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Astros AM Breakdown: Collin McHugh deserves more love

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HOUSTON, TX - MAY 12: Collin McHugh #31 of the Houston Astros pitches in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on May 12, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 12: Collin McHugh #31 of the Houston Astros pitches in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on May 12, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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The Astros’ bullpen has been a sort of lightning rod this season. But there has been one pitcher who has stepped up in his role in an unexpected way. 

When the Astros acquired Gerrit Cole from the Pirates over the winter, Collin McHugh was essentially forced to the bullpen. Not exactly a promotion for a pitcher who has posted a 3.70 ERA over 102 starts from 2014 to 2017. 

Fast forward to July 2nd, and McHugh finds himself making noise as a reliever.

Over the course of 37 innings this season, McHugh, as a reliever, has posted a 0.97 ERA. Kirby Yates of the Padres and Blake Treinen of the A’s are the only qualified relievers with a lower ERA this season. That’s not bad company. 

In light of his performance for the defending World Series champion, it’s somewhat strange not seeing McHugh garner more attention. Let me list out a few of McHugh’s metrics and where he ranks in the majors out of each category. Please note that these metrics and rankings are based on qualified relievers, which was 169 pitchers entering Monday. 

  • 36.2% strikeout rate (9th-highest)

  • 6.4% walk rate (45th-lowest)

  • 29.8% strikeout-to-walk rate (10th-highest)

  • 2.02 FIP (12th-lowest)

McHugh, by the numbers, has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season. Over 37 innings, he has held opposing batters to a .217 wOBA. That’s quite good. In fact, the only glaring knock on McHugh I could find was his lack of exposure in high leverage situations.

McHugh in high leverage situations, 2018

  • 7 total batters faced

  • 2 hits

  • 1 home run

  • 4 strikeouts

  • 2 runs (1 earned run)

  • .417 wOBA

Over the course of 37 total innings, McHugh has only pitched in a high leverage situation in 1 2/3 of those innings. Honestly, one could make an argument for McHugh to be used more in high leverage situations.

Simply put, McHugh deserves more love and attention from everyone. While he doesn’t have a high-nineties fastball, the calling card of top relievers today, McHugh has generated the results of a top reliever. Perhaps an All-Star reliever?

By the numbers, the answer should be a resounding yes. The question going forward for McHugh is whether his time in more high leverage situations will come? If so, how would he perform? If this year’s numbers hold any weight, it may be a good indication that he would succeed. I wouldn’t bet against him at this point.

Houston Astros News and Notes From Around FanSided

Alex Bregman’s out to be an All-Star for the first time [Climbing Tal’s Hill – Eric Huysman]

Trade Rumors: Interest in Reds’ closer Raisel Iglesias? [Climbing Tal’s Hill – Cody Poage]

AJ Hinch should give the starting rotation some rest [Call To The Pen – Kyle Cardoza]

More Houston Astros and General Baseball News From Around the Internet

Astros’ Joe Smith completes rehab assignment with Class AA [Houston Chronicle – Chandler Rome]

Most monumental free-agent decisions in MLB history [MLB.com – Manny Randhawa]

Next: Time to review the minor league All-Stars

We hope you enjoyed this edition of the Astros AM Breakdown.

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