Graveman had been the closer in Seattle and racked up impressive numbers before the deadline deal that brought him to Houston.
In 30 games covering 33 innings with the Seattle Mariners, Graveman was 4-0 with 10 saves in 12 opportunities, a 0.82 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP. Graveman struck out 34 and walked only eight, while giving up only 15 hits in those 33 innings.
Those are very good numbers for a closer with an overachieving team that had little pressure to produce and certainly wasn’t expected to contend.
Graveman would theoretically be under less stress in the setup role with Houston, but the expectations are greater as the Astros were hanging on to a lead in the American League West over Graveman’s former team, the Oakland A’s.
What could go wrong? Early on nothing, as the Stanek, Graveman, Pressly trio worked to perfection. Sure Graveman was new to being a reliever, but he adapted well in Seattle, so surely with a better team around him he could only be better, right?
Kendall Graveman has lost his control and has battled “mechanical issues” since he ended up with the Astros.
But a funny thing happened on the way to rolling through the division title as Graveman lost his control and has become a question mark as the Astros chase the AL Pennant and perhaps another World Series ring.
The guy who could do no wrong in Seattle has struggled with his control with Houston. In 22 regular season games, across 21.2 innings as an Astro, Graveman has no saves while blowing three.
He’s still striking out over nine per nine innings, but a walk rate of 2.18/9 innings as a Mariner has exploded into 4.98 walks per nine as an Astro. He’s also giving up more hits (8.31/9 IP) and his WHIP has more than doubled to 1.48 with Houston as a result.
I remained confident that Graveman was still the setup guy that the Astros needed in the postseason and even after a shaky outing in Game 1 of the Division series with the White Sox, I chalked it up to zero previous postseason appearances and thought the nerves would be gone.
After game 2 my confidence is waning as Graveman’s ERA over the two outings at Minute Maid Park is 4.50 his WHIP is 2.50 and my stress level is teetering on dangerous levels. He’s given up three hits, two walks and a run in two innings appearing in the first two games
Here’s the thing: Despite there being no real threat in a 9-4 game coming in the ninth inning in Game 2, how much trust is left in a pitcher who for more than two months has not been close to what he was before, not close to what you thought you were getting?
Now is not the time to try and figure things out. It’s go time.
At some point you have to wonder if Graveman’s built for the pressure and expectations. When the Astros reach that point is the question. It’ll be fascinating to see how Dusty Baker manages the backend of his bullpen as the postseason progresses.