How unlocking the real Cristian Javier could finally be within reach for Astros

One of the biggest contributors to the Houston Astros title run in 2022 was none other than Cristian Javier. Javier worked his way into the rotation last year and finished the season on a high note with a combined no-hitter in the World Series.

Javier was rewarded with a contract extension in the offseason, but his performance this year is causing some serious concern. Astros GM Dana Brown recently said the biggest reason for Javier's struggles is fatigue. That's what is causing him to not be as sharp.

If that is indeed the issue with Javier, why not skip him in the rotation from time to time, like the team is currently doing with JP France and Hunter Brown? This will decrease the amount of innings he has to throw between now and the postseason and, in theory, have Javier more fresh for the playoffs.

Plus, is there an easy fix for Cristian Javier? When looking at the advanced analytics, Javier isn't using his fastball at the bottom of the strike zone, especially on the corners. This was a big piece of Javier's arsenal last season, just watch the highlights from the World Series no-hitter.

We all know he has a lot of success up in the strike zone with his fastball, much like Justin Verlander. But Verlander also paints the corners at the knees and uses his slider to work off that pitch. Something Javier did last season with a lot of success. It doesn't have to be one or the other. Notice in the image below that he's rarely using the bottom third of the strike zone with his fastball. The fastballs are shown in red.

Screenshot via: Baseball Savant.

In essence, hitters know that if the ball is up this year with Javier, it's probably going to be a fastball. If it's down, it's likely an off-speed pitch. Javier throws the fastball roughly 60% of the time. So hitters know they can hunt fastballs up in the zone, and take anything low.

Which raises the question, is this a problem with philosophy? Or is Javier's level of fatigue keeping him from being sharp enough to hit the corners at the bottom of the zone?

Don't miss the video above as we try to solve what's ailing Javier in 2023.

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The Texans host the Steelers at NRG this Sunday. Composite Getty Image.

What: Texans vs. Steelers

When: 10/1 12pm CST kickoff

Where: Houston, TX NRG Stadium

TV/Radio: KHOU-TV, KILT-Radio

Betting Lines: Steelers -2.5 (-120), O/U 42 (-110) *As of this writing

The Watt Brother Bowl takes place on Sunday. I'm calling it that because the Texans are honoring their all-time great J.J. while they're playing his younger brother and current hell raising edge rusher for the Steelers T.J. The Steelers have won four of the last five matchups vs. the Texans by an average score of 28-17. The biggest difference is that the Steelers have a second year starter at quarterback in Kenny Pickett, and the Texans have a rookie in C.J. Stroud. When you look at the two quarterbacks, both organizations have full faith in each guy. Both teams have tried to build a defense to help their young signal callers. Both are still trying to surround their franchise guys with weapons.

When the Steelers have the ball: Here's a game where Will Anderson Jr can make headway as a proven EDGE. Stacking consistent performances together and helping your team win games by making winning plays. It helps that Pickett has tiny hands. This was a knock on him during draft season last year. Hand size for a quarterback impacts grip. That can not only impact accuracy, but it could make it easier to strip the ball from him.

While he doesn't have the weapons to torch this defense, Pickett does hand the ball off to Najee Harris who's more than capable. Averaging only 67 yards rushing as a team can't be taken lightly. Denzel Perryman is expected to miss the game Sunday, so hopefully that won't help jumpstart the Steelers' run game. The Texans defense will have to key in on the run, given that they average giving up 117 a game on the ground. Those aforementioned weapons may not be scary, but the injuries to the defensive backs has hurt. Tavierre Thomas is expected to miss the game recovering from hand surgery. Jimmie Ward coming back last week showed what happens when they have a top safety back there, especially when the pass rush is turning up. Hopefully, the Texans can capitalize again this week, with safety Jalen Pitre expected to return to action.

When the Texans have the ball: Good luck stopping Tank Dell and Stroud! These guys have already established themselves as a formidable duo three games into their careers. A great way to get that connection going is to pound the rock. The Steelers are giving up over 150 yards on the ground per game so far this season. That's also a good way to keep T.J. at bay while J.J. watches. With Laremy Tunsil and Josh Jones both expected to miss the game, here are the offensive line starters: Austin Deculus, Kendrick Green, Jarrett Patterson, Shaq Mason, and George Fant.

Making the younger Watt brother slow down a bit instead of going balls to the wall after Stroud because a run could be coming will help the pass game tremendously. Stroud will have to continue to make quick decisions, but even quicker this game. I wouldn't be surprised to see his first pick of his career here, given the pressure he's most likely to be under. Especially when your offensive line starters were mostly all backups to begin this season.

Outcome: I failed to place a money line bet on the Texans last week because the game started and the live bet wasn't as profitable. I wanted to take a chance on them given their recent record against the Jags. Looking at their last five vs. the Steelers, one would say why make that bet this week? It's because I believe in Stroud more than I believe in Pickett. While T.J. Watt is a different kind of monster, Will Anderson Jr is on his way to becoming something special. Texans win/cover, and hit the over, but barely: Texans 24, Steelers 20.

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