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Astros Pitching- Step Two- How to FIX Problems

Updated: Jul 20, 2023


The Astros have a significant challenge in the second half of the season- how to manage the pitching staff. I would go as far as saying the 2023 Astros have an eminent pitching problem. Read this to see what I described in Part 1 as their eminent pitching problem. What I described in Part 1 may really scare you as an Astros fan. Informed fans are better fans.

Something has to change, or the pitching will suffer in the 2H. In this Part 2, we are going to explore how the Astros can FIX their pitching for the 2H. You can watch Part 1 and 2 on this video as well.

The levers the Astros can deploy include:

  1. Trades for a SP and a RP

  2. Strategically spot start to simulate a six-man staff

  3. Jose Urquidy's return will help SP IP distribution

  4. Rotation of the bottom of the SP and the RP between the Astros and AAA to manage rest


Trades for a SP and a RP


I took all of the SP and RP and filtered to get good pitchers (ERA, xERA, FIP, xFIP all good) from teams that are possibly trading. The list of pitchers to target is VERY small. If you think there is someone else, let me know.


Starting Pitching

Folks, I think the Astros are FAR more likely to double overpay for the top 4 in a trade than slightly underpay for the last two. I think the Astros may have to let the teams with a higher prospect packages trade first and get one of these late.


Projected Stats

I included the projected stats for the rest of the 2023 season to show how each would fit with the rest of the SP. All will probably slot in as #2 or #3 starter.


Relief Pitching

As discussed in part one, the ideal RP target would be a LHRP capable of pitching multiple innings.

Holton is the only one that fits this profile, but he is near to his career high in IP. Stratton might be the best choice for the hybrid long reliever role. Stratton as a RHP has better number vs. LHH than he does RHH this year.

Here are the RP target projections for the rest of 2023.

These are the players they could get that will have the biggest positive impact for the rest of the pitching staff at a trade cost that is doable for the Astros.


I went into this in MUCH more detail in trade articles here, but I would say these are the most like Astros to be traded to get this pitching help.

A single trade with the St. Louis Cardinals would address the pitching needs. Here are two alternatives.

The trade tool says the Astros are paying too much. Have the Cardinals throw in a low-level high-upside pr0spect.

I would do either deal today.


This website has provided MANY other trade options and background.


Trading for pitching help is the BEST thing the Astros can do to address their eminent pitching challenge.


What else can they do?


Strategically spot start to simulate a six-man staff

I suspect that the Astros will deploy what some may call a six-man staff in the next week. See the table below for the SPs relative performance on four- and five-days rest in their careers up to the 1H of 2023.

4,5,6 days rest

The sample size for many of these guys is too small to be definitive, but five days rest appears to be a significant plus for some.

  • Javier is clearly better with 5-days-rest than he is with 4-days rest.

  • Urquidy benefits as well

  • Bielak seems better on 5-days rest as well with a small 4-day rest sample.

  • Perhaps Valdez is better on 4-days rest. Let him pitch every 5 days and give the others more rest.

I have revised the wording here to be very specific. I did not say they will actually use a six-man staff. At the bottom of this article, you will see a way the pitching staff could be managed game by game.


As discussed in part 1, The biggest issue the Astros currently have when they commit to a 6-man rotation is that there is no true long relief pitcher. Most of the relief staff cannot be optioned.

Starters

Can be Optioned

Relievers

Can be Optioned

1

Valdez

Y

Pressly

N

2

Javier

Y

Neris

N

3

Brown

Y

Abreu

Y

4

Bielak

Y

Maton

N

5

France

Y

Stanek

N

6

Blanco or Urquidy

Y

Montero

N

7

Martinez

Y

As shown below I THINK the answer is to utilize off days and strategically spot start a few times to give the workload more in line with a six-man rotation.


To execute this strategy ASSUMES that the other options are also implemented including Urquidy returning, a trade for a SP, and rotation of the staff to AAA to manage rest.


These spot starts are needed during the long stretches of consecutive games.

  • I suspect Framber may skip a start due to his injury, and Dubin may start on 7/21 or 7/22.

  • Whoever the Astros trade for as a SP, I suspect would start 8/2 ish and start (hopefully) the rest of the season.

  • During the 13- games in 13-days stretch 8/21 to 9/5, I suspect Blanco may start three times as a 6th SP during that stretch.

  • On 9/1, the rosters expand, and with a 14-man staff, I think the Astros eventually move to a six-man starter rotation. In the chart below, I show that kicking in on 9/6 or 9/12 depending how one looks at it.


 

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Jose Urquidy's return will help SP IP distribution.


Urquidy is the one pitcher that Astros really want to use in 2023 that is not facing an innings limitation. Expect him to pitch as much as the training staff will allow.

However, Urquidy - in a very small sample size- was not good at the start of the year. The projection systems have him pitching to a 4.26 to 4.96 ERA this year. If Urquidy is just an innings eating version of Ronel Blanco level performance, Astros fans are going to have to accept and calibrate to that. The Astros NEED his innings desperately. Look for a late July return of Urquidy to the starting rotation.


Rotation of the bottom of the SP and the RP between the Astros and AAA

Along with the other solution the Astros are going to need to rotate the staff to Sugar Land to manage their innings pitched.


Perhaps thinking of the Astros pitching staff in these buckets or tiers will help one understand the task at hand.


Brown, Bielak, Blanco, France, and Martinez ALL need to be optioned to AAA for 3-5 weeks in this 2H to manage the load on their arms.


I know the final table below is a ton of information to take in and will only be visible on a desktop. It is A strategy the Astros could use to manage both the starting pitcher's usage and having more long relief available to reduce the load on the RP group also.


This sort of strategy is the roadmap to maximizing the pitching effectiveness and pitcher usage. This is the best I can do to help the fix the problems of their faltering Astros pitching. What other ideas do you have?




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