Astros: Luke Gregerson struggles at Minute Maid Park
By Colin Gay
Luke Gregerson has had a bizarre season for the Astros!
Veteran right-handed reliever Luke Gregerson came into the season as the set-up man for what many believed to be one of the best bullpens in the AL. The Astros were going to have a combination of Gregerson, Will Harris and Ken Giles at the end of the game. That trio could have been very consistent throughout the season. However, after one rough outing early in the season, Gregerson has been flying under the radar ever since.
That one outing was his fourth of the season against the Kansas City Royals. After left-handed starter Dallas Keuchel pitched seven innings of one-run ball, Gregerson came into the game with a 2-1 Astros lead. He proceeded to give up six earned runs on five hits. Including home runs by Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez, and one walk. He was taken out after 0.1 innings of work with an inflated 16.20 ERA.
It took a very long time for Gregerson to bring that ERA down. In his eight outings in the rest of the month of April, he did not give up another earned run. However, his ERA was still at 5.06 at the start of May.
May have a problem.
After a rough month of May in which he gave up seven earned runs in 10 innings of work, Gregerson has been lights out since. He is in the middle of a nine scoreless outing streak. He has posted a 1.54 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP and a .186 batting average against in the month of June.
The majority of the issues that Gregerson has had at his home ballpark. He has given up 14 of his 15 earned runs at Minute Maid Park. Also, opposing batters have hit five of six home runs given up in Houston.
MMP a problem?
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
Part of that may have to do with two things. First, with the short left field porch and the center field wall pushed in, Minute Maid Park has truly developed into a hitter’s paradise. Minute Maid gives up an average of 2.84 home runs per game.
Which is fifth in AL parks, with an average distance of only 387 feet, the lowest in baseball. The second thing is Gregerson, despite throwing a sinker/slider mix primarily, has his lowest ground ball percentage since 2013 and the highest fly ball rate of his career of 34.8 percent.
The difference in 2017 and 2013 is the ballpark though. With such a low ground ball percentage and the second highest fly ball percentage, Gregerson only had 4.9 percent of his fly balls leave the park. Pitching at Petco Park, notoriously known as a pitcher’s park, as a member of the San Diego Padres had a lot to do with that.
Better on the road?
It is obvious that Gregerson pitches better away from Minute Maid Park. In 16.2 innings of work, he has only a 0.54 ERA with a .210 batting average against with a 1.08 WHIP in away ballparks. Also, his strikeouts increase as well, with 22 in 16 outings.
Next: Astros: Chris Devenski is not an All-Star and this is a robbery
With the lack of success in his home ballpark, it does warrant a discussion about dealing for depth in the bullpen with the trade deadline coming so soon. It also puts Gregerson in a very weird spot heading into free agency at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see if he turns it around after the All-Star break.
***Stats provided by Baseball Reference, ESPN.com, MLB.com and FanGraphs***