The Astros best move during the trade deadline has been the acquisition of a certain reliever from Minnesota.
Ryan Pressly made his Astros debut on July 28th against the Rangers. It wasn’t a particularly noteworthy one as the former Twin surrendered a home run to Rougned Odor in the seventh inning. The end result was a 7-3 loss for Houston. It was also the beginning of a difficult stretch of home defeats.
Here is the interesting part of that game, though: Pressly finished with the second-highest average spin rate of any pitcher who threw at least ten pitches that day. In fact, only Ray Black of the Giants (2942 RPM) had a higher average spin rate than Pressly on July 28th (2783 RPM).
Unfortunately for Pressly, his introduction to the team was quickly overshadowed by the controversial acquisition of Roberto Osuna. His potential impact on the club wasn’t fully appreciated in my opinion. Of course, I even wasn’t expecting the level of success he has had since joining the Astros.
Ryan Pressly in 2018
w/ Twins: 47 2/3 IP, 3.40 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 33.2% K%, 9.1% BB%
w/ Astros: 20 IP, 0.90 ERA, 1.65 FIP, 36.6% K%, 2.8% BB%
Only seven relievers with at least ten innings pitched have a lower wOBA than Pressly (.168 wOBA) since July 28th. He has also been the best reliever on the Astros’ staff during the same time period. If you’d take away Odor’s home run during his Houston debut, Pressly has a 0.47 ERA and a .147 wOBA. Simply impressive.
One reason behind Pressly’s effectiveness in Houston is the enhanced focus on his curveball. Here is breakdown of his pitch usage with the Twins and Astros.
Pitch Usage Breakdown, 2018
w/ Twins: 48.5% FB%, 27.0% SL%, 24.5% CB%
w/ Astros: 35.2% FB%, 26.5% SL%, 38.3% CB%
Out of all relievers with at least 25 results on curveballs since July 28th, Pressly has the lowest wOBA (.050) for the pitch. Heck, his curveball only has a .108 expected wOBA. To nobody’s surprise, the Astros have acquired another pitcher who has a potent curveball. The team is kind of known for having their pitchers lean more on curveballs, especially when brought in from rival organizations. For the season, Pressly’s curveball has the highest average spin rate for all relievers at 3224 RPM. Spin rate doesn’t necessarily translate into success, but it is clear that his curveball is a lively pitch.
Pressly has been a revelation in the Astros’ bullpen. In one calendar year, the team’s bullpen looks a bit different, which is an impressive feat to pull off for a defending World Series champion. If the Astros have the good fortune of repeating, I have a feeling Pressly will play a key role.