Culture / Sporting Life

Kendall Graveman Corkscrews a Hitter Into the Ground, Shatters Bats — the Mad James Harden-Like Magic of the Astros’ New Relief Star

The Best Bullpen Weapon in Baseball?

BY // 08.07.21

Suddenly, the most exciting Houston Astro is the one who casual fans do not even think of. The one who breaks bats with the dramatic flair that James Harden breaks ankles. The one who probably needs to make more of an impact in October than Max Scherzer if the Astros are going to win another World Series. Kendall Graveman is all that and more.

Graveman is not just an elite pitcher in The Show now. He’s a pitcher who is a show.

And anyone at Minute Maid Park on this Friday night for an otherwise unremarkable 5-4 11th inning loss against the going nowhere Minnesota Twins is a witness.

Kendall Graveman does not just get three eighth inning outs. He absolutely terrorizes the Twins hitters unfortunate enough to come up to the plate. Pennywise the Clown coming out of the sewer is a less frightening sight than Graveman taking the mound, unleashing 96 mph sinkers.

Just ask Luis Arraez. Arraez is a promising enough young hitter who carries a .313 average for the retooling Twins. But against Graveman, he is reduced to a comedy act. Arraez gets so twisted around by Graveman that he falls down in the batter’s box while swinging futilely at air. Crumbles like a kid’s block set being kicked over.

Yes, a 97 MPH Graveman sinker — a pitch so filthy it probably should be banned by the Sokovia Accords — causes Arraez to completely corkscrew around while swinging and end up on his bottom. Lying in the dirt of the batter’s box. Arraez will hurt himself trying to hit Graveman’s pitch.

The official diagnosis will be right knee tightness, but it might as well be he was Graveman-ed. That’s truly what happens to the unfortunate Luis Arraez. James Harden’s forever YouTube tormented step-back victims can relate.

Arraez needs to be taken out in the middle of his at-bat. It is the humane thing to do. So Willans Astudillo is brought on to finish the at-bat. Astudillo’s bat does not survive the ordeal. It’s shattered into three pieces by a 95 mph sinker that dances on the corner. There is no such thing as a harmless out when Kendall Graveman is pitching.

Lumber and hitters are very much harmed. They’re in constant danger. There are ice road truckers with more room to relax.

Kendall Graveman’s 10 pitches are the best thing about this game. The most exciting moment by far of a three hour and 54 minute affair that ultimately turns into another Houston loss to a below .500 team. Stealing Graveman from Seattle trade deadline week is the best thing James Click has done as the Astros general manager.

“Our bullpen is great,” Zack Greinke says after giving way to that bullpen after six innings on this night. “It’s really deep with a lot of good options. I’m guessing once the playoffs come, the starters will be going just two times through the order — ideally. And the bullpen can handle the rest.

“That’s what it looks like to me. The bullpen’s pretty deep and good. I like how that’s set up.”

Graveman, who seems to be settling into the eighth inning role for now before incumbent closer Ryan Pressly and after Ryne Stanek, is now the showcase arm in that pen. He brings the overpowering stuff that can snuff out an inning. Graveman is the arm that opposing managers will fear in October.

There are 331 total pitches thrown in this marathon of an August game. Ten of them are more special than the others. Graveman’s 10.

“We were very impressed with him,” Click said on the day he dealt for the Astros’ bullpen difference maker. “We obviously seen him up close and personal (with division opponent Seattle). He’s a guy that our hitters in our clubhouse have been very impressed with.”

Kendall Graveman’s Overpowering Stuff

Kendall Graveman lowers his season ERA to 0.74 with his dominant work against the Twins. He’s given up three runs all season, none since June 19.

A 97 MPH Graveman sinker — a pitch so filthy it probably should be banned by the Sokovia Accords — causes a Twins hitter to corkscrew around while swinging and end up on his bottom.

On a night when USA Olympic softball stalwart Cat Osterman throws out the ceremonial first pitch — and gets a much deserved standing ovation from the Minute Maud Park crowd — Graveman makes Major League hitters look as befuddled as if they’re swinging against an elite swerving softball with an inflated blow up bat. That’s his gift.

At least, it is now. The 30-year-old Graveman’s took the long route to this sometimes silly dominance. A starter for his entire career, Graveman did not move until a full-time relief role until last season. It turns out he’s a natural at it.

Kendall Graveman Astros
Kendall Graveman’s sinker is one of the most unhittable pitchers in baseball in 2021. (@astros)

Astros Twitter is already absolutely in love with him just three appearances into his Houston tenure. And what’s not to love? The bearded Graveman comes in and just starts blowing away hitters. His sinker may corkscrew you into the dirt. It will break your bat.

Kendall Graveman has the type of nasty stuff that plays in October. The Astros suddenly have one of the most exciting arms in all of baseball. Sometimes the new show — the unexpected show — is the most exciting show of all.

Graveman is coming to the mound. Just try not to hurt yourself. If you can.

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