Ryne Stanek is Making History for Houston in 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 23: Ryne Stanek #45 of the Houston Astros in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on June 23, 2022 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Astros 7-6. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 23: Ryne Stanek #45 of the Houston Astros in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on June 23, 2022 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Astros 7-6. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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Houston Astros reliever Ryne Stanek is in the midst of a career-best season. In fact, his numbers have been so absurd that not only should he be considered as one of the best bullpen arms in baseball this year, but he is also putting his name into the Astros’ history books. Through 30 appearances, Stanek has a jaw-dropping 0.67 ERA in 27 innings, emerging as the most effective weapon in a bullpen that features a lot of great pitchers.

The Astros have boasted plenty of the game’s best relievers in the past, especially in recent history, and that hasn’t always been exclusive to the closer’s role. Ryan Pressly started off as a setup man rather than a closer, and he got widespread attention for a lengthy scoreless streak in 2019. As well, while he might be remembered more for something else (sorry for opening an old wound), Will Harris was present all throughout the Astros’ return to relevance, and he had 2 separate seasons in which he posted an ERA under 2 throughout his tenure in Houston.

It’s not surprising, given this track record, that the torch has been passed to someone else, but Stanek wouldn’t have been the first name to come to mind for many people before the season started. He was an established name when he got shipped to the Marlins at the 2019 trade deadline, but he contracted COVID at the start of the shortened 2020 season and it kept him out for a whole month. He never truly recovered before the season’s end and pitched poorly down the stretch, so the Marlins cut him loose and he went to Houston to try to return to form.

He was among the most relied-upon relievers in 2021, and while dependable, he was not stellar. He posted a 3.42 ERA and walked nearly 5 batters per 9 innings, which held him back despite also having above-average strikeout material. He also had an average exit velocity against of 91 mph, which was one of the worst figures in the league. Overall, he successfully bounced back and cemented himself as a solid pitcher, but there was no indication that he was going to blow anybody away.

This all makes it understandable as to why his performance this year is surprising a lot of people. Nevertheless, Stanek has started elevating his fastball more, and he’s riding that new strategy to one of the better seasons in Astros history: he has not given up a run since April 27. His FIP is over 2 runs higher than his ERA, and he still gives up a considerably high rate of flyballs, so it may not be realistic to expect his ERA to stay under 1 down the stretch. Either way, he’s still en route to one of the best seasons the Astros have ever seen from a reliever.

The current all-time single-season leader in reliever ERA for the Astros is Will Harris, who put up a 1.50 in his aforementioned 2019 campaign. Stanek’s current ERA of 0.67 clears that by a decent margin. He has also left inherited runners on base at an astonishing 97.7% rate, which would also rank first in team history. Again, his FIP is still very good at 3.00 but it does not match up well with his ERA, so he likely won’t make a dent in Houston’s all-time reliever WAR leaderboard. That title belongs to Brad Lidge, who was simply a different beast in the team’s pennant-caliber years of the mid-2000s. He posted a 1.90 ERA and a 3.7 fWAR across 94.2 innings in his best year in 2004.

Even so, it is remarkable to still watch this team churn out elite bullpen arms year after year, regardless of who the manager or the pitching coach is. Stanek, the latest addition to that revered list, is chasing a spot in the Astros’ history books and deserves more love from around the league for what he has accomplished this season. The Houston Faithful have been given yet another opportunity to watch one of the best relievers in the game in the prime of his career, and at this rate, he’ll be pitching in the most important innings of his life come October.

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