the Mariners. It just proves that his changeup is something else to behold. In fact, it could make him one of the more valuable arms on the entire Astros roster.
In a strange way, Devenski is the anti-Lance McCullers. You see, McCullers has always been rumored as a candidate to eventually end up in the bullpen. The primary argument has been health related, which makes sense to a certain degree. The major difference is that McCullers has almost exclusively been a starting pitcher in his professional career. There either is no to little history to base on how he might perform as a reliever. On the other hand, Devenski has been named as a potential starting pitcher at various points since his debut. And this viewpoint holds some merit as he has started five games last season. However, he has proven to be at his most effective, thus far, as a reliever.
This emergence of Devenski’s skill set as a reliever has also proven to be a valuable asset to the Astros pitching staff.
Yes, he can pitch, and pitch well, out of relief more times than not. His pitch selection, specifically his changeup, provides manager A.J. Hinch with another reliever that provides another wrinkle in bullpen strategy. But the right-hander can also start games in a pinch. Like I stated earlier, he did start five games last season for Houston when needed.
I want to circle back to the changeup for a moment. During last night’s game, Devenski had the look of an elite-level reliever last night. Not only was he effective in getting outs, he did it in a impressive way with a changeup.
This is something worth marveling at from a baseball perspective. Simply put, Devenski was locked in last night. And his efforts were a major reason that the Astros were able to pull out an extra-innings win against the Mariners.
**Statistics courtesy of Brooks Baseball and Baseball Savant**