Don’t worry Astros fans, Cristian Javier is still worthy of the starting rotation despite getting shelled against Oakland.
Cristian Javier kind of got shelled in the Houston Astros final disastrous game in Oakland, but the series was a complete bust as a whole, so don’t crucify the guy. And while I am a firm believer in the old adage that “once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, three times is the real deal,” Javier’s burnout in his third start doesn’t mean that it’s just a coincidence that he was good in the two games prior.
In his first two starts, Javier through 11.2 innings for the Astros, gave up just one earned run on six hits, struck out ten, and, my favorite (and I blame Josh James for this)—surrendered just two walks.
Javier’s numbers did not look good against Oakland, but really they only looked bad because of those three home runs. Everything else looked pretty business as usual. So what went wrong? Well, it may have something to do with pitch combinations.
Cristian Javier’s pitch quality shows big picture sticking quality
Javier traditionally operates with fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball. No matter how you shake-up his three complementary pitches on fangraphs, there is no clear deterioration. He relies on different pitches depending on what’s working.
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What wasn’t working against Oakland was his fastball. That is the big hiccup in those numbers. Having a fastball that’s in the positive wFA/C is a must-have for any pitcher who throws majority fastballs—so pretty much every pitcher, essentially—and Javier’s fastball failed him, dipping to -8.11.
I mean, compare that to Gerrit Cole. In four starts with the Yankees, he has only not won one of them. And it was the only start his fastball effectiveness dipped to -1.41. Unsurprisingly, his curveball then dipped to -6.40. Without an establishing fastball, even Gerrit Cole can surrender three runs.
So seeing Javier’s inability to establish a fastball ripple into his other pitches is no surprise. It happens to the best pitchers in the game and it’s no cause for concern. For a 22-year-old, the only thing he needs to do is learn how to better control those situations.
Which, honestly, he didn’t do a bad job of despite the final line on the day.
Promisingly, Javier kept a good grasp on his slider and his curve. I’m moreso impressed by that than I am concerned about the end result of the game because, again to contrast Gerrit Cole, when Cole loses his fastball, the value on the rest of his pitches tumble across the board. In that one not-as-good start, Cole saw negative pitch values across the board. And as rare as a negative day was for Cole in Houston last year, they all generally took on the same look—lost the fastball, lose the rest. Granted, rarely to the extent that Javier lost his fastball against Oakland, but Cole is a veteran, Javier is a rookie.
Despite that loss, Javier has kept a positive slider value in every start (yes, even against Oakland) and a positive fastball value in all but that one poor start. That isn’t a cause for concern, it’s a cause for celebration. Again, I’m moreso impressed he kept such excellent value in his breaking pitches. Something even Gerrit Cole doesn’t always manage to do.