Bryan Abreu: From Taxi Squad to high leverage World Series weapon for Houston Astros

The Houston Astros have the best bullpen in baseball by just about any metric: ERA, FIP, xFIP, K/9, LOB%…the list goes on.

A big reason for this is the burgeoning talent for unlikely pieces from unlikely places. Enter Bryan Abreu.

His 1.94 ERA leads all Astros relievers with over 21.0 innings not named Ryan Stanek. But where Stanek’s peripheral stats point to regression, Abreu is just as good as mainstream stats say he should be.

He’s adept at preventing the long ball, he’s retired batters at a better rate than any other pitcher on the team in 2022, and most importantly, he’s especially good at throwing left-handers.

This all comes from a player who was just on the taxi team during the playoffs, he wasn’t even good enough to make the playoff roster. Now the 25-year-old is the Astros’ relief ace.

In 10.1 playoff innings in 2022, he is yet to allow a run, striking out 18 while walking four. His ability to make left-handers feel is perhaps most intriguing.

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Many right-handed relievers who throw fireballs have trouble throwing to batters on the opposite hand. Because they only have two primary pitches, left-handed hitters can sit on the fastball because they know they won’t get the off-speed pitch that breaks toward them.

But Abreu has a secret weapon. His tertiary pitch, the curveball, is almost entirely reserved for left-handed hitters. He’s only thrown the pitch 105 times in 2022, but 91 of those were left-handed. Of the 12 times an at-bat has ended in this pitch, only two have gone for hits.

His versatility makes him especially useful to Dusty Baker and the Astros. Because they don’t have a left-handed stopper reliever, Abreu has become their go-to for dealing with the Phillies’ top hitters this World Series, Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper.

Abreu’s trajectory is only going up, and adding a ring to his already star-studded profile could make him one of baseball’s most beloved relievers. Last September he was pitching in Sugar Land, now he’s pitching in the World Series.

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