After a spate of injuries forced him back into the starting rotation, Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher, Adrian Houser, has made the most of his opportunity so far.
The Milwaukee Brewers starting pitching has, somehow, managed to avoid a total collapse in recent weeks after a series of injuries to 3/5ths of their rotation looked like it may derail their season.
Part of what’s fueling their success during their recent run of games has been the emergence of Adrian Houser as a solid starting pitching option.
Houser was given the chance to start a few games here and there early in the 2019 season. However, he was only given one extended run to try and lock down a spot, that coming in three starts at the beginning of July where he failed to do enough to warrant staying in the rotation.
In this second extended run, though, Houser has looked much better. In fact, it looks as if Houser is beginning to build some momentum as a starter for the very first time.
Houser’s Last Four Starts
Houser has made four starts now for the Milwaukee Brewers since getting moved back into the rotation. In three of those starts, Houser been fantastic.
In his return to the rotation against Oakland on July 30th, Houser went five innings where he gave up just three hits and one earned run. He struck out six while walking just one batter. It was an incredibly efficient outing from him, especially considering that he was on a limited pitch count due to being stretched back out into a starter that night.
Last weekend, Houser managed to bounce back from an upset stomach in the first inning to go six innings against the Texas Rangers at Miller Park. Once again, he gave up just three hits and one earned run. He managed to strike out ten batters while walking just one. It was one of the best starts anyone’s had for the Milwaukee Brewers this season.
Last night in Washington D.C., Houser managed to put in another fantastic start. He went seven innings, his longest start innings-wise of his Major League career to date. He gave up just two hits, one earned run, and stuck out four batters while walking just two.
The only start where Houser struggled a bit was his start in Chicago on August 4th where he gave up nine hits and four earned runs over five innings against the Cubs.
Overall, Houser is the fWAR leader for the Brewers starting pitchers over the past 30 days. He’s been good for 0.4 WAR, while pitching to a 2.74 ERA and 3.78 FIP. He’s averaged 9.78 K/9, while walking less than two batters per nine innings (1.98). 60% of the balls put in play against him have been ground balls.
What’s Working for Houser?
Houser’s success this second time through the rotation has come from two things: his ability to locate his pitches much better than he was earlier in the season, especially in using more quadrants of the strike zone, and his keeping hitters more off balance by mixing in his other pitches more often.
In his first prolonged stretch in the rotation, Houser struggled to hit his spots as often as he needed to. His balls and strikes count in his starts were virtually identical to the ones he’s had this time through the rotation. However, many of his pitches were located outside the strike zone, and he was only able to hit two quadrants in the zone consistently.
Hitters picked up on these tendencies and hit him hard and hit him often.
This time through the rotation, he’s been much more consistent in using all quadrants of the strike zone, especially early in counts. This is helping him get ahead of hitters, which then allows him expand the zone, once they’re behind in the count, to get them to chase out of the zone more often than before.
Houser has given up contact with much less frequently over his past four starts than he did his first time through the rotation. He’s also giving up hard contact a lot less often as well. He’s given up hard contact on just 24.6% of the batted balls in put in play against him over his past four starts, and he’s keeping the ball on ground much more often too (60% versus 44.8%).
He’s also doing a much better job of mixing his different pitches in to keep hitters more off-balance as well. Houser used his fastball close to 70% of the time from June 26th to July 15th, while using his off-speed stuff about 30% of the time.
This time through the rotation, Houser has reduced his fastball usage by a decent margin (62.2%) while beginning to utilize his slider (16.6% versus 10.7%) and change-up (8.6% versus 6.3%) more often.
Hitters have swung at less pitches in the strike zone than before against him (66.7% versus72.7%) which, in part, is because hitters are less sure of what’s coming in a given count. He’s also increased the swinging strike rate against him from 7..9% to 12.0%.
Can Houser sustain this?
Whether Houser can sustain this run remains to be seen. However, his better location and mixing of his pitches suggests he could. This is supported by his underlying numbers.
Houser has the potential to be a middle or back-end of the rotation starter. If he continues to build on these recent starts, he deserves to remain a starter for the remainder of the 2019 season.
The Milwaukee Brewers will need him to continue this run if they’re going to make the post-season.