Astros: Should Chris Devenski stay in the bullpen?
By Eric Huysman
Where does Chris Devenski have the most value to the Houston Astros? In the bullpen or the rotation?
On yesterday’s Talking Stros on Sports Talk 790, we didn’t intend to spend 20 minutes of the show talking about Chris Devenski. We brought it up as a quick hit. Then we had a few callers bring it up. Should Devenski stay in the Astros bullpen, or should he be moved into the Astros rotation? Even Jeremy Booth of Program 15 said it was only a matter of time before they move him into the rotation. Where would Devenski be the most valuable?
Who else can do what he can?
The most obvious answer to me is to keep him in the bullpen. Who else can do what Devenski can do? Brad Peacock has looked great so far in the Astros bullpen, but he’s only expected to pitch one or two innings. His success has stemmed from his ability to add the extra velocity on his fastball. Peacock has added about an extra mph to his fastball, 93 vs. 92 mph, often hitting 95 mph. He has a career-high strikeout/nine inning rate of 12.71 in the early going.
Even though he has a 0.00 ERA in 5 2/3 innings pitched in four games, making him the long reliever is not the answer. Michael Feliz is a former starter, but he is struggling this year pitching one inning at a time. Feliz has not looked great this year, but it’s still early enough in the season for a bounce back. Feliz is actually throwing harder this year, 95.8 mph versus 94.9 mph last year, but his strikeout rate has plummeted.
If you were to put Devenski in the rotation, you would have to put Mike Fiers in the bullpen in Devenski’s role. Would you feel comfortable with Fiers coming in the tenth inning of a tie ballgame? How about him going four innings and keeping the game close while he waits for the offense to score? I didn’t think so. Fiers looked good in his first game but was hit around in the second.
Devenski has looked dominant!
Devenski has already pitched nine innings in three games. Those haven’t been innings where he barely gets through the innings. So far in 2017, he has dominated with 17 strikeouts in nine innings pitched. At one point, he was on the top-10 list in the AL. In addition to added velocity on his fastball and change-up, Devenski is using his slider more. Aside from a solo homer, the opposing hitters have not made solid contact off him.
His value is his ability to come into that tie game, and limit the other team’s offense. He can pitch one inning like he did Friday night, striking out the side or he can go four innings. If there is any complaint so far, why doesn’t A.J. Hinch use him more often? He has only been used in 25% of the twelve games thus far. If he goes multi-innings, Hinch treats him like a starter and rests him for a few days.
I’m not sure Fiers or Peacock is really the option for the fifth starter, but Devenski is too valuable in the role he’s in. Would Devenski’s stuff allow him to face the same hitter three times in a game? Yes, but he’s too darn effective in those tied game situations. You can put him in the rotation, but you would be weakening the bullpen. Outside of Will Harris, Peacock, and Devenski, the bullpen has been average. Remove Devenski, and you remove that late-inning threat.
What fans are saying.
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Looking at a poll I ran last night, looks like most people are in agreement here. Below are a few of their comments.
Chris Scheer: “He really is an anchor in that pen.”
StrosWS2017: “I like his role now. He comes in during tie games late to pitch 3-4 innings and save the bullpen. For now.”
Kyle Oates: “Unless he gets one more MLB level pitch.”
Daniel Pratt: “Bullpen. But actually use him more regularly!”
Kirby Steiner: “Starter in the future but long relief this year.”
Next: Astros bullpen: True or False, is Ken Giles no longer the closer?
As Booth said on yesterday’s Talking Stros, it may eventually have to happen. He could be better than Andrew Miller in his current role. Would Devenski in the rotation be better than Fiers or trading the future away for the struggling Jose Quintana? That is the question that will need to be asked soon, for now, keep him where he is.
***Stats and pitch speeds from Fangraphs***