Astros Player of the Day: Cristian Javier

Nov 2, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Cristian Javier (53) reacts after recording the third out against the Philadelphia Phillies during the sixth inning in game four of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Astros Player of the Day: Cristian Javier

Welcome to Gallery Sports’ Houston Astros Spring Training player spotlight, Astros Player of the Day. We will look at a different Astros player each day throughout spring training.

Today’s Astros Player of the Day is starting pitcher Cristian Javier.

In an era where pitchers must have high-end fastball velocity or an elite breaking ball, Cristian Javier befuddles hitters without either. Of the 72 pitchers to throw at least 140 innings last season, only two threw their heater more frequently, with Javier’s averaging a middle-of-the-pack 93.8 MPH, but opponents couldn’t touch it, even though they knew it was coming.

Opposing hitters could only muster a .183 batting average and .326 slugging percentage against Javier’s “invsiball” that they simply cannot see. He also features a slider that limited the opposition to a .121 average, and Javier would mix in a curveball to lefties.

Javier is one of the great success stories of the Astros’ pitching machine. Signed for a paltry $10,000 in 2015 as an 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, where the top prospects sign at 16, he quietly moved through the Astros system, finishing every season with an ERA below 3.00, no matter the level. After climbing every step of the ladder, Javier made his Major League debut in 2020.

He finished with a 3.48 ERA as a rookie, starting 10 of his 12 regular season games, and he threw three scoreless innings while getting the win in game two of the Astros Wild Card Series win against the Twins. He started the 2021 season as a starter before the depth of the Astros rotation forced him to the bullpen.

Javier finished 2021 with a 3.55 ERA in 101.1 innings. He held opponents to a .186 average while striking out 30.7% of the hitters he faced, but he had a 12.5% walk rate. He brought his ERA down by more than a full run while pitching almost exclusively as a starter last season. His opponent’s batting average dropped to .170, his strikeout rate went up to 33.2%, but more importantly, his walk rate dropped to 8.9%.

The Astros’ right-hander, who will turn 26 on March 26, authored two of the most memorable performances of the Astros 2022 season. On June 25, Javier struck out 13 and walked only one while pitching the first seven innings of the Astros combined no-hitter at Yankee Stadium, and then he struck out nine while throwing six no-hit innings in game four of the World Series to help draw the Astros even against the Phillies, a night after Philadelphia hit five home runs against Lance McCullers Jr. 

No more moving back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. Javier is now entrenched as a starter after signing a five-year, $64 million contract in February, and with Justin Verlander in New York and McCullers set to start the season on the injured list, Javier enters the season as the Astros number two starting pitcher behind Framber Valdez.

Javier was tremendous last season, but the Astros need him to throw more innings. He went six innings in less than half of his 25 starts, and while you can get away with that from the bottom of your rotation, it is absolutely imperative the guys at the top of the rotation go deep into games for fear of wearing down your bullpen. The Astros bullpen threw 35 fewer innings than anyone in baseball last season, a big reason why it remained dominant during a 13-game playoff run.

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *