The Astros may have multiple closers on this team depending on who is hot.
Close your eyes and think back to early March. Astros fans were concerned that Hector Rondon wouldn’t be ready for the season to start. After falling out of favor with the Cubs, the Astros were able to sign Rondon after he was granted free agency. Outside of Chris Devenski and Collin McHugh, Rondon has been one of the best relievers in 2018.
Rondon struggled with command in his fallout with the Cubs, posting 3.1 walks per nine innings pitched. This season, he is limiting opposing offenses to a .231 batting average, with a 1.08 WHIP. Rondon has a 1-1 record with a 1.50 ERA while striking out 29 hitters in 24 innings pitched.
With the Astros help, Rondon rediscovered the form that had him saving 29 and 30 games with the Cubs. At the start of the season, it was assumed that Ken Giles would be the closer. Most people were hesitant of trusting Giles after his struggles in the playoffs. While Giles is 10-10 in save opportunities this year, Rondon has gotten the last two saves.
Is there a new closer in the fold for the Astros?
While AJ Hinch (via Jake Kaplan) said that Rondon would get some save chances, it doesn’t mean that Giles will not get any more. Hinch brought Giles into the game in the sixth inning of last nights game because of the importance of the game at the moment. Also, Giles had not been used since Thursday, while the rest of the bullpen has seen a lot of action recently.
Giles pitched an effective 1 2/3 innings to keep the game tied. Overall, Giles season has not been great on the surface. He has a 0-1 record with a 4.98 ERA while striking out 21 hitters in 21 1/3 innings. Despite his struggles, Giles has only allowed one homer and two walks. The issue is his .281 batting average. He has had trouble putting hitters away.
That’s what Hinch alluded to by saying that, ”Kenny is having a hard time having clean innings.” Hinch doesn’t believe in having a designated closer but rather likes to go with the hot hand. Rondon has been lights out recently, so Hinch went with him. He now has three saves this week.
Last Thursday, Giles came in with a non-save situation.
In save situations this year, Giles has a zero ERA in ten games. However, in the other 14 games, he has an 8.53 ERA in non-save situations. Granted, I understand that he can’t pitch only in save situations. But a team so statistically driven should notice a trend. Giles should get the saves, and he will get his chances.
While Hinch deserves a lot of credit for managing this team, his handling of the bullpen is puzzling at times. Hinch hinted that we could see a record for the most relievers with saves. Who will get the save on any given night? Right now it appears to be Rondon. Next week could be a different story. Let’s enjoy some Astros baseball.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***