Dallas Keuchel (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)
It was somewhat of a shock to me that Dallas Keuchel made the Astros’ starting rotation out of Spring Training. But at this point in the season, Keuchel has, without question, put all of those doubts behind him.
Instead, we now have a whole new set of questions raised about the southpaw. Can he keep it up?
The easy answer, is yes. Of course, we need to add some level of a caveat here as I wouldn’t expect to see Keuchel end the season with a sub-3.00 ERA, but he will stay in the starting rotation and continue to have success all season.
In all honesty, there really was not too much from the past two seasons that would cause one to project this level of success for Keuchel. He made 16 starts in 2012 and 22 starts last season with ERA’s of 5.27 and 5.15 respectively. Keuchel’s WHIP’s of 1.55 and 1.53 were not much better.
But was his 2013 really as bad as it appeared? A FIP, which some feel is better benchmark of true performance than ERA, of 4.25 would suggest that it was not. His BABIP of .340 last season was also on the higher hide which did suggest that an improvement was in order for 2014.
We can all agree that Keuchel has been one of the biggest bright spots of the season thus far for Houston. Let’s take a look at why.
First of all, Keuchel’s FIP of 2.85 says that his 2.92 ERA is legitimate. But perhaps more importantly, Keuchel is keeping runners of the base paths as his 1.05 WHIP shows. He has gone from 4.1 BB/9 in 2012, to 3.0 last season and all the way down to 1.8 BB/9 this season. The positive impact of that cannot be understated. That combined with eight strikeouts per nine innings is the perfect recipe for success.
Aside from improved control, Keuchel is doing an excellent job of keeping the ball on the ground. After ground ball rates of 52.1% and 55.8% the last seasons, it is up to 67.7% this season.
I know it sounds like a broken record, but Keuchel really looks like he “gets it” this season. He is pitching with more confidence, and is keeping the ball down in the zone. Aside from the statistical evidence, the southpaw has a different approach so far this season on the mound. He is more confident and has a plan.
This is something I would expect to see continue.