2022 Houston Astros: Grading Each Player’s First Half

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Bullpen: A+

Ryne Stanek: A+
Rafael Montero: A+
Ryan Pressly: A
Bryan Abreu: A
Seth Martinez: A
Hector Neris: B+
Phil Maton: C+

The Astros might just have the best bullpen in baseball. It leads the majors in ERA (2.66) and is tied for second in FIP (3.21), and it has an embarrassment of riches that make scoring runs late in games against this team a very tall task. Ryne Stanek has been the most impressive of the group, and much has been made about his streak of 23.1 innings without allowing an earned run. In full, he has a 0.57 ERA, or in other words, 2 earned runs all year. His 3.14 FIP and 5.2 BB/9 indicate that he is due to allow a run, but the streak he is put together is absurd nonetheless, and it came out of nowhere. He is having one of the best seasons an Astros reliever has ever had, and has been the best non-closer in the AL.

Not far behind him is Rafael Montero, who they somehow stole from a divisional opponent via trade a year ago. Whenever Ryan Pressly isn’t closing out games, Montero usually is, and for good reason: he has a 1.93 ERA, 2.62 xERA, and 2.28 FIP. Like Stanek, he has allowed just 1 home run on the year, and opponents have managed just a .506 OPS against him. He has been one of the most complete relievers in baseball, and facing him an inning after Stanek is exasperating for opposing hitters.

Ryan Pressly has been reliable as ever at closer, with 16 saves and a 2.89 ERA in his first half, and he entered the all-star break on a franchise-record streak of 27 consecutive batters retired. The theme with this bullpen is home run suppression, and Pressly has allowed just 2 of his own. He is the final part of the three-headed monster at the back end of the Astros’ staff, and with how important a deep bullpen has proven to be in the past few World Series, they are as good a candidate as anybody to ride a hot relief corps to a championship this year.

Bryan Abreu and Seth Martinez haven’t seen as much action, but they have been reliable nonetheless. Abreu, an international signing from 9 years ago, has 13.4 K/9 and an even 3.00 ERA in 28 appearances. He too has allowed just a single home run, and his 31.6% hard hit rate is among the best in baseball. Martinez, a former rule-5 pick, has been used in lower-leverage spots but has delivered a 1.38 ERA and 3.31 FIP in his first full big-league season. These two have done everything that has been asked of them, and are true examples of diamonds in the rough that have paid off in a big way for the Astros.

Hector Neris, signed in free agency, owns a 3.55 ERA so far, and there are differing schools of thought as to whether he has pitched better than that number indicates. He gives up plenty of hard contact as a result of his approach to pound fastballs up in the zone, but on the other hand, he is excellent at controlling the three true outcomes. He has allowed just 2 home runs and pitched to a 2.80 FIP, and his 5.7 H/9 is lower than everyone else’s in the bullpen outside of Martinez and Stanek.

Phil Maton has an identical 3.55 ERA, but that number is sure to increase soon. He has a 5.40 FIP, and somehow has a 4.89 xERA despite his outstanding ability to suppress hard contact. He has also hit 7 batters this year, and is the lone exception to the bullpen’s strength of keeping the ball in the park. He may be the weak link in this bullpen at the moment, but he was reliable during his years in Cleveland, so there’s still time and potential for the Astros to tap into his full range of abilities.