It’s an inescapable aspect of our society: social media is a cesspool of vitriolic nonsense. Even reasonable, rational people become unwieldy, burdensome douchebags on twitter at least occasionally. Case in point: my twitter profile. I’m occasionally right there loading up dem der hawtaek kannon with many of you, especially on twitter.
That’s why we need to come here sometimes. To escape the all-infecting madness, recover, and regroup.
So why am I structuring an article around potential trade targets to bolster the bullpen?
Because I think it’s the only place the Astros are even somewhat likely to make an addition at the trade deadline.
But maybe a sneaky-good left-handed reliever option is one place where the needle might be moved slightly in a positive direction.
First, I chose to take the list of 47 left-handed pitchers and remove anyone with greater than a 4.50 BB/9 rate, and to remove anyone with an FIP or xFIP of 4.00 or higher.
After culling the original list of 47 potential names, these were what we were left with:
Now, all that’s left is to further whittle this list down to a few select names who, upon deeper inspection, might hold interest for the team.
Of the names that remain, a few are very interesting, and worthy of further consideration.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because a pitcher named Bummer is memorable, and also because the Astros faced him twice (April 20, April 22) when they were in Chicago earlier this season.
The first thing that jumps off the page about him is that he is young (24 years old) and has good velocity on his fastball, averaging between 93 and 94 miles per hour on the pitch.
Bummer also sinks his fastball often enough for Brooks Baseball to classify it as a separate pitch – a sinker:
As you can see, his velocity stays pretty consistent in the mid-nineties on this pitch as well. Additionally, he gets a few more whiffs on the sinker than he does on the true four-seam pitch. There is likely quite a bit of potential to unlock in his left arm, and there’s a good chance Strom can get to it. In addition to the fastball/sinker, Bummer throws a change up (extremely infrequently, but perhaps it could be developed into a more useful pitch – he only threw seven of them in 2017 though, so it’s not a pitch worth focusing much attention on in this piece) and he throws a really good slider:
Make no mistake – Bummer would be an expensive get, especially for a reliever whose name most aren’t terribly familiar with. But in terms of adding a meaningful bullpen arm from the left side, the Astros could do a lot worse – especially since there isn’t much better that’s likely to be available.
Starting with his fastball, which averaged 97.9 miles per hour in 2017 and is averaging 96.5 miles per hour so far this season:
The problem with his fastball is that it’s very straight and doesn’t miss many bats. Hitters posted a ridiculous 229 wRC+ and .499 wOBA against the pitch in 2017. The remedy? Why, throw the fastball less, of course. Luckily, Scott (also like Ken Giles) has a really good slider:
Unfortunately, I have as yet not found good .gifs to embed here of Erlin’s stuff, but he is a more traditional lefty-reliever who relies on a good fastball with sink and a devastating, worm-burning change up to mostly neutralize hitters. He does throw a decent breaking ball around 16% of the time, but he is primarily a fastball-change up pitcher.
Even without elite velocity (his fastball average velocity is right at 90 miles per hour) he is striking out better than seven hitters per nine innings, which is right in line with what he did in 2017. He is also limiting walks exceptionally well (1.01 BB/9), which has been a staple throughout his career (1.90 BB/9) and he’s exactly matched his career BABIP against so far this year with a .301 mark.
Interestingly, Erlin has reverse splits throughout his career, and the trend has continued thus far this year. He’s a 27 year old reliever making $650,000 this year who has two years of arbitration remaining, and so while he’d likely be more attainable than Bummer or Scott, he won’t be likely to come dirt cheap, either.
One more, with vertical movement:
A couple other differences between Loup and his predecessors on this list: he’s a free agent after this year, likely facilitating a lower acquisition cost, and he is noticeably more efficacious against left-handed batters than at least a couple of other guys on this list. More of a true Lefty Specialist, as it were.
His sinker (you’ll notice he’s not even credited with throwing true fastballs on brooksbaseball, just sinkers) usually comes in in the low to mid nineties and is limiting opposing hitters to a 67 wRC+ this year (his career mark on the pitch is 110, which still isn’t bad for a primary hard pitch) and, as you, can see below, is a pretty nasty pitch to lefties when it’s spotted well:
Beyond that, his cutter is its typically-dominant self, as he’s notched a 57 opponent wRC+ on the pitch this year compared to his career mark of 90 wRC+ on the pitch:
As far as his curve ball (or slider, depending on who you ask…it’s posted a 125 wRC+ against this year, either way) and especially his change up (184 wRC+ against this year) are both far off their normally-dominant pace so far, indicating either that he’s lost something (possible) or that positive regression on those two pitches can maybe me expected.
Here’s his bigger breaking ball (call it what you will) in .gif form:
And, last but not least, here is a look at his change up:
Considering that he will likely be available at what should be a reasonable acquisition price, given his pending free agency and age and that the Blue Jays are not likely to be in the playoff picture much longer this season, this gamble might just make the most sense for the Astros.
So, which way to go? For me, I like the idea of adding a younger, cost-controlled lefty reliever with good stuff to the mix, so I prefer the idea of Aaron Bummer myself. How about you? Sound off in the comments!