Astros: Ryan Pressly adapting well to closing role in 2021

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros haven’t had that dominant closer that is worthy of breaking any save thresholds or records in their tenure. From Ken Giles to Roberto Osuna more recently, these two came with a lot of baggage, and with Ryan Pressly mostly being a setup man in his career, the closing role was a new thing to climb.

In 2020, Osuna started the season taking the ninth inning, but after going down with Tommy John surgery, the Astros looked to Pressly to fill the void. As the front office didn’t reel in any possible replacements in free agency, they gave Pressly the nod, while he entered his first season knowing his role would be different.

Ryan Pressly is adapting well to his new role, when he had over a month to prepare for it.

As the two “positions” are totally different based on skill and ability, the tensions and stress that comes with being a closer isn’t something all pitchers can adapt to. While Pressly was an All-Star eighth inning arm in 2019, the Astros acquired the right-hander during the 2018 season, as he tossed 71 innings split between Houston and Minnesota.

During spring training, it looked like non-roster invite Steve Cishek was a possible option to take the ninth, but with little-to-no success in recent years, the sidewinder ended up not even making the roster. With this in mind, it was evident that Pressly would enter the 2021 season knowing that his role would be different, which comes with different ways of preparing.

With 11 games (12 innings) under his belt in 2021, the right-hander is turning around after a rocky season in 2020. While there hasn’t been too many chances for possible save situations due to the Astros’ blowing teams out and to their losing streak, I praise Pressly for not being pulled once this season during a relief appearance. The right-hander has only allowed three runs (two earned) thus far, leading to a 1.50 ERA.

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Pressly is walking batters at such a low rate, as his strikeout rate is 9.8 per nine innings. This fan rate is down about three notches compared to recent years, but there is a difference in his mound approach that could be leading to this. The right-hander is still averaging at least a strikeout per inning, but with there being an abundance of arms looking for contact outs, the Astros will need a flamethrower in the backend of the bullpen fanning hitters.

As Pressly relied on his slider (42%) the most in 2020, he has changed up his arsenal. His fastball now dominates most of his usage (40%), which could be leading to more contact outs. With his slider and curveball right behind him, the right-hander has also added a sinker to his pitches but has only thrown it twice this season.

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