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Astros: Roberto Osuna should remain Houston’s closer

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BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 09: Roberto Osuna #54 of the Houston Astros celebrates with Robinson Chirinos #28 after a 3-2 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 9, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 09: Roberto Osuna #54 of the Houston Astros celebrates with Robinson Chirinos #28 after a 3-2 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 9, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /
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There seems to be a doubt in the minds of some Astros fans whether Roberto Osuna should still be the closer. Be patient Houston, he’ll be just fine.

I understand where the fans are coming from. It can be very frustrating to watch the Astros take the lead with a dramatic comeback in the top of the ninth, only to see Osuna give up three runs in the bottom half for the loss and a blown save. It can make for a real roller coaster of emotions.

Take a deep breath, relax, and look at the big picture. Osuna is still one of the top closers in the League. He’s third in the League with 26 saves, has a respectable 3.04 ERA, and owns the fifth-best WHIP at 0.91.

The unbelievable start to the season is to blame here. In Osuna’s first 21 games, he allowed just one earned run for an ERA of 0.42 and he was 2-0 with 12 saves to his name. He only allowed nine batters to reach base, seven hits and two walks, in 21.1 innings of work over that span for a 0.42 WHIP. Those kinds of stats simply spoiled the fans. But it’s unrealistic to expect Osuna to perform like a Super Hero throughout the entire season.

In May and June, he had more pedestrian numbers but were still respectable. In almost the exact same workload as his miraculous start to the season, Osuna went 1-1, had ten saves and blew three saves. He had an ERA of 2.91 and his WHIP rose to 1.06 in his 21.2 innings of work for those two months.

Then comes July, and a noticeable drop in performance came with it. In 10.2 innings Osuna’s ERA was 4.22 and his WHIP went up to 1.313. But he still collected seven saves and had just one blown save. But none-the-less, fans were beginning to have concerns and maybe rightly so.

One interesting thing I noticed was there seemed to be a change in his approach to the game. In April – June, Osuna threw fastballs right around 61% of the time and breaking balls accounted for approximately 22-26% of his pitches. Then in July, the usage of his fastball increased to 71% and breaking ball pitches dropped way down to 7%. Quite a significant change in pitch selection.

It’s even more puzzling when you consider that opposing batters are slugging .427 and striking out just 19.2% of the time against his fastballs. In the meantime, with his breaking balls, they are striking out at a 39.4% rate and slugging just .235. In fact 26 of the 35 hits he’s surrendered came off of the fastball, along with four of the five homers he allowed.

It’s now August and although a very small sample to gauge from, his pitch selection seems to be returning closer to what he was doing prior to July. The first two games in August he was getting good results. It was that third game, last night’s game, that things came a little unhinged. But interestingly enough that home run actually came off an offspeed pitch.

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But let’s give him the benefit of doubt and see what he does here on out. I think the talent is still there, and if we’re patient enough, we’ll see Osuna get back to his more successful ways. I really feel he’s still the pitcher the Astros will and should depend on to close out the tight games for the remainder of the season and into the postseason.

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