Demoting Adrian Houser to the bullpen isn't the easy fix for the struggling pitcher

Adrian Houser needs more than less time on the mound to get right.
Chicago Cubs v New York Mets
Chicago Cubs v New York Mets / Al Bello/GettyImages

Adrian Houser won’t start for the New York Mets again—at least not this time through the rotation. Carlos Mendoza made the announcement before Friday’s game. 

The shake-up comes at a necessary time. Christian Scott makes his debut against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. Tylor Megill is now two rehab starts deep into a return. Jose Butto has been awesome for the ball club, too.

Some have quickly pointed to Houser’s past success pitching in relief. However, much of that was years ago and won’t necessarily translate into success this time around. Not every starter can handle a bullpen role. Based on the numbers Houser has posted this year, it doesn’t seem to be the easy fix.

Adrian Houser has been bad for the Mets in every situation this year

Let’s look at a few different situations for Adrian Houser this year. The first time through facing an opponent, they’ve hit .222/.352/.333 against him. He has actually been quite effective outside of the 7 walks in 54 plate appearances. It’s the only instance in facing a batter where he has more strikeouts, 8, than bases on balls.

This does bode well for Houser in a relief role because he would be unlikely to face anyone more than once outside of a mop-up situation or an extra innings marathon. Another number contradicts the “success” the first time through. On pitches 1-25, Houser has allowed batters to hit .290/.405/.452 against him. Despite not giving up a home run on any of his first 25 pitches, the .452 slugging percentage against him is worse than pitches 26-50 or 51-75.

Houser has absolutely run into most of his troubles when the pitch count rises and batters see him for a third time. The third time through, opponents are slashing .480/.552/.720 against him. On pitches 76-100, they’re hitting .368/.400/.632. It’s not an unusual problem yet it’s certainly a notable one for him.

Houser’s struggles have been plentiful. Despite all of the base runners via walk, this groundball pitcher has induced just two double plays. A first inning ERA of 7.50 and a third inning ERA of 9.00, Houser has been excellent in the second and fourth inning this year for the Mets posting ERAs of 1.50 in each. Those tend to be the innings when a pitcher will face the bottom of the order.

Go figure. That’s another one of those standout weaknesses.

Batters one through five are all batting .286 or better against Houser this year with OBPs of .412 and above. It’s the cleanup hitters he has held at bay best and the number two hitters owning the high 1.092 OPS against him.

At the bottom of the lineup, number six hitters are slashing .200/.429/.200 against him. Seven are at .083/.154/.167. Eight at .273/.333/.364. And finally the nine hitters are at .100/.250/.100.

Houser hasn’t been the victim of bad luck. His numbers bear out as expected with a bit of an extreme. Good hitters are pounding him while the bad ones are falling short.

Will a maximum effort out of him translate better in a relief role? Not a particularly hard-thrower by any stretch, the past success in relief for the Milwaukee Brewers doesn’t matter much right now. It’ll only be better because it can’t be much worse.