Astros in the 90th Percentile of Pitching Categories

Unlike the batters version of this chart for the Houston Astros, there are a bunch of empty cells and most of those filled are by two unheralded relievers: Rafael Montero and Hector Neris, with Ryan Pressly not far behind.

These three pitchers combine for 12 of the 18 instances of Astros pitchers in the 90th percentile or better.

At a high level, the two charts, this one and the one for batters, paint the picture of an elite hitting team that’s not as good on the mound, and I think that’s a fair portrayal of the 2021 Astros.

To be fair, there were some close calls with Lance McCullers Jr. coming in at 89th percentile for xwOBA and xERA, Maton at 89th percentile in HardHit%, Javier at 88th percentile for K% and the departed Brooks Raley at 100 percentile for HardHit% and 92nd percentile for K%.

If we want to project optimism, we can also mention the 2019 version of Justin Verlander would have had filled in cells for K%, BB% and fastball spin.

Yet, I can’t help but feel a little surprised that more of the young pitchers aren’t better represented on the chart. It goes without saying that these metrics aren’t everything and there’s more to pitching than numbers.

After all, the object is to get batters out by any means necessary within the rules of the game, not just have good looking stats.

That said, these numbers are measured, tracked, analyzed and postalized for a reason. These are the things the best pitchers excel at.

Jacob deGrom is in the 90th percentile in seven of these categories and the 87th percentile in two others. That’s an extreme example, and no one is expecting deGrom-like performances from the Astros pitchers, but it does show us what the elite looks like.

Most of all this exercise makes me wonder about Luis Garcia. He certainly could be an outlier, one of those that can’t be explained, that just “knows how to pitch”. That said, his numbers are worth following this season.

Make of those what you will, as I know not everyone believes there’s value in these measurements, but if you think Zack Greinke had a bad 2021, most of Garcia’s numbers were worse than Greinke’s.

I don’t presume these are the be all and end all of the evaluation for any pitcher, including Garcia. For me, they’re more of an ancillary analysis tool, something to look at and keep in mind in the total evaluation.

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I tend to believe in these numbers on the whole and that has me concerned, not only for Garcia, but for the staff as a whole headed into 2022.

The fact that the best numbers were accumulated by a “throw in” in the Kendall Graveman trade who’s coming off an injury and a free agent signee could be interpreted in multiple ways.

One would be that the staff is not as strong as it appears on the surface and may suffer with the loss of pitching coach Brent Strom.

Another could be that James Click made two shrewd moves, having Montero included in the Graveman trade and signing Neris in the offseason.

I’m intrigued to see how it works out during the season, if and when we get to see baseball in 2022.

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