Dallas Keuchel has had one heck of an opening month for the Houston Astros, going 2-0 with a 0.62 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP. He’s been nearly un-hittable, giving up more than three hits just once in four starts (Texas got five off of him on April 12th) and has given up just two runs this season. All of this has come while he’s been averaging more than seven innings a game no less. The southpaw that nobody knows about is announcing himself to the baseball world.
While he still has one start left this month in San Diego, Keuchel is second in baseball in ERA to the Rangers Nick Martinez, who currently holds a 0.45. The one run allowed by Martinez came in his last start against Arizona, but he has pitched nine fewer innings than Keuchel and has give up one more hit.
Other contenders are Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer (2-0, 0.95 ERA, 19 IP, 1.00 WHIP, 26 K’s), Oakland’s Scott Kazmir (2-0, 0.99 ERA, 27.1 IP, 0.88 WHIP, 30 K’s) and of course Felix Hernandez of Seattle (3-0, 1.61 ERA, 28 IP, 0.79 WHIP, 32 K’s). While Chris Archer (1.07 ERA) has had a fine month, the two losses pinned on him likely hurt his chances just enough in a very competitive field.
If it were up to me, the vote would be between Keuchel, Bauer and Martinez, depending on how their final starts of the month pan out. While Kazmir has been solid, the Astros just beat the Athletics. Both starters pitched exceptionally well, but Keuchel won the duel on Friday night, giving up fewer hits and walks, while striking out more A’s and recording two more innings with the same pitch count as his counterpart. Hernandez is on the list because he is always on these types of lists, and he is tied for the league lead in wins. Although wins likely don’t factor as heavily as they once did, the higher strikeout total may give him a slight bump.
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An added boost may go to Dallas Keuchel due to the fact that his team, thanks in large part to him, beat the reigning AL Cy Young winner on opening day, coupled with the surging Kazmir on Friday night. In those two games, Keuchel has allowed five hits and no runs with eight K’s over 16 innings. He’s also induced 30 ground ball outs in those two games, which is still eight more outs than he’s recorded in the air for the entire season. His season tally stands at 56 ground ball outs, 23 in the air and 18 via the K.
As for his AL ranks among qualified starters in key categories, he’s second in ERA as I mentioned, but 4th in WHIP, tied for 8th in wins (seven players have three, including Collin McHugh), 1st in innings pitched and 22nd in strikeouts. If there is one downfall, it’s that strikeout total, as evidenced by Corey Kluber‘s monstrous total of 269 last season en route to the Cy Young award a season ago.
To take it one step further, the Astros team ERA is a solid 3.02, which ranks 2nd in the American League and 3rd in baseball behind the Cardinals (1.92) and Royals (2.98). It would make sense to give the award to the best pitcher on one of the best staffs in baseball, would it not? Currently, the next-closest AL team is the Yankees, who have a 3.21 ERA as a staff, but their two best starters by ERA, Nathan Eovaldi and Masahiro Tanaka, both have ERAs over 3. Edinson Volquez is the best from Kansas City, and his ERA sits at a crisp 1.99.
Based on performance and other surrounding factors, it should be Keuchel’s award to lose with one start to go.