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Astros' setup men have been crucial to success

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  • Astros' setup men have been crucial to success

    Astros' setup men have been crucial
    By Tom Timmermann


    The Astros, you may have heard, have a great starting rotation with Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt and Roger Clemens. And their closer, Brad Lidge, is pretty much unhittable by the Cardinals.

    But in between is a group that has proved essential to the Astros in getting to the playoffs this season, their setup men. Former Cardinal Russ Springer, Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler have safely gotten the game from the starters to Lidge.

    "Dan Wheeler, his numbers have been flat dominating this year as a setup guy," Lidge said, "and Chad Qualls and Russ Springer have been here all year and thrown fantastic. When you get all those guys in the mix, it enables your starting rotation to not have to go quite as deep in games, and it helps me not to have to throw the eighth inning as much, so it makes everybody a little fresher at the end of the season. ... I shudder to think where we would be (without them). They've been the real pieces this year that have gotten us where we've been."

    Qualls said the Astros' starters "are capable of going late in the games, and with the bullpen now, they don't have to. As long as they're throwing the ball well, they can throw as much as they want or as little as they want. And with Brad, he's thrown a substantial amount less than last year, and that's great for Brad and great for the bullpen. It's just all around good use of our pitching staff."

    The setup men haven't been needed so far in this series, but that could change soon, with Roger Clemens, who threw the fewest innings of the Big Three this season, pitching today and No. 4 starter Brandon Backe starting Sunday.

    Wheeler had a 2.21 ERA in the regular season, more than two runs below his ERA last season after joining the team in August. Qualls was at 3.28, down from 3.55, and Springer at 4.73, though he was strong down the stretch, not allowing a run in 26 of his last 33 outings. Astros manager Phil Garner hasn't had to bring Lidge in for two-inning saves as often as he had before, and Lidge has made 10 fewer appearances and thrown 24 fewer innings than in 2004, but had 13 more saves. Gone are Chad Harville and Dan Miceli, who had ERAs over 3.50 last season.

    "It's a difference, yes," said Garner, who called his setup men "invaluable."

    "What works in modern-day baseball is that you have to have quality starters and certainly a closer, but you have to have somebody to bridge that gap, and our bullpen has done that for us all year," Garner said. "Everybody we've had out there has done a very good job, so they have made it all work."

    The difference in two cases is experience. Neither Qualls nor Wheeler had done much relieving before ending up in the Astros' bullpen last season, and as they have gotten more accustomed to their jobs, their performance has improved.

    "I just think we're more experienced," said Wheeler, who is finishing his first complete season in the majors after breaking in in 1999. "I'd never done it. This year for me was going out in pressure situations more and more, and the more I went out there, I don't want to use the word nervous, but you're excited to get out there in those situations. The more and more you put yourself in those situations, the more and more you succeed at them." [/b][/quote]

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    Fuck the fucking Astros.
    The noise was good, but I thought they phoned in a lot of the funk.

    Co-Sponsor of Yadi Molina, possessor of the best waxed eyebrows in the league.

    Sponsor of steveInebriated and fetcher of cold beer.


    • #3
      So it says a good bullpen helps you win?..brilliant article. [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/laugh.gif[/img]