CREIGHT EXPECTATIONS

Patrick Creighton: Hinch must define bullpen roles for consistency

A.J. Hinch needs to better define bullpen role.s Jason Behnken / Getty Images

There’s no doubt the Astros are loaded with talent, even if they haven’t hit their stride yet.  No one should feel like the bats won’t come around. The rotation is the best in baseball. The pen was fortified in the offseason, but has been the bane of the team’s existence too often during a 14 game stretch where the team lost nine games.

There have been some spectacular bullpen failures during that 5-9 run that have directly led to losses.

Joe Smith has been a top reliever in baseball for 10 years, but has shown none of that thus far for Houston.  While 10.2 IP is a small sample size, Smith was brought in specifically for his late inning prowess and ability to close games if necessary. However, Smith was the culprit back on April 24 when he allowed four runs vs. the Angels in the top of the 7th, right after the Astros had rallied for 2 runs in both the 5th and 6th to take a 5-4 lead.

On May 1st, Ken Giles suffered a meltdown vs the Yankees.  Entering in the 9th of a 0-0 game in which Justin Verlander was absolutely dominant, Giles, who had put down the previous 19 straight batters to face him over 7 appearances, allowed 4 of 5 batters to reach base while giving up 4 runs in the 9th, and needing Will Harris to get out of the inning.  The Astros would lose 4-0. Oddly enough, despite no injury being disclosed by the team, Giles has not pitched since.

Two days later the Astros bullpen would fail again.  This time, the Astros held a 5-3 lead going into the 9th.  For whatever reason, Hinch did not go to his closer, Ken Giles.  He went to Will Harris. Harris could not record a single out, allowing two hits and a walk before being lifted for Brad Peacock, who allowed all three inherited runners to score, and the Yankees stung the Astros with a 6-5 come from behind victory.

While Harris had not pitched poorly to that point, if Ken Giles is the closer, Giles should have been given the opportunity to get back on the horse and close out the game.  A closer must have a very short memory. Not giving him the ball in that situation could not have been a strong message to send to him, made worse by the fact his replacement failed miserably.

On May 5th in Arizona, it was Chris Devenski’s turn to fail in the 9th.  In a tie game, Devo would allow a hit and two walks while only recording two outs before being lifted for Peacock, who again could not stop the bleeding.  Peacock allowed a hit to let an inherited runner score and the Astros lost 4-3.

While the Astros may have some interchangeable parts in the bullpen, Hinch must still give them order.  Ask any bullpen pitcher and they will tell you, guys pitch better when they have defined roles.

Maybe it shouldn’t matter but it does.  Having defined roles in the pen allows guys to better prepare mentally.  It gives them a sense of hierarchy that they need, and history shows us they pitch better as a result.

The Astros have three pitchers with saves and four pitchers with blown saves. Seven of the team’s 15 losses have been attributed to relievers. While Hinch may have been looking to see how the pieces fit early on, it’s time for him to make some decisions.

The Astros already carry an unusually high number of relievers because they cannot send Peacock or Collin McHugh to the minors without their consent (not happening) and Tony Sipp’s $6M piece tag is keeping him in town.  With 13 pitchers, finding regular work for everyone isn’t really possible. He will have to deal with some unhappy campers.

It's time to treat Ken Giles like a closer.  His one bad game vs. Yankees can’t get him banished to the bench for a week if he is to be the man at the back of the pen.  A good closer has a short memory, and puts failures behind him instantly to succeed the next time on the hill. Giles still hasn’t been granted that next time.  This is a failure on Hinch.

Hinch still hasn’t figured out how to utilize Joe Smith.  Giles has the fewest appearances of all the regular relievers not named Tony Sipp.

Hinch needs to create a hierarchy, and give guys defined roles.  Start with Giles at the back end, and work his way forward. Giles should get literally every save opportunity unless he’s pitched three straight days.

Make Rondon, Smith and Harris your setup guys (once Smith escapes his funk – he will have to pitch some lesser leverage spots to regain his confidence).  These are the roles they are most familiar with and have the most success with in their careers.

Collin McHugh ultimately isn’t going to enjoy being the long man, because he’s a very good ML caliber pitcher who is caught in a numbers game, and at least one person in that pen has to remain fully stretched out in case a start needs to be made outside the rotation.  There may be opportunities to utilize him in a tandem role similar to how Astros used starters in the postseason, with one following another, and going 3-4 innings.

They will have to figure out how to use Devo and Peacock.  They are both guys who can give length, and in situations that don’t require a traditional setup guy, should get the opportunity to go multiple innings, can set up when another pitcher is unavailable, etc.  They are the two most flexible guys in the pen, and these are the two Hinch can really work with.

Sipp can pitch when the team is up or down 4+ runs.

It was OK to experiment in April.  Now it’s time to have a plan and execute.  Once the bullpen knows the plan, it should pitch better and more consistently.

 

CultureMap.com

The 2020 baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced on Tuesday. Here is how some of Gow Media's personalities would have voted:

Patrick Creighton


Barry Bonds: The closest thing we will ever see to Babe Ruth in our lifetime. 7x MVP, 14x all star, 8x Gold Glove, 12x Silver slugger, 4x 30/30, 40/40 in 1996, single season HR king, all time HR king, single season walks king, all time walks king, all time IBB king. Charter and sole member of the 700/500 club (also the 600/500 club and 500/500 club) The most feared hitter in baseball for nearly 2 decades (led league in walks 12x).

Roger Clemens: The greatest pitcher of the modern era. 7x Cy Young; MVP, 11x All star, 7 ERA titles, 2 pitching triple crowns, and a fastball that will take your head off. 6x 20 game winner. 5x strikeout king, 3rd all time strikeouts. 354 career wins It cant be a hall of fame without the games greatest. Bonds and Clemens are 2 of the all time top 10 greats.

Sammy Sosa: There's only 1 player in baseball history to hit 60+ HR in a single season 3x. Slammin' Sammy. One of only 3 NL players to hit 160 RBI in a season in the modern era (since 1900). 609 career HR. 1998 MVP. 7x top 10 MVP. 7x All star. 6x silver slugger. Helped put baseball back on the map with historic 1998 HR chase with Mark McGwire. 10 straight years 35+ HR, 8 straight years 100+ RBI.

Curt Schilling: 6x all star, 4x top 4 Cy Young (3x 2nd). Won 21+ games 3x. 3x 300+ Strikeouts, 3x World Series Champ, Postseason stud. 11-2 career postseason, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 WS MVP, Bloody Sock, broken curse, he is Legend. Schilling also has the highest K/BB ratio of any member of the 3000 Strikeout club.

Jeff Kent: incredibly underrated player. most HR by a 2B all time w/ 377. 2000 MVP. 5x all star 4x silver slugger. managed to become one of the all time best hitting 2B despite manager Dallas Green trying to destroy him while he was with the Mets. 9 straight years of 20+ HR and 90+ RBI (8 of those 9 over 100 RBI) 4x top 10 MVP, 3rd all time RBI as 2B. 5th All time OPS at 2B. 4th all time doubles at 2B.

Larry Walker: one of most feared hitters for a decade. 1997 MVP, 7 Gold gloves, 3 silver sluggers, 5x all star, 3 batting titles. 6x batted over .320, 4x batted .350 or better. Walker batted .313 for his career with 383 HRs and a career OPS of .965, making his career OPS higher than anyone on the ballot this year except Bonds and Manny Ramirez.

New additions to the ballot for this year:

Manny Ramirez:
"Manny Being Manny" may have started with his 1st career hit - it came vs Yankees. It was a ground rule double for bouncing over the wall but Manny thought it was a HR and started trotting around the bases. He was halfway to 3rd when umpires finally were able to get his attention. What followed was 14 years of being one of the most feared hitters in MLB history. A 12x All Star, 2x World Series champ, World Series MVP, batting champ, and 9x Silver Slugger. He drove in 100+ 12x, including 145 in 1998 and a league leading 165 in 1999. 12x 30+ HRs, including 45 in 1998, 44 in 1999, and a league leading 43 in 2004. He's a .312 career hitter with 555 career HRs. A HOFer by any metric.

Derek Jeter: In his first year on the ballot, Jeter should be an absolute lock for enshrinement. He is a member of the 3000 hit club with an incredible 3465 hits (6th all time), he's also a career .310 hitter. Jeter was a Rookie of the year, 14x All Star, 5x World Series Champ, World Series MVP, and won 5 Gold Gloves & 5 Silver Sluggers. He has a reputation for being a clutch player with a knack for big hits as well, earning the nicknames "Capt. Clutch" and "Mr. November". Most hits among any SS ever. Yankees all time leader in Hits, Doubles (544), and Stolen Bases (358). 13x 100+ runs scored, 8x 200+ hits, 12x over .300 AVG. He is also the postseason record holder for most career Hits, Singles, Doubles, Triples, Runs and Total Bases.

A.J. Hoffman

Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Derek Jeter

I like a few other guys here, namely Gary Sheffield, but Jeter is the only one in the same stratosphere of deserving as the other two guys, And until Bonds and Clemens are in, they need to limit the amount of fringe guys who do get in.

Charlie Pallilo

Derek Jeter: Only first time ballot guy worthy of election. He is both rightfully a legend, and overrated by many.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens: Two peas in a dubious ethical pod. Hundreds of guys cheated in their era. Barry and Roger are arguably the greatest all-around player and greatest pitcher ever. Unlike Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez, Bonds and Clemens were Hall made men before their later "phases."

Curt Schilling: Career of ups and downs, but the ups were way up. Bonafide top tier ace for three different franchises. One of the greatest postseason pitchers ever. Pitched through heart of steroid era, so even better than some of his stats indicate on surface.

Larry Walker: Final year of main ballot eligibility. Offensive numbers inflated by years with the Rockies and not the most durable guy, but a tremendous offensive and defensive player. It was a joke how little support Lance Berkman got last year. Walker was better.

Closest miss, for now, Scott Rolen.
Third basemen are underrepresented in the Hall. Rolen was basically Adrian Beltre with 895 fewer games played, yet with 3 more Gold Gloves and three more All Star team selections.Jeff Kent also deserves more consideration than he has gotten.

Todd Farquharson

YES VOTES

Derek Jeter: Baseball Reference lists his most "Similar Batter" over his career as Astros Craig Biggio. Jeter will fly into the HOF on the first ballot and deserves it. But why did Biggio have to wait until his 3rd ballot?

Curt Schilling: It's time. Let Curt get to the podium in July.

Barry Bonds: Barry would already be in the Hall if he hadn't been a steroid guy. He also never would have shattered Hank Aaron's homerun record if he weren't on the juice. As time passes this has become part of the history of this era and the sport, and again, he would be in the HOF if his career ended before he did his first steroids.

Roger Clemens: See Barry Bonds. I'm for putting Roger in the Hall. He's one of the best pitchers of all time.

Billy Wagner: Question for a hitter, "Did you enjoy facing Billy Wagner?" Hitter, "No!" Billy was dominant in his era and one of the tops relievers in the history of the sport. The stats back it up.

Jeff Kent: This is a close one. Most players with 1500 RBI are in the HOF (unless they are roid guys or not yet eligible). He has the most home runs ever for a Second Baseman, 5th most doubles and 5th highest slugging at the position. Also has a MVP award. Rubber stamp it, in.

Scott Rolen: Rolen is 10th in WAR among all time 3rd Baseman, of which all are HOF'ers except for future HOF'er Adrian Beltre. He keeps the right company so put him in.

Andruw Jones: Of all the outfielders that have ever played the game, Jones was one of the best all time at defending his position. Add his 434 homers, 1200+ Runs and RBI and you've got a worthy candidate.

Omar Vizquel: He wouldn't go in for his hitting. Subjectively, he's one of the GOAT fielding shortstops. Objectively, he has the highest fielding percentage for SS ever. Defense matters.

NO VOTES

Larry Walker: His best years by far were in the altitude of Colorado. A career.348 hitter at home, while only .278 on the road. Can't vote for him on my imaginary ballot.

Manny Ramirez: I'm not convinced Manny would have been as prolific a hitter without PEDs.

Todd Helton: Last year I thought Helton and Lance Berkman should have the same fate. Berkman cruelly didn't even get five percent of the vote. And Helton is another guy that benefitted by playing in Coors Field, in his case, his entire career. Home BA .348, Away BA .287. Home runs at Home, 227. Homeruns Away, 142. If you double the away numbers, he's not in the HOF club.

Gary Sheffield: See Manny Ramirez.

Andy Pettitte: Andy is on the bubble. 14 of his 18 years his team made the playoffs which is amazing, but did his W-L record benefit from being on good teams? His career 3.85 ERA is fairly pedestrian and would be the 2nd highest among all HOF pitchers.

Sammy Sosa: Poster child for PEDs elevating a player's performance. Steroids changed the entire trajectory of Sosa's career.

Alfonso Soriano: Good, not great.

Adam Dunn: If the HOF isn't good enough for David "King Kong" Kingman there's no Dunn luck here.

Jason Giambi: Evaluating HOF candidates is part a comparison game. Yet is difficult to compare guys that loaded up on HRs and RBI in the late 90's and 2000's. Especially guys mentioned prominently in the Mitchell Report for PEDs.

Bobby Abreu: A consistent, durable performer that scored and drove in a lot of runs. Not quite a HOF'er though.

J.J. Putz: Certainly not a Hall of Famer, but I give him credit for lasting ten years in the majors and earning over $38 million.

Craig Larsen

I've had the distinct honor to attend and cover six inductee classes in Cooperstown as a Media Member. In 2007, I witnessed the late Tony Gwynn, along with the "Mr. Streak" Cal Ripken Jr who arguably saved the game coming out of the 1994 work stoppage. That entire weekend, you had goosebumps. When you see a "Derek Jeter" appear on the ballot, to me, everyone else is a secondary consideration. He's in that iconic realm, much like Ripken & Gwynn were. Jeter is obviously appearing on the ballot for the first time, the only question is will he be unanimous ? I'd like to meet the writer who doesn't vote him in on his first try.
Jeter would be my "lone pick" for the 2020 enshrinement, and he's certain to bring the goosebumps !!!

Fred Faour

To me, it is not a legitimate Hall of Fame until Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds get in. The voters have put in inferior players every year. Other than that, Derek Jeter should be an absolute lock. You can also make a surprisingly good case for Jeff Kent, who was widely disliked and probably has no chance.

That is as deep as I would go on my ballot.

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