One key to the Astros’ 2017 success lies in the results from unexpected sources.
This time last season, Joe Musgrove was just getting his feet wet in the majors. As a starting pitcher. And he did relatively well within a short time in the Astros starting rotation.
2016 statistics as a starter: 62 IP, 59 H, 28 R, 16 BB, 55 SO, 4.06 ERA, 4.18 FIP
It’s funny how things change in a year, isn’t it?
Fast forward to today and Musgrove is no longer a member of the Astros starting rotation.
2017 statistics as a starter: 78 IP, 95 H, 54 R, 23 BB, 67 SO, 6.12 ERA, 5.06 FIP
The hope of Musgrove stepping up in the rotation this season was a common thought in the offseason. And you weren’t wrong for thinking in such a manner. But young pitchers like Musgrove need time and patience. It became clear though that he wasn’t going to be the answer in the rotation this year.
Usually, we could expect a young pitcher like Musgrove to be placed in the minors when he struggles and stay there for longer than seven innings. Yes, Musgrove threw only seven innings for the Fresno Grizzlies this season.
However, the Astros decided to place Musgrove in the bullpen. And the decision has been a smashing success thus far.
2017 statistics as a reliever: 28.2 IP, 19 H, 5 R, 5 BB, 28 SO, 1.57 ERA, 2.84 FIP
As one can summarize from the numbers, Musgrove has been an effective reliever. For an Astros’ bullpen that was scuffling earlier this summer, Musgrove’s unexpected development in the bullpen has been a tremendous positive.
One key has been Musgrove’s ability to throw harder in shorter outings.
As you may know, a pitcher can, for lack of a better term, go “all-out” on how hard they throw when pitching out of relief. Relievers naturally have shorter outing than their starter brethren.
For example, Musgrove averaged a fastball velocity of 91.8 MPH in his last start on July 15th. In his latest pitching appearance as a reliever on September 16th, the average fastball velocity was 95 MPH. Without digging too much more, it is reasonable to deduce that Musgrove’s increased velocity could be one reason behind his resurgence.
In the long-term, the Astros will likely give Musgrove another look as a starting pitcher. I probably would as well. As far as 2017 is concerned, he will remain in the bullpen. And he could be a valuable pitcher to use come the postseason.
**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs**