Is Hunter Brown’s stunning turnaround real, or will he turn into a pumpkin again?

We have seen Hunter Brown look unhittable before, but his 2024 adjustments give hope that this time is going to be different.
Houston Astros v Chicago White Sox
Houston Astros v Chicago White Sox / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

After his latest gem against the Blue Jays on Monday, Houston Astros starter Hunter Brown is officially on a heater for the ages. Over his last seven starts, Brown has posted a 1.47 ERA with 48 strikeouts against just 11 walks (more on that in a bit) in 43 innings of work. By any measure, that is ace-level production when the Astros needed it the most.

Brown has been quick to credit some adjustments and help from his teammates for his recent run. Pressly had a lengthy chat with him during his early rough patch to help restore Brown's confidence in his stuff, and Alex Bregman gave him the very helpful advice to start throwing his two-seamer in certain spots to open up the rest of the plate against righties. The results speak for themselves and now Brown is looking almost unhittable.

However, we have seen hot stretches from Brown before. Through June last year, Brown looked like one of the better young pitchers in all of baseball before the wheels came off and he posted a 6.57 ERA in the second half once the fatigue of the long baseball season set in. Given his history, it is fair to wonder if Brown can keep this pace up after having to fight for his rotation life to start the season.

The short answer is that there are some key differences between Brown this year versus the version that fell off a cliff in 2023.

The Astros have helped Hunter Brown sequence his pitches better

Even when Brown was going good last year, walks and command were a real problem. The issues were especially pronounced to start the 2024 season as he had 24 walks in less than 50 innings of work. The strikeouts were there, but Brown found himself in a lot of long at-bats and failing to be able to land pitches for strikes when he needed to.

However, Brown has really cut down on his walks lately (again, just 11 in his last 43 innings) and that has had some promising trickle-down effects. His whiff rate has improved as hitters are having to defend the entire plate these days with that two-seamer of his. The opposition also aren't able to sit on certain pitches, which has led to a drastic improvement in the hard-hit rate against him. Brown already had the swing-and-miss stuff, but now hitters don't have the luxury of doing damage if they guess right.

It is on Brown to make his adjustments stick, and opposing hitters are going to make adjustments of their own, but it has been an absolute delight to see Brown's improvement lately and it is likely that Houston's 2024 season may have already been over if he hadn't been able to pull it off.

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