The Early King of Low Leverage

It feels like Brian Moehler has been around forever. The major league portion of his career began way back in 1996 with the Tigers. In 2002 he moved on to the Reds. After that he flip flopped from the Astros to the Marlins a few times, but he’s settled in Houston since the 2007 season. In that year, he made 42 appearances without a single start. The Astros would have him start 26 games (of 31 appearances) in 2008 and all 29 of his 2009 appearances stemmed from the rotation.

This year, the Astros are using him as a low leverage reliever. Okay, perhaps the better term is extremely low leverage reliever. His average leverage index is 0.08. His seasonal debut came with a five run deficit in the ninth. His next outing began with the Astros trailing by five runs. After a week off, the Astros gave him a moderately important situation and Moehler did fine; entering down by one versus the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning and escaping without further damage. Since then, though, Moehler is yet to enter a game in which the Astros lead nor are they within three runs of the opposition.

The odd thing is that Moehler isn’t even that bad of a pitcher. Sure, he’s not Wandy Rodriguez, Roy Oswalt, or even Brandon Lyon, but there’s no shame in that. He’s projected to have a 4.55 FIP by ZiPS and his last three seasons have resulted in xFIP of 4.35, 4.49, and 4.67. Again, not great, but keep in mind Moehler made 55 starts during that span.

It would seem part of his usage is tied to his multiple inning ability. And hey, don’t look now, but the Astros’ pen has been pretty good so far. Their 3.89 FIP is better than most bullpens in the league. No matter the feelings on that ranking’s sustainability, the Astros probably can’t justify Moehler moving up the leverage chart quite yet, but I bet they do by season’s end.

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