Astros' Pitching Musical Chairs -- Somehow Brandon Lyon Got a Seat
"Fulchie's got the stuff, and he's had some success here the last couple years and we wanted him to go down and work on command of his pitches and being able to throw the ball over the strike zone with consistency," manager Brad Mills said.
Jeff Fulchino: The latest casualty
Okay, first things first -- Fulchie? Really?
Sorry, for whatever reason, the whole "first syllable of last name and attach a long E sound and ALAKAZAAM! NICKNAME!" approach to nicknaming players that the Astros delightfully employ is one more subtle reminder about how boring this team is. Had to get that out there.
Now, about Fulchie. And to be fair, Fulchie is just a casual bystander/innocent victim in the fallout of one of the season's best stories and one of the worst colliding.
Let's start with the good. Jordan Lyles's three-game audition has been a success. He was fabulous in his first start against the Cubs, struggled in his second start against the Padres, and kept the Astros in the game in his third start against the Braves on Saturday. One great start, one bad start, one good start.
In a year where Brett Myers's soul appears to be possessed by the ghost of Jose Lima (18 home runs allowed, if you're scoring at home), where J.A. Happ has been way below average, and where Wandy Rodriguez has been up and down and hurt, Lyles's three-game stretch is easily enough to keep him firmly in the rotation.
Add to that the fact that maybe he's still fresh enough to sell some curiosity walk-up seats if he pitches well, and this was a no-brainer. Lyles stays.
Aneury Rodriguez heads to the bullpen, and that provides our segue into one of the biggest disappointments of the year. With A-Rod heading to the pen (Yeah, I said it. Aneury Rodriguez is A-Rod. Cameron Diaz feeding Alex popcorn at the Super Bowl resulted on a revocation of cool nickname privileges. He can have "Roddy." The Astros approve), the dominoes had to fall.
The domino that fell out was setup guy Jeff Fulchino. Now to be clear, he has been bad lately. After providing a fairly sound arm in spots for two years, Fulchino had seen his ERA balloon to 4.88 this season. Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle summarizes:
As for Fulchino, who has walked 16 (three intentionally) in 27 2/3 innings and compiled a 4.88 ERA, the move was about regaining command. The big righthander has allowed opponents a .388 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage while posting a 6.75 ERA in his last 18 outings after a 1.74 mark in his first 12.
Fulchino will take his talents to AAA Oklahoma City. But does he deserve to?
Fulchino has been bad, but Brandon Lyon has been worse. And by worse I mean THE WORST. The worst closer, the worst pitcher in baseball. Understanding that there is some nebulous portion of Lyon's horrendous performance that is attributable, we think, to injury (He just returned from the disabled list in the past week or so), the team is still trotting him out there. So if he is not only not doing his job, but undoing the good work of his teammates, it must be pointed out, he has to be criticized.
Brandon Lyon has a 10.22 ERA. Start there.
On Saturday, he came in on the heels of Lyles's and the bullpen's solid work and proceeded to string together a top of the tenth inning against the Braves that made the Friday night fireworks look like a Zippo lighter -- three hits, a walk, a home run and four earned runs. I got the same number of major league batters out as Lyon did on Saturday. So did you. So did your dog. So did every person who has ever died in the history of the world.
The reasons don't matter anymore. Brandon Lyon doesn't belong on this baseball team. Unless there is some master plan to get the first pick in next summer's draft by losing a slew of demoralizing games, Lyon shouldn't be anywhere near a pitcher's mound the rest of the season. At the very least, if the guy is hurt, shut him down and figure it out later.
Until that happens, innocent people will continue to see their lives devastated by the natural disaster emanating from Brandon Lyon's right arm.
Innocent people like Fulchie.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.