Astros: Odorizzi’s improvement not enough to earn trust of Astros brass

Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

Jake Odorizzi has since apologized for his frustrations, but his recent production still hasn’t earned the Astros’ trust.

I’m not going to convince you that Jake Odorizzi is having a good season for the Houston Astros, I don’t even believe that myself.  But I am going to tell you he’s improved since I last wrote about him the first week of August.

Back then his average exit velocity was in the 15th percentile, hard hit % in the 14th percentile and chase rate in the 18% percentile, meaning all three were in the bottom 20% of MLB.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a terrible season. Since I wrote that article, Odorizzi’s had six starts covering 31 innings, given up 28 hits, 10 earned runs, struck out 28 and walked 10.  That’s a 2.90 ERA, 8.13 K’s and 2.9 BBs per nine innings for those keeping count at home.

Odorizzi’s ERA since that first article on Aug. 7 is better than those of Lance McCullers, Zack Greinke, Luis Garcia or Jose Urquidy and is the 21st best in MLB during that span.

So the question is simple. What more exactly is he expected to do?  He can’t get outs in the sixth inning if he isn’t allowed to pitch in the sixth inning. Odorizzi expressed his frustration after being pulled after five innings on Tuesday after throwing 66 pitches, 45 for strikes (68%) and giving up two runs in five innings against Seattle.

With that context, I understand his frustration.  He’s throwing strikes, averaging 13 pitches per inning, it’s a tie game and he’s a competitor.

Unfortunately for Odorizzi the additional context is that he has a 13.50 ERA in the sixth inning this season, giving up 10 hits, four home runs and walked three while getting only 14 outs. It’s easy to understand why Dusty Baker and Brent Strom don’t want to chance a third trip through the order in a game of this importance with the Mariners surging, passing Oakland and challenging Houston for the AL West lead.

So, sure, I understand why Baker pulled Odorizzi.  But I also get Odorizzi’s point: You asked me to pitch better, I’m doing just that and I still get pulled. It was a risk Baker couldn’t and probably shouldn’t have taken, and I say that despite Yimi Garcia giving up a homer to break the tie in a game the Astros eventually won in extras.

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In a different game situation, with a different score and a different spot in the pennant race, sure, let him start the sixth.  But not in that situation with so much on the line. Odorizzi eventually issued an explanation and clarification of his postgame comments, but the damage may be done.

Unfortunately for Odorizzi his recent numbers haven’t erased the first 14 starts of the season from the memory of Baker, Strom or the fans. Odorizzi and the team have said all the right things since the post game kerfuffle, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens moving forward, especially when Greinke is ready and if no other starters are unable to go.

Trust is generally earned early in a relationship and built on from there. Six good starts haven’t erased the memory of the first 14. First impressions are lasting and the impression of Odorizzi’s first 14 starts may last forever in Houston.

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