Framber Valdez's inconsistency is killing the Astros as 2024 struggles continue

The Astros desperately need the old Framber Valdez to return, and soon.
Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels / Harry How/GettyImages
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Houston Astros starter Framber Valdez came into the 2024 season with some rather high expectations placed upon him. He was coming off back-to-back All-Star appearances, has been considered to be among the best left-handed starters in baseball. As a result, Astros fans had been clamoring for the team to find a way to sign Valdez to a long-term extension.

Unfortunately, this season has not played out the way the Astros had hoped, including with Valdez. Not only are the Astros' playoff chances on life support at the moment, but Valdez has been uncharacteristically mediocre this season with his recent dud of a start against the Angels being the latest in a long series of disappointments in 2024.

Astros News: Framber Valdez's latest poor showing costs Houston against LA

Losing games is a team effort and it isn't fair to put all of the blame on Valdez as this Astros' lineup should be able to score more than three runs a game. However, Valdez only managed to go four innings and throw 59 pitches on Wednesday leading some to be worried that the left-hander was hurt (which would have been very on-brand for 2024).

However, Valdez is apparently fine physically, and manager Joe Espada said after the game that "Valdez's stuff was good, it was just staying up in the zone a bit. Any time you see opponents hitting the ball in the air with ease, you kind of know that he's not missing down in the zone. Not his best day."

While Espada being willing to pull Valdez before the game got completely out of hand was very defensible, Valdez's start was part of a troubling pattern. In the nine outings since he returned from his injured list stint with elbow inflammation in April, Valdez has posted a 4.39 ERA with just 41 strikeouts in 55.1 innings of work. Not terrible, but not great.

However, it's how he got to that bottom line that is concerning. Of those nine starts, he gave up three runs or fewer in six of them which is great. But in the other three, he got absolutely torched.

Perhaps Valdez's elbow soreness has lingered more than he and/or the team has let on, or perhaps what we are seeing is Valdez's propensity to give up hard contact finally catching up with him now that he is having trouble keeping the ball down. Whatever the reason, Houston desperately needs him to get back to being consistently excellent instead of periodically laying eggs with the Astros' season in jeopardy.

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