In case you have forgotten, Will Harris is still in the Astros bullpen.
With all of the attention on the struggles of Luke Gregerson, the emergence of Chris Devenski as a late-inning option or on Ken Giles becoming a legitimate closer, right-handed reliever Will Harris is doing what he has always done for the Houston Astros bullpen, consistently getting hitters out. Leading the team in holds with 13, the 32-year-old has a 2.17 ERA with a 0.86 WHIP through 28 appearances this season.
Especially in the month of June, Harris has become, not only a consistent pitcher, but also a lights out pitcher for the Astros to use at the end of games. In 7.1 innings of work, he has a 1.23 ERA with a 0.55 WHIP and only a .120 batting average against.
Even though it is hard to believe, Harris has become even more harder to generate contact against. With an overall batting average against of .196, he has increased his strikeout percentage to a career high 31.5 percent, striking out an average of 10.86 batters per nine innings.
Part of this is due to a slight change in Harris’ approach on the mound.
Instead of solely throwing a combination of a cutter and a curveball, Harris has mixed in his four-seam fastball. Despite being only thrown 26.4 percent of the time, Harris has not thrown that pitch that much since his rookie season with the Colorado Rockies back in 2012.
Not only has this change affected his strikeout percentage, but also the type of contact he is getting as well. His ground ball percentage has dropped to 42.9 percent, his lowest number since 2014, while his fly ball percentage has risen 18 percentage points to match his ground ball rate at 42.9 percent. The increased fly ball percentage has increased his home run rate a bit, already matching last season’s total of three through 29 innings this season.
In his latest outing, the fly ball did not affect him at all. Coming into the game with two outs in the sixth inning, Harris threw 1.1 hitless innings, striking out three and walking one in the 4-1 Astros win over the Oakland A’s. On all three of his strikeouts, Harris got opposing batters to swing through curveballs low and out of the strike zone, all three being blocked in the dirt by the catcher Even Gattis.
Although his fastball may never touch the mid-to-upper nineties (he is averaging around 91 mph on both his fastball and his cutter), Harris has found his own special way of getting hitters out. He has been one of the most consistent relievers in all of baseball for the past three seasons. Maybe that is why nobody has been talking about him.
***Stats provided by MLB.com and FanGraphs***