With a walk-off grand slam headlining all Houston Astros’ coverage last night and this morning, we can’t ignore the fact that Jake Odorizzi excelled out of the bullpen. Many struggling starters will find their niche in the ‘pen, but with his contract and ceiling in the mix, Odorizzi will be back in the starting rotation next Monday, as the team moves to a six-man.
Coming into Tuesday’s action, Odorizzi only had three relief appearances in his entire 10-year career. But with every new turn of a page, it made sense that the right-hander wasn’t entering the game with the bases loaded following Lance McCullers Jr.’s departure. Blake Taylor took the reins, while walking in a run, he still got out of the inning. Odorizzi entered in the sixth inning and went on a four scoreless inning appearance. The right-hander only allowed two hits to his three punch outs.
We have pointed to velocity and command being down for Odorizzi in 2021. While collecting a nice chunk of the spare money under the competitive balance tax threshold, fans had every right to be flustered with his poor performances as a starter, but the Astros have found a possible solution to boost his outings.
What would help Jake Odorizzi excel the most?
I took a spin at three possible ways to boost Odorizzi’s production after his shaky outing in Boston last week. After that start, McCullers was soon to return, which triggered the question of who falls to the bullpen? We know now there is no case of anyone falling at the moment, but with Odorizzi’s struggles coming in the first or second time through the heart of the order, an opener would be helpful.
On the roster, Ryne Stanek is the definition of an opener. The right-hander was teammates with Odorizzi in 2017 with the Tampa Bay Rays, where he helped define the role. This analytical move hasn’t been seen in manager Dusty Baker’s arsenal of coaching, but it would benefit Odorizzi immensely.
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The right-hander was signed late coming off an injury and has had a quick push to the majors in 2021, so there are factors to his poor production. The case stands that Odorizzi went four scoreless innings on Tuesday, something he hasn’t done all season. If Stanek or even Cristian Javier, who has a new, redefined role, open the game and eat through one or two innings, Odorizzi could pitch up to five or six against a more worn out version of the lineup.
The fourth (13.50) and fifth (11.57) innings are where we see Odorizzi’s ERA plummet the most. His outing on Tuesday was his first time this season exiting without allowing a run, excluding his injury that came after one out recorded on April 24. Odorizzi isn’t a bad pitcher of any sort, but it’s survive and adapt. And for his best production, the Astros should look to an opener to boost their win probability.