Astros: Filling Jake Odorizzi’s spot won’t be easy

Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Astros placed Jake Odorizzi on the 15-day injured list Tuesday, recalling Seth Martinez from the taxi squad.

Manager Dusty Baker said on Sports Talk 790 on Tuesday the Houston Astros dodged a bullet with Jake Odorizzi’s injury, not disclosing more on the righty’s status. But prior to Odorizzi’s solid outings and his injury, I had been fairly critical of his time with the Astros, even rating his salary as “Cash on fire” earlier this year.

I don’t think many Astros fans disagreed, especially when you supposedly can’t afford one of the best shortstops in the league, but pay a 32-year-old pitcher $7.8 million to go 6-7 with a 4.21 ERA in 2021 and barely make it to the fifth inning most nights.

When 2022 started very similarly, 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA and 2.56 WHIP in his first three starts, is when the “Cash on fire” article was born.

Something weird happened on my way to being right, though.  Beginning with a start in Arlington on April 26, Odorizzi has become the almost eight million dollar pitcher the Astros thought they were getting when they signed him.

Against the Rangers that night, Odorizzi twirled six innings of one hit ball, allowed one run (a solo home run), struck out four and walked one. Maybe the first number in that sentence — six innings — is the most important, as Odorizzi’s repeated failure to throw more than four or five innings often left the Astros bullpen depleted.

Odorizzi followed that initial good start with two good home starts against Seattle (6.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 K, 1 BB) and Detroit (5 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 BB). After his horrendous beginning to the season, Odorizzi entered Monday’s game in Boston at 3-2, with a 3.38 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.

Once again he pitched well, throwing 66.1% strikes on 62 pitches over five innings and giving up one earned run in the process.

What’s changed for Odorizzi?

Last season he threw the cutter 10.3% of the time and it was smacked all around the park, to the tune of a slash line of .294/.314/.510. Not good. This season the cutter is working  at a slash of .174/.194/.174 and Odorizzi is throwing it almost twice as much (19.8%).

There are various ways that Houston can respond to the Odorizzi injury, but that will likely depend on the severity and length of absence, which haven’t been detailed as of this writing.

It’s going to be a challenge though, because Odorizzi had finally begun to live it to his contract and expectations over the last four starts, giving the Astros 76 pitches, 62.6% strikes, 17 outs and a Game Score of 66 on average.

He had become an effective, efficient pitcher that was eating valuable innings for the team as they nurse Justin Verlander through a post-Tommy John season without Lance McCullers Jr. in the rotation.

3 different ways the Astros can respond to Odorizzi’s injury. dark. Next

Whatever the Astros decide, it’ll be tough to replace the Odorizzi of the last four starts because he was finally pitching like the $7.8 million man.

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