Astros pitching coach gives fans hope for Rafael Montero rebound in 2024

Let's hope Josh Miller is right.
Houston Astros pitcher Rafael Montero (47) throws.
Houston Astros pitcher Rafael Montero (47) throws. / Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

Rafael Montero's 2023 season was not good at all. After signing a lucrative three-year contract extension with the Houston Astros, GM Dana Brown was already asking for a do-over after the right-hander posted horrific numbers.

Montero owned a 5.09 ERA in 68 appearances out of the Astros bullpen. While his strikeouts (79) were up from the year before, so were his walks and runs allowed. Montero also watched 11 balls leave the yard -- the most he's surrendered since his 2017 campaign with the New York Mets.

Astros fans cannot watch that same level of performance again in 2024. Good thing Astros pitching coach Josh Miller believes Montero's 2023 season was an "aberration" and described his recent live batting practice session as "dynamite." Those are strong words, and Astros fans remain hopeful that Miller's right.

Astros pitching coach gives fans hope for Rafael Montero rebound in 2024

Miller has been around the Astros organization for a long time. The former scout has been part of the Astros coaching staff since 2019, and has plenty of familiarity with Montero. Of course, some fans will think what Miller said was just "coach speak", and no coach in their right mind is going to take shots at one of his players. But there are some numbers to back up some of Miller's claims.

Montero owned a 5.08 ERA, but a 4.46 FIP. This would suggest Montero endured a few bad breaks, and perhaps the Astros defense didn't back him up as well as they should've. The 4.10 xFIP builds an even stronger case for the right-hander.

The other number that sticks out gives some insight to one of Montero's biggest shortcomings from a season ago. Montero allowed 1.47 home runs per nine innings pitched (HR/9). That's a huge jump from the 0.40 HR/9 in 2022 and up significantly from his 0.96 HR/9 heading into last season.

Montero's ground ball rate, per FanGraphs, which had been above 50% from 2021-2022, declined to just 41.2%. That, in turn, saw his home run to fly ball ratio skyrocket from 7.1% over that two-year span to 15.3% last season.

All of these numbers seem to suggest that Miller is correct. But Montero is going to have to go out and prove it in 2024. The life of a reliever can be a fickle one, but the Astros have World Series aspirations, and another down year from Montero will really hurt this bullpen.