Aug 17, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcherCollin McHugh
(31) throws a pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
There is no debate that Dallas Keuchel is the captain of the ship in the Astros rotation, but every captain needs a second in command. Enter Collin McHugh. In his first real shot at the major league level, the 27-year old righty dazzled, pitching to the tune of a 2.73 ERA, and a team-high 157 strikeouts, while going 11-9 in 2014.
Call to the Pen
The 11 wins by McHugh are already more than Jeff Samardzija has put up in any single season–by two. Samardzija’ highest win total came in 2012, when he went 9-13. The argument that can be made is that Samardzija never got run support in his days in Chicago, and this is true. Yet, McHugh’s 2.73 ERA has only been bested by Samardzija once, and that was in his rookie season in 2008, when he held a 2.28 ERA coming out of the bullpen. He totaled 27 2/3 innings that year compared to McHugh’s tally of 154 2/3 in 2014. Samardzija accrued a 2.99 cumulative ERA between the Cubs and A’s this season, which is his best since becoming a starter. While he pitched more innings than McHugh in total, when he was dominant with Chicago, in fewer innings (108), he still held a 2.83 ERA.
That rookie season for Samardzija is also the only season that he held a lower FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) than McHugh’s 3.11 in 2014, coming in just above Samardzija’s 3.06 in 2008.
Since McHugh is a couple of years younger, lets look at Samardzija’s age 27 season by comparison.
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While Samardzija collected more strikeouts, it was McHugh who commanded the strike zone with more authority, as evidenced by his WHIP (Walks+Hits/Innings Pitched) and higher K/BB ratio (Strikeouts/Walks).
In fact, McHugh’s 3.83 K/BB ratio was higher than his seven-year minor league average of 3.18. Could it be that McHugh was performing above his head in Houston? Possibly. Will we be waiting with baited breath to find out? Most definitely. Either way, McHugh’s 2014 performance was solid for a former 18th round pick that the Astros picked up off waivers last December.