Signed to $1.1 million prior to the 2021 season, Ryne Stanek’s role with the Houston Astros started in low leverage as expected. The experienced righty was in a bullpen leaning on young contributors who broke out on the scene the season prior.
While injuries hit the staff, Stanek’s role grew. The then 29-year-old found himself pitching in more tight contests in the eighth and sometimes ninth inning, while mainly an opener two seasons before with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Now, Stanek is one of the three closer options the Astros can turn to if Ryan Pressly is unavailable, and so far in the 2022 season, he has one save in one opportunity. But through his 21 outings, Stanek has sustained a 0.95 ERA and a 3.46 FIP, while striking out 8.1 batter per-nine-innings — a career low.
As Ryne Stanek is striking out less batters, the right-hander is seeing his best production over six major-league seasons.
Stanek’s three pitch arsenal almost mirrors its usage breakdown from 2021. The right-hander is throwing his four-seam fastball 61% of the time, mixing in his split finger and slider about 20% each.
With almost minute differences in vertical and horizontal movement, Stanek’s pitches look almost the exact same with a minor increase in average velocity. His fastball and his split finger are leaving with lower exit velocities on average compared to last season, but Stanek’s slider sits with a higher xwOBA than last year because it’s not actually being hit to pull a stronger sample.
Ranking in the top-three percent of wOBA and top-nine percent of xBA, Stanek is having his best season to date although striking out roughly three less batters per nine innings. With an increase in chase rate and a lack of barrels found, the righty’s pitch placement is becoming more effective in his second year with Houston.
Walks have always been a thorn in Stanek’s performance. But since signing with the Astros, the right-hander has neighbored his walks per nine innings that he posted with the Rays from 2017-2019 which ranges from four to five.
Batters are still hitting Stanek hard. In fact, opposing hitters are slashing to their highest HardHit% off Stanek in the right-hander’s sixth qualified season on Baseball Savant, sitting in the bottom 5% of the League in the metric.
With a 3.09 xERA, luck can be tacked onto Stanek’s hot start to the season, but also defensive alignment and having a top-five fielding team behind him helps his cause. Stanek’s xwOBA on Contact is one of the best in baseball at .322, and while yielding only three extra-base hits this season, the right-hander is allowing less knocks overall.
His fastball granted 22 singles in a full 2021 season, but with 166 thrown this season, Stanek has yielded one. Stanek is seeing less long balls, too, allowing less than one per-nine-inning for the first time in his career.
Stanek’s signing is underrated. General manager James Click targeted a reliever he knew well on the market in 2021 and is now reaping the awards of a low-cost, high-reward arm in the best bullpen in Major League Baseball by ERA.