Astros: Who Will Hold Down the 4th and 5th Spots in the Rotation?

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With Ryan Vogelsong in talks to join the Astros, I wanted to take a look at who could be vying for the final two spots in the Houston rotation for 2015. The main candidates are Vogelsong, Brett Oberholtzer and Dan Straily, with Brad Peacock and Asher Wojciechowski being the dark horse candidates. For this piece, I’ll focus on the first three.

Here is a look at their stats from 2014:

At first glance, this seems like a pretty open and shut case with Vogelsong and Oberholtzer getting the jobs, but I’m going to provide some food for thought when it comes to Dan Straily. While his 2014 numbers aren’t great, his stats from 2013 when he was a member of the A’s are much better. That season he went 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA over 152 1/3 innings and a 1.241 WHIP. His strikeout per nine inning rate was 7.3, while his strikeout to walk ratio was a 2.18. Basically, those numbers are what Vogelsong put up last year, but Vogey is aging, and Straily is still just 26.

With Chicago Straily went 0-1, starting one game and coming out of the bullpen six times. That’s not exactly his forte. He produced an 11.85 ERA in those seven appearances, while his strikeout rate went up to 8.6, the highest of his career. Is it possible that the Cubs weren’t utilizing Straily’s strengths and were attempting to make him more of a strikeout pitcher? Yes, it’s possible. If this is the case, then maybe we take his 2014 stats with a grain of salt.

The other advantage that Straily has, in this case over Vogelsong (which is silly to argue, because if Vogey is signed he’s in the rotation) is that while the stats are comparable from Straily’s 2013 campaign and Vogelsong from 2014, Straily has pitched in the A.L., and more specifically in the A.L. West. He knows the competition. The N.L. average ERA in 2014 was 3.66, and Vogelsong was helped by the friendly confines of AT&T Park, which ranked last in the majors in home runs allowed. Minute Maid Park ranked 8th in the category. The A.L. average ERA in 2013 was 3.99, which means that Straily was slightly above average in 2013, while Vogelsong was below average in 2014.

Whether or not the home run rate will affect Vogelsong as a potential member of the Astros isn’t certain, but it does give reason for pause. Last season, he allowed 0.9 home runs per nine innings pitched, which is good, but again, AT&T isn’t known for the long ball. According to FanGraphs, Vogelsong also has a slight tendency towards being a ground ball pitcher, with a 1.03 ground ball/fly ball rate.

Why haven’t I talked about Oberholtzer? The Astros know more about him, which could work for or against him. He is also the only lefty in the mix, which would give Houston a second southpaw in the rotation to go along with Dallas Keuchel.

If the Astros sign Ryan Vogelsong, I’m betting that the rotation would be Keuchel, Scott Feldman, Collin McHugh, Vogelsong and Oberholtzer. Whether or not Vogelsong would be a solid addition to the Astros’ rotation is up in the air for me. If the signing does take place, there will likely be another trade involving minor league starting pitching with Peacock, Wojo and Mark Appel all waiting for their call to the majors.

Next: How Does the Max Scherzer Signing Affect Houston?

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