The Astros finally were able to sign some bullpen help today signing Luke Gregerson to a three-year, $18.5 million contract and Pat Neshek to a two-year $12.5 million with a option for a third year. For those who don’t follow the Astros closely the team has had one of the worst bullpens in baseball for the last few years. The team has been focusing on bullpen help this offseason so far by offering contracts to both Andrew Miller and David Robertson, both of whom signed with other teams.
The Astros have one of the worst bullpens in baseball and that’s why they have put such an emphasis on the pen this off-season. Since 2012 the Astros own a bullpen ERA of 4.73 and a FIP of 4.41: for perspective that’s 21% and 18% worse than the league average in that same timeframe. The pen struggles with control as well with a very high 3.75 BB/9 and a HR/9 of 1.02, even starters don’t want to see a 1 HR/9 and this is the team’s bullpen. Most interestingly the bullpens record is 46-97 since 2012 and 73 of those 97 loses comes from a blown save. I think its safe to say that the bullpen, for a lack of a better term, sucks.
Luke Gregerson had a very Gregerson season last year ending the season with a 7.34 K/9, 1.87 BB/9 (a career best), 0.75 HR/9 and limited batters to a .216 batting average. The ERA is a nice 2.12 but the FIP of 3.24 is a little disconcerting since the Astros will not have the best defense behind him and Gregerson is a big ground ball pitcher. 52.2% of the balls put in play last season were ground balls and in a stadium like Houston’s that’s going to be an advantage. The contract seems to be a fair one for the team even if $6.2 million a year is a bit steep for a setup pitcher. This gives the team a little flexibility with him if they decide to trade him at least and Gregerson isn’t being cheated out of any money he deserves.
Pat Neshek is not stranger to fame looking like a rising star during his first 2 seasons but hitting a wall due to injuries. He didn’t pick himself back up until almost 6 years later with the A’s and had a breakout/comeback year in 2014 to make his name known again. Last year Neshek had a 9.09 K/9 (highest since 2008), 1.20 BB/9 (his career best), a stunning 0.53 HR/9, and limited hitters to just a .180 batting average. His 1.87 ERA and 2.37 FIP are very strong ranking among the tops in baseball for relievers in 2014. If there’s one thing that should be looked closely at it’s the lowered HR/9 but the raise of his FB%. It does seem to be a random growth but these two stats conflict and it may cause issues. Much like the Gregerson contract it’s a safe one for all involved. Roughly the same annual pay as Gregerson and a potential third year makes him an attractive trade piece if the team deems it necessary.