Astros’ Musgrove and Martes will battle for bullpen role in playoffs

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 14: Pitcher Joe Musgrove #59 of the Houston Astros talks with fans before the start of the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 14, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 14: Pitcher Joe Musgrove #59 of the Houston Astros talks with fans before the start of the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 14, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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The Astros have more than a month to get their players healthy for the playoffs. We look at the last piece for the playoffs bullpen.

The Astros are a virtual lock for the playoffs this year, but they need to stay ahead of the Red Sox. If they maintain the lead of the Red Sox, then they will have home-field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. The only NL team that would have home-field advantage over the Astros would be the Dodgers.

The Astros have 38 games left in the season, and the bullpen is looking better. With Will Harris on a rehab assignment, the bullpen is about to get one of their main cogs back. With September approaching, they will be able to add some additional arms to the bullpen when rosters expand. Jordan Jankowski will not be one of those relievers as the Dodgers claimed him.

Francisco Liriano aboard pitching better, it is unlikely that Tony Sipp makes the postseason roster. I think that the Astros also carry a 13th hitter with speed like Tony Kemp or someone similar. Mike Fiers also doesn’t make my postseason roster but will continue to start in the regular season. However, the biggest decision will be for the 12th pitcher, unless they go with 13 pitchers.

Joe Musgrove and Francis Martes both have reasons why they should make the postseason roster. A.J. Hinch may want both, but who would serve the team better in the playoffs? Both pitchers have spent time in the rotation this year, but have pitched better out of the bullpen.

A look at Martes.

Martes’ future is in the rotation, and when he is on, he can make hitters look silly. As a reliever, he can throw in the upper 90’s hitting 100 mph occasionally. As a starter this year, Martes was 2-0 with a 4.08 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. Martes has a 5.11 ERA while striking out 33 hitters in 24 2/3 innings as a reliever. Also of note, Martes has finished seven games this year, with no saves.

Martes does struggle with control at times with the 24 walks in 42 1/3 innings in 2017. He often get’s himself into trouble with multiple runners on base with only one out or so. Martes has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter or a back of the bullpen reliever. Does his power stuff justify including him on a possible playoff roster?

A look at Musgrove.

Then you have what Musgrove can do out of the bullpen. Most people don’t remember how Musgrove pitched in his MLB debut last year out of the bullpen. While he may have grown up wanting to be a starter, he sure looks the part of a Brad Peacock type reliever who can go multiple innings.

Unlike Martes, Musgrove struggled a little as a starter this year with a 4-8 record with a 6.12 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 78 innings. Like Martes, Musgrove did show his potential in several games this year. Not too many people would have expected him to have the success in the bullpen that he is having.

As a reliever, Musgrove is 1-0 with a brilliant 0.59 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings. Those stats have come from the ten games he has appeared as a reliever. He has gone two or more innings in three of those ten relief appearances. More impressive is the fact that he has allowed zero homers as a reliever compared to the 16 he allowed as a starter.

The verdict?

Without the big addition at the trade deadline, the Astros will pitch Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh in the playoffs. What happens if they can’t go deep into the games or have an early exit? It helps to have a reliever who can not only eat up innings but also be effective limiting the other offense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Peacock and Musgrove both be used in long-relief roles in the playoffs.

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There is a long time before Hinch and company need to make a decision, but this will not matter if all players are not healthy. I think Musgrove gets the nod here from his recent work. Martes needs to improve his pitch efficiency before he can be considered for the playoff roster. He has 38 games to work out the kinks.

***Stats from Baseball-Reference***