I love when friends point me to really good posts or information. One of my friends and a contributor on this site, Lane Fluker, sent me to this post today that was in the Astros Facebook Group- Houston Astros Nation. Min Gyu Seo wrote this, and he deserves credit for the research here.
Min has joined in several Twiter Spaces I have been in. I think Min raises a very interesting concern about the Astros and Ryan Pressly. What do you all think?
Let this be an open invitation for any of you who follow me on social media. If you have something you would like to say and have published here, email me at email@example.com.
I've been a supporter of Ryan Pressly for a while. He was consistently one of the top-tier closers in the league from the beginning of the season up to the mid-season, and I expected his brief slump in the latter half to be temporary. He's had experience overcoming such periods several times before. However, his performance in September has been quite concerning.
In the first half, Pressly recorded a 2.52 ERA and an impressive 0.839 WHIP. He allowed only three home runs in 39.1 innings and walked just eight batters, making him an elite bullpen pitcher.
However, his second-half numbers have not been as good. In 22 games, his ERA ballooned to 6.23, and his WHIP climbed to 1.47. He's already allowed five home runs in just 21.2 innings. Although he's striking out more batters, hitters seem to be making solid contact against him.
Especially in September, batters have a .353 batting average and a .958 OPS against Pressly, which is alarming for a closer.
Pressly has appeared in 36 save situations and converted 30 of them, which isn't terrible statistically. However, his recent struggles raise doubts about whether he should continue to be used as a closer in the latter part of the season.
Pressly isn't known for having overpowering stuff, but he relies on great off-speed pitches with lots of spins and excellent control to effectively handle hitters. When he leaves the ball over the plate, there's always a risk of it being hit hard.
An interesting observation is Pressly's performance with different catchers. When Maldy is behind the plate, Pressly has a 4.14 ERA, while with Yainer, he has a 1.29 ERA. It's a small sample size with Yainer, so drawing any conclusions from this might be premature.
Nevertheless, it's worth considering if the catchers' pitch-calling or framing techniques play a role in Pressly's performance.
The ninth inning is where games are often decided, and a great closer doesn't just rely on having good stuff. We've seen set-up men transition to closers only to struggle in crucial moments. Currently, Bryan Abreu is performing well, but making the decision to change closers isn't straightforward.
If Abreu were to struggle in the closer role, we might lose a crucial bullpen piece for important moments in games. With just over 10 games left in the season, changing the closer role is a complex decision that can impact team morale.
However, it's a point of serious consideration. While Baker, the manager, has indicated little intention of changing the closer role, preparing another reliever alongside Pressly for his next appearance might be a wise move. Pressly's struggles tend to involve allowing hard-hit balls, so timing a pitching change might be challenging.
This season has been disappointing in many ways, but the team is still holding onto the top spot. The hitters are doing their part against teams like Baltimore. However, Baker's conservative management has sometimes made games more challenging than they should be. There are moments when bold decisions seem necessary.
I've heard from someone close to the organization that players and coaches have a high level of trust in Baker. However, the front office's sabermetric team reportedly struggles with communication with him. Because there's more than one way to win at baseball, I can't say that what Baker is doing is completely wrong. But I still wish for a more data-driven approach if it could lead to better chances of success, especially in these critical moments where the team's fate hangs in the balance.