Brandon Bielak looked like the real deal, but the Houston Astros need one big step forward from him, and that one big step is abundantly clear.
You couldn’t find a more stark contrast in a starting pitcher than in Brandon Bielak‘s last five games on the hill for the Houston Astros. For three straight starts, he went 5.0, 5.0, and 6.0 innings, giving up just three earned runs in that time.
Sure, he was walking a bit too many batters (8 in 16 innings), but he was mitigating the damage and preventing it from getting out of hand. That’s what you want out of a pitcher, right? To adjust to the situation and make necessary changes to escape danger.
Danger caught up in a big way, first against the San Diego Padres, then against the Angels. In those two games, he combined for just 2.0 innings pitched while giving up 11 runs, 10 earned.
Brandon Bielak needs to reset to move forward with the Astros
So where does Bielak go from here? Well, that’s pretty clear. He needs to keep adjusting. It was clear when he faced the Padres—after his best outing of the year against the Rockies—that they had the beat on him.
It was clear that the Angels had that same beat.
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Whether he’s tipping pitches or just something is off mechanically, Bielak is not the pitcher he was through those first three starts.
Talking specifics, there are some clear things he can do to get himself back on track, but the biggest is to stop walking people. Please, please stop walking people. He’s got 15 walks in just 23.1 total innings this year.
Bielak’s pitches aren’t spinning any less, he isn’t throwing more balls out of the zone or getting considerably less swinging strikes. Batters just have the jump on him. He’s not fooling hitters anymore. His fastball and slider have gotten positively rocked these past two starts and that might mean relying on his secondary pitches more. HIs cutter was surprisingly effective against the Angels, and so was his curveball.
Maybe that’s all it takes—a shift in dominant pitches.
Thankfully, the Astros have Brent Strom to figure this all out. I can’t imagine a guy I’d rather have trying to solve this mystery than Strom.
Bielak still has the goods, he just has to get past this first major hurdle of his professional career. He’s shown an ability to adjust in game from inning to inning, now we just need to see some big picture changes to ensure that his next steps keep him moving forward, not back.