The Astros bullpen situation appears to be settling down.
The Houston Astros are now 17-9 in the first 26 games of the 2018 season. They have 17 wins with Ken Giles only recording two saves. Giles had 34 saves in 101 wins last year, equalling about one save for every three wins. This year, he is getting a save every 8.5 wins. The saves will come, but his 2018 season has gotten off to a weird start.
With their dynamic offense and rotation, there is not always a three-run or less lead in the ninth inning. The Astros do have five saves on the season, which puts them closer to a save every three games. For various reasons, Giles has not always got the call this season. Chris Devenski has two saves, and Brad Peacock has added one as well.
We all know that Giles struggled in the playoffs last year, the Astros won the World Series despite this. Coming into the season, the team was saying all the right stuff about Giles. They still had confidence in their flame-throwing closer. On opening day, Giles allowed one run and two hits in the ninth inning of that game. When he came in the game, it was a four-run lead. Giles did not qualify for the save but still got the final three outs.
Is he the closer?
From that point on, things got weird. Astros manager A.J. Hinch brought Giles pitch in an 8-2 blowout win in Arlington on April 1st. It could have been to just work in, but then they did not use him again until the 6th of April in a 4-1 loss where he gave up a run. Twenty days later, Giles has yet to give up another run in his appearances.
He missed the Mariners series with back discomfort but did pitch twice versus the White Sox and the Angels. His last appearance resulted in him getting his second save. It was that game that it looked like Giles had regained the trust of the manager and his own confidence. Devenski came into the eighth inning with Giles getting the final three outs. Hinch may change things up occasionally because of matchups.
Now that the dust has settled, we see that Giles is having a good season despite the uncertainty. Overall, Giles has a 2.00 ERA with only four strikeouts in nine innings pitched. He has yet to allow a walk or a homer. Known as a strikeout pitcher, he may be pitching to more contact. According to Fangraphs, his average fastball has dropped from 98.1 mph to 97.3 mph this year. He is still throwing the slider at 87 mph.
Could the drop in velocity be leading to the lack of strikeouts? Either way, he appears to be back in the closer’s saddle. Devenski looks to get the first crack at getting saves if Giles is unavailable. However, Devenski is also the best weapon against left-handed hitters. It will take time to regain the trust of Astros fans, but any concerns can be wiped away with a better showing in October.
***Stats from Fangraphs***