Seth Martinez would be a leverage taker for multiple teams. He’s a victim of the roster crisis in Houston

Baseball is a notoriously unfair game on the field. It can also be beyond him.

Few players understand that sentiment better right now than Seth Martinez, who was picked for Triple-A Sugar Land on Saturday when the Astros activated Lance McCullers Jr. from the injured reserve.

Martinez, a 27-year-old rookie, has a 2.48 ERA (2.83 xERA) of 32 23 sleeves. Now he is back in the minors.

It’s a call that had to be made but is nonetheless ruthless for Martinez, who has proven to be an effective arm in a bullpen that has the lowest ERA in baseball.

A 17th-round pick from Arizona State in the 2016 draft, Martinez worked his way through the minor leagues for six years before finally getting a chance to establish himself as a viable big leaguer in 2022. He did that and more.

In his 30-plus innings, Martinez averaged .179 against. He is tied with Cristian Javier for the lowest BAA on the Astros pitching staff. His .197 xBA only follows Javier.

Armed with a deceptive four-seam fastball and sweeping slider, Martinez attacked hitters early and pitched with tempo. No other Astros pitcher has come 0-1 in the count as often as Martinez, nor has any other operated so quickly.

It’s not top speed or a nasty breakup ball that stops opposing hitters, it’s Martinez’s ability to induce weak contact while missing an adequate number of bats in the process. Although his fastball averages 92 mph, his perceived speed is about a tick higher. Only Phil Maton has a bigger positive difference among Astros pitchers.

It’s this type of deception that has resulted in a well-balanced profile in terms of exit speed and launch angle. Martinez not only avoided barrel rolls, he regularly tricked hitters into producing the least effective type of batted ball: pop-ups. The rookie right-hander has the Astros’ highest pop-up rate and ranks 15th among all pitchers (min. 50 pitches).

Martinez also performed well on the opposite end of the launch angle spectrum, as his third offer, a sinker, generates a fair amount of ground balls. Combining pop-ups and ground balls, only Framber Valdez, Bryan Abreu and Rafael Montero induce them to higher pace.

Martinez isn’t a batting demon or a command artist — he’s intermediate in the batting and walking departments — but he’s shown real talent when it comes to contact throwing, which which is quite remarkable in an age that values ​​pitchers with optimal hitting. bullet profiles.

In a relief corps that is one of the best in the major leagues, Martinez rarely found himself pitching in key situations. He ranks last among Astros’ relievers in terms of FanGraphs Average Leverage Index. As a rookie in a pretty tight bullpen, that’s to be expected. He could only control how hard he threw when called, and he did.

In a number of other bullpen, Martinez would likely be a late-inning option. But for the Astros, right now, he’s a minor league reliever.