To say 2011 was a bad year for Astros fans is an understatement of epic proportions. There are teams that may be worse than Houston in almost every phase of the game, but no one combines such dramatic mediocrity into the total package. Before we take a look specifically at the Astros bullpen lets shine a spotlight at the Astros team.
- The Astros sport a team batting average of .258, tied with Colorado for the 3rd best in the National League. Great proof that batting average is not a very reliable statistic.
- Drew the least walks in MLB, 100 less than the average and 24 less than any other team. Houston drew 401, Chicago Cubs drew 425; by comparison the Reds drew 535 and the league leading Yankees drew 627.
- 116 walks is tied for the 4th most in MLB. This becomes less important when you consider they finished tied with the World Champion Cardinals (116 errors) and only committed two more errors than runner up Texas.
- ERA is the glaring statistic. With a 4.51 ERA, Houston has the worst earned run average in the National League.
- They recorded the least saves in MLB though this is more a product of lack of opportunity as we shall see when we look at the bullpen.
Given these numbers it becomes apparent that pitching is the problem. Or at least the most obvious problem. Let’s use the Quality Appearance Ratio to analyze the Astros and maybe to see if among all of this failure, they might have a good reliever or two hiding. Here is the criteria for the Quality Relief Outing and the Quality Appearance Ratio:
Criteria for a Quality Relief Outing (QRO)
- Reliever allows no inherited runners to score.
- Reliever records at least one out.
- Reliever allows no runs to score or maintains a 3.00 ERA in extended outings.
Criteria for a Failed Relief Outing (FRO)
- Reliever allows an inherited runner or runners to score.
- Reliever records no outs.
- Reliever does not maintain a 3.00 ERA for the relief outing.
Criteria for a No Decision Outing (ND)
- Reliever allows more hits/walks than outs but allows no runs to score.
- Reliever gives up unearned runs but no earned runs.
I use a number of abbreviations in the tables so they must also be defined:
- RA = Relief Appearances: Total # of Relief Appearances
- QRO = Quality Relief Outing: # of Appearances where more outs are recorded than hits + walks and a 3.00 ERA is maintained for the relief appearance.
- FRO = Failed Relief Outing: # of Appearances where earned runs are allowed, inherited runners score or no outs are recorded. (See ERA allowance in the QRO description
- ND = No Decision. Does not meet the criteria for a QRO or a FRO
- QAR = Quality Appearance Ratio: QRO/RA
- FAR = Failed Appearance Ratio: FRO/RA
It is a challenge to decide where to begin in evaluating this group. Mark Melancon is alone on an island his 53 QROs against just 16 FROs is a respectable result as is his QAR of 75%. Respectable.
Wesley Wright, at 26 years of age looks to have turned the corner in his career. His FAR of 19% is outstanding and is also reflected in his 1.50 ERA. Wright sported a 5.31 ERA through his first 3 seasons, so this change is welcome if he can maintain this success and record more innings.
After these two relievers the quality choices become a risk for any manager. I hate to focus on the negative, but one must question why Aneury Rodriguez is even on the roster. Aside from the Ryan Franklin disaster in St. Louis, Aneury is the only reliever with 20 or more appearances to have an FAR over 50% in the division. Franklin was released early on but Aneury stayed until the end. He is still just 23 years old so maybe he will find his way but considering this is already his third team, I am doubtful at this point.
Wilton Lopez is another interesting pitcher, on a better team he might produce useful results. His WHIP inched up this season but at 27 he has put together a decent resume considering who he plays for and the defense behind him. 48 QROs is a good number, though his failed outings do represent a number that is a bit too high at 22.
The Astros will look back on 2011 in terms of the production of the trades they made involving Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. If they have future success it will be based on the prospects they received when these two men were permitted to leave. Stay tuned for the NL Central QAR recap and for more QAR posts as the offseason progresses.
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