Examining the Astros overtaxed bullpen situation
The Mop-Up Guys
Here we’ll take a look at the guys who are fixtures in the bullpen but aren’t really candidates for the most important situations. As of now, this includes Chris Devenski, Josh James and Joe Smith.
Devenski’s fall from grace has been difficult to watch. He was one of the game’s best relievers in 2016 and 2017, but 2018 and 2019 have been a different story entirely. He still strikes out hitters at a good pace, but his home run rate has increased and his rate of allowing hits has really spiked.
It’s also not as if he’s had one particularly bad stretch, as he’s been hot and cold pretty much all season. He’s been scored upon in two of his four July appearances, resulting in a season ERA sitting at 4.54. He’s just not a candidate for meaningful innings anymore.
Everyone knows how electric James’ arm is, but that hasn’t translated into sustained success. He strikes out hitters right and left, but he’s also allowing a whopping 5.7 walks per nine innings. He’s also failed to develop any consistency.
Some games he looks like closer material, while in other games he looks just plain lost. If he can’t get his electric repertoire under control, he’s of little use and may end up without a spot on the playoff roster. A slight improvement in that department may push him ahead of Devenski, but right now they’re in a battle to not be the worst guy in the bullpen.
I put Smith on this list simply because he hasn’t pitched yet this season, having just come off the IL. He was solid but unspectacular in 2018, posting a 3.74 ERA in 56 appearances. At age 35 and recovering from an Achilles injury, the Astros may be unsure of what he can give them.
Still, he’s a veteran arm and could move into more of a middle relief role if he can pitch well enough down the stretch. He’s more of a candidate to pitch one inning or less and may be limited to facing right-handed hitters, but there’s a role for him if he can take it.