Cristian Javier has been lights out this postseason, but if the World Series comes back to Houston, he could be lined up for a key role.
In mid-July, I wrote about how valuable a pitcher like Cristian Javier can be to a bullpen, especially one like the Houston Astros that have had starting pitchers struggle to make it to, and past, the fifth inning.
I detailed how Javier started hot, cooled as his control wavered and ultimately became a long-man out of the ‘pen. He threw at least three innings on four separate occasions saving arms in the process.
Somewhere along the line, Javier became the odd man out, getting only five appearances in August, which may have had something to do with the five walks in 8.1 innings he threw that month.
It deteriorated even further in September when 12.2 innings brought nine earned runs, four home runs, eight walks and a 6.39 ERA for the month. Javier never started another game and ended the regular season with a 3.14 ERA, 10.73 K/9 and 3.88 BB/9 in nine starts.
Those numbers changed drastically in his 27 appearances as a reliever: 3.93 ERA, 12.30 K/9, 5.47 BB/9 and he gave up more hits (6.49/9 vs. 5.36) and more home runs (1.54/9 vs. 1.29/9).
Javier had more strikeouts, but also more hits, more walks and more home runs per nine as a reliever.
Javier’s been good in the postseason, throwing nine shutout innings, giving up only four hits and striking out 15, but there have been five walks. For whatever reason Javier’s control is not the same as a reliever. That 0.00 ERA could easily be 2.00 or 3.00.
Walks are deadly in the postseason, especially the World Series, but Javier has been able to dance around them, usually with a slider that opponents are batting only .089 against.
There’s the rub. The good Javier doesn’t get hit much. He only gave up six hits per nine innings in the regular season and four in his nine postseason innings so far this year. But the walks are concerning, whether he has to deal with them himself or the pitcher replacing him gets that task.
Sooner or later those walks will come back to bite. The national broadcast was surprised Javier was replaced with one out in the bottom of the seventh Tuesday after a walk to Dansby Swanson in a 6-2 game.
I wasn’t. I’ve seen this before. A beautiful strikeout, followed by an inexplicable walk to the nine-hole hitter. When things unravel for Javier, they unravel quickly and the World Series is not a place to hope he won’t walk the next guy.
Javier’s still a valuable piece, especially given the state of the Astros staff. He can be electric and dominating, but you also have to watch closely for signs of trouble.
Game 4 awaits and it’s a critical one for Houston. Zack Greinke has been handed the ball to start and that means the Astros are going to rely heavily on the bullpen.
Look for Javier to be the first guy out of the pen because he can provide some length if he’s on, maybe saving an arm or two.
Whether it’s tonight or Game 5 or another game, one thing’s for sure: The Astros are going to need Javier if they’re going to win this thing.
The piece of the bullpen that was all but forgotten down the stretch is going to play a key part if the Astros are going to bring the World Championship back to Houston.