HomeTeamsAstrosWith Rash Of Injuries To The Astros’ Starting Rotation, Hunter Brown And...

With Rash Of Injuries To The Astros’ Starting Rotation, Hunter Brown And Spencer Arrighetti Look To Prove Their Worth

A couple of weeks ago, Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti were pitching for their baseball lives. Fellow starter JP France got sent down to AAA Sugar Land right before the Astros went to Mexico City at the end of April to play the Colorado Rockies in a two-game series. Framber Valdez rejoined the big-league club then after spending time on the IL with an elbow injury.In mid-May, Jose Urquidy was preparing to go on a rehab assignment and rumor had it that either Arrighetti or Brown would be sent down when Urquidy would rejoin the starting rotation.Fast forward to this Monday when the Astros announced that Cristian Javier would go on the IL with forearm discomfort, and Jose Urquidy would be shut down for the foreseeable future when he left his second rehab start of the season with right forearm discomfort.What’s one man’s misfortune is another man’s fortune. Arrighetti and Brown’s spots in the starting rotation are safe for now.

It hasn’t been a dream season for the second-year pitcher Brown or the rookie Arrighetti so far this year. Of active pitchers on the Astros’ 25-man roster, Arrighetti and Brown have the two worst ERAs of any pitcher at 6.93 and 6.39 respectively. The first inning continues to be a problem to navigate for Hunter Brown as he has a team worst 14.90 ERA in the first inning, allowing 16 runs on 23 hits in 9.2 innings pitched. Brown allowed many of those runs during a disastrous start in Kansas City, when he let up nine runs on 11 hits, while only recording two outs in an eventual 13-3 loss. Arrighetti also has struggled in the first inning, allowing nine runs on ten hits in eight innings for a first inning ERA of 10.13. Arrighetti allowed four of those runs on three hits during an April 24th game in Chicago, a game the Astros would barely lose 4-3.

Both starting pitchers entered 2024 with promise. Drafted out of Wayne State University in the 5th round of the 2019 MLB Draft, Brown made his major-league debut in 2022. Brown had an electric start to his career, albeit a small sample size of 20.1 innings. In seven games (two starts), Brown only allowed two earned runs and 15 hits, as he walked seven batters and struck out 22. With the small sample size, he finished the 2022 season with a minuscule 0.89 ERA. Brown was rewarded for his great start to his career by getting added to the postseason roster, where he threw 3.2 scoreless innings in three postseason games. 2023 saw Brown struggle as he became a permanent fixture in the starting rotation due to multiple injuries to Astros’ starting pitchers, including Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers, Jr. That year, Brown started 29 games, going 11-13 with a 5.09 ERA in 155.2 innings. He allowed 157 hits, 88 earned runs, and 26 home runs, while walking 55 batters and striking out 178. Though, Brown pitched well in limited work in the 2023 postseason, only allowing two earned runs in seven innings of work; he allowed six hits, one walk, and struck out six batters.

Drafted out of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in the 6th round of the 2021 MLB Draft, Arrighetti steadily made his way through the Astros’ minor league system. He got promoted to AAA Sugar Land in just three seasons, going a combined 9-7 with a 4.40 ERA in 28 games (21 starts) for Sugar Land and AA Corpus Christi in 2023. During that year, he threw a career-high 124.2 innings, let up 97 hits, 61 earned runs, and 11 home runs. He walked 59 batters and struck out 141, and compiled a 1.25 WHIP on the season. After pitching 8.2 scoreless innings in two starts for Sugar Land this year, Arrighetti got the call to the big leagues, as Framber Valdez was put on the IL on April 9th. Arrighetti got roughed up in his debut, as he allowed seven runs on seven hits and three walks in three innings of work against the Kansas City Royals.

However, for both Brown and Arrighetti, they’ve been steadily improving over their last handful of starts. Arrighetti has won two of his last three starts and pitched well in his lone loss. He notched his first win of his MLB career by pitching five innings of two-run ball against the Oakland Athletics, striking out five and walking two in a 9-2 Astros win. The Astros won his next start too, as Arrighetti pitched into the seventh inning of a 9-4 win against the Milwaukee Brewers. In that game, he allowed four runs on seven hits, while striking out six batters and walking two. He pitched admirably in a 3-1 loss against the Oakland Athletics this past Sunday, throwing five innings of three-run, five-hit baseball while walking three and matching a career-high with seven strikeouts. After that start, his season ERA fell over half a run from 7.52 to 6.93.

In his last five games (four starts), Brown has pitched well, though the Astros only won one of those games. Ironically, Brown pitched one of his worst games of the year during that Astros win, as he threw five innings of four-hit, four-run baseball against the Milwaukee Brewers; he allowed two home runs and struck out five in a 5-4 win. In Brown’s last 26 innings, he’s given up 10 runs on 20 hits and 10 walks. He’s struck out 29 batters in his last five outings, including a season-high nine batters in a tough 4-2 loss to Seattle on Tuesday night. During this stretch, he’s compiled a 3.42 ERA and a .206 opponent batting average. His season ERA has fallen from 8.89 to 6.39 in this span. Though he’s’ been pitching well as of late, Brown has had trouble giving up home runs and issuing walks overall this season. He’s let up at least one home run in seven of his eleven appearances, and has walked three or more batters five times this year.

Arrighetti has five pitches in his repertoire: a four-seamer, curveball, cutter, sweeper, and changeup. He primarily throws three of them with consistency: the four-seamer, curveball, and cutter. Opposing hitters are crushing his four-seamer, hitting .373 off of it, collecting 22 hits, including six doubles and two home runs. Arrighetti’s four-seamer is catching too much of the middle of the plate currently. Opponents have had less success against Arrighetti’s curveball and cutter. Opposing hitters only have a .171 batting average against his curveball, collecting six hits, including a double and a home run. Likewise, opponents are only hitting .229 against Arrighetti’s cutter this year, collecting eight hits off of it, including a double and a home run. Arrighetti’s strikeout pitch is his curveball, as he’s gotten twenty strikeouts on it so far this year.

Brown has six pitches in his repertoire: a four-seamer, cutter, split finger, knuckle curve, slider, and a newly incorporated sinker. Brown heavily relies on his four-seamer to set up his breaking and off-speed pitches, as he throws the four-seamer 42% of the time. Unfortunately, like Arrighetti, opponents have feasted on Brown’s four-seam fastball, as they are hitting .333 against it, collecting 29 hits, including four doubles, a triple, and six home runs. Brown’s four-seamer is also his strikeout pitch as he’s recorded 28 strikeouts with this pitch. He’s recorded 25 strikeouts on his other five pitches combined. While opposing batters are hitting .241 against his cutter and .200 against his split finger, Chandler Rome of The Athletic reported that Brown has a new pitch that he’s relied on to keep his spot in the starting rotation: his sinker. Rome reported that Brown hadn’t thrown his sinker since his time in college at Wayne State University. Hitters currently haven’t been able to figure out how to hit it, as they are hitting a paltry .154 (two hits in fifteen at-bats) against the pitch. In his last start against Seattle, Brown threw his sinker nine times, getting hitters to ground out on the pitch twice. It’ll be fun to watch how Brown incorporates this pitch over his next handful of starts.

Brown and Arrighetti need to continue their recent stretch of solid outings if they want to keep their spot in the starting rotation once Javier (and at some point, Garcia and McCullers) rejoin the Astros. Questions abound for both players though. Will Brown’s sinker be a difference maker for him moving forward? Will Brown’s four-seamer continue to be his strikeout pitch? Will Arrighetti fix his location issues on his four-seamer? Will Arrighetti continue to utilize his curveball for strikeouts? Most importantly, will there be enough time for both of them to make their case to stay in the starting rotation?


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