How the Astros choose to deploy Chris Devenski in 2018 will be interesting to watch.
Chris Devenski struck out 31.7% of the batters he faced last season. Only Ken Giles with 33.6% finished with a higher strikeout percentage than Devenski out of all qualified relievers for the Astros. He made short and long relief appearances. The team trusted with him a multitude of assignments. The age-27 right-hander was a key bullpen cog and will likely be counted upon again in a similar role in this upcoming season.
Or will he?
There isn’t much to question about the importance of Devenski in the bullpen. While he does have five major league starts to his credit in 2016, the Astros would have to be in a bind to start him. But his ability to start has allowed the team to stretch out his appearances from the bullpen. Devenski made 22 appearances of at least 1.1 innings last season.
Devenski infamously started the 2017 season in style with two four inning appearances back-to-back in April. Nearly ten percent of his total innings pitched came on just two appearances. That’s not common even for a heavily utilized reliever. Interestingly enough, the Astros didn’t force Devenski to pitch more than 2.2 innings in a single appearance throughout the remaining duration of the season.
It is fair to wonder about Devenski’s exact role, because of a few reasons.
For one, Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock will likely take up residence in the bullpen to start the season. Barring a sudden rash of injuries, both pitchers will likely take on the long relief role that Devenski occupied the past two seasons. Don’t forget Devenski finished fourth in total innings pitched for a reliever (80.2 innings) despite appearing in 62 games, which was the 83rd-highest amount for a reliever.
With McHugh and Peacock in the equation right now, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Astros limited Devenski’s total innings pitched in 2018. He was much more effective in the first half (.222 wOBA allowed) compared to the second half (.303 wOBA allowed).
Looking ahead, Devenski will once again be a key reliever for the Astros. In combination with Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, he will be used in a conjunction of ways. One such role would be to set up Giles. There could be instances when he could finish the game if Giles is unavailable. But I think we will see Devenski more in short appearances than long appearances. And for the Astros and Devenski, this could be for the better.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs**