Astros: Joe Musgrove learned a lot against the Red Sox
By Colin Gay
Astros starter Joe Musgrove just had the biggest start of his young career.
Right-handed starter Joe Musgrove had a lot riding on his latest start for the Astros. Not only was this game against a Boston Red Sox team that many say are heavy favorites to go deep in October, but it was also an opportunity for Musgrove to make a name for himself on a national stage.
When Astros manager A.J. Hinch took the ball from Musgrove in the middle of the sixth inning, the numbers were definitely not on his side. Stranding two runners which were eventually driven in after right-handed reliever James Hoyt gave up a double to Jackie Bradley Jr., Musgrove gave up five earned runs on six hits and two walks in the 6-5 loss.
Even though the numbers did not look great, the Astros did learn a lot about their young starter in his latest outing. Here are two takeaways.
Musgrove has electric stuff
Not really known as a pitcher that can blow any opposing hitters away, Musgrove had is strikeout pitch working Sunday night. Normally striking out only about 19.2 percent of opposing batters faced, Musgrove struck out seven in his 5.2 innings of work.
Part of Musgrove’s success is because of his increased velocity on his fastball. During his outing, he averaged 92.7 mph on his four seam fastball, his second highest of the season behind his start against the Baltimore Orioles on May 26th. It was obvious that the Red Sox hitters had trouble especially with his high fastball. Three of his seven strikeouts on the day were 94-95 mph fastballs high and out of the strike zone.
A high strikeout percentage normally brings success for the 24-year-old right-hander. He has three starts this season in which he struck out over 25 percent of batters faced, including a season high 29.2 percent Sunday night. In the two starts before Sunday night, he gave up a combined one earned run on nine hits, striking out 12 in 13.1 innings. Those three starts this season are his three best starts in terms of SIERA.
Musgrove gets hit very hard
With a low to mid-nineties fastball and a low-eighties breaking ball, Musgrove is a fly ball pitcher. This season, his fly ball percentage has increased to 38.3 percent, only a bit lower than his ground ball percentage of 40.9 percent. With that, his home run to fly ball percentage has increased to 14.9 percent through 12 starts.
On Sunday night, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was the power threat, going 3-4 with two home runs and driving in four RBIs. The two pitches he sent into the seats were very hittable pitches, one a 92.8 mph fastball right down the middle and the other, an 82.3 mph slider middle in that Bogaerts turned on and sent into the Crawford Boxes.
The Red Sox were hitting him hard all night, though. 73.3 percent of all contact from opposing hitters Sunday night were consider hard contact. That was easily the highest percentage of the season for Musgrove, 28.9 points higher than his start against the Miami Marlins May 15th.
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Musgrove seemed to grow a lot in this start against one of the best teams in baseball. It will be interesting to see if he brings that same mentality heading into his next start which is scheduled to be against the Seattle Mariners.
***Stats provided by FanGraphs and MLB.com***