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What’s McWrong with the Astros Collin McHugh?

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Ok Houston, we have a problem. The Houston Astros thought they discovered gold through the waiver wire in Collin McHugh. In 2014, he did not make the team out of spring training, but he was called up for a spot-start against the Seattle Mariners. He came out and shocked the world that night when he pitched 6.2 innings allowing zero runs and struck out 12 batters. He went on to finish the season with an 11-9 record with a 2.73 ERA for a losing Astros team. He struck out 157 hitters in 154.2 innings.

Even through McHugh’s recent rough patch, he has still found a way to pitch in the sixth inning in 11 of his 13 games in 2015. The problem is he would start off a game bad, but then settles down to stay in the game. He was also the beneficiary of solid run support at times to bail him out. Has he struggled all season? It may seem like it, but McHugh has not been McBad all season.

Below is a game by game log for Collin McHugh through the 2015 season via Baseball-Reference.

As you can see, he started the season as the Collin McHugh from 2014, dominating in April. However, after the sixth game that McHugh pitched in 2015, his luck began to change. Let’s look deeper into the month per month stats for Collin McHugh from the game log above.

He was the ace we thought he was in April, started to slip in May, and has totally lost his pitching form in June so far. In 2014, McHugh averaged more than a strikeout an inning. However, in 2015 his strikeout rate has decreased to .78 strikeouts per inning pitched. In 2014, he averaged 9.14 strikeouts/nine innings pitched, but has dipped to 7.16 in 2015.

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According to

FanGraphs

, the batting average against McHugh has increased from .205 in 2014 up to .271 in 2015. His home runs have also increased from last year; in 2014 he allowed 13 homers but has already allowed 12 in 2015.

According to FanGraphs, McHugh’s fastball has slowed down this year, and he has used it less as well. In 2014, his fastball averaged 91.6 mph (40% of pitches) but dropped to 90.4 mph (30.7%) in 2015. With him losing speed on his fastball, he has leaned more on his slider this year by throwing a slider 39.2% of the time in 2015, from 31.5% in 2014.

Whatever the stats are saying, the eye test tells you that he is not good right now. With McHugh coming back to Earth a little, people will be calling for a trade for a top to mid-tier type pitcher in case McHugh can’t regain his form. He has slowly reverted to the pitcher he was before he joined the Astros. Is it something mechanical that he can figure out with Brett Strom, or was he just a one hit wonder?

Here is a quote from Evan Drellich’s article titled Mariners Turn Tables On Collin McHugh. “Kind of go back to the drawing board,” McHugh said. “You got to fix something. I got to figure something out. It’s frustrating because my stuff’s not very sharp right now. But my body feels good, my arm feels good.”

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In order to be successful in the playoffs, it helps for a team to be at least three above average/elite pitchers to start games one through three, then you can have a so-so pitcher pitch game four. Then repeat for the rest of the series. Right now the Astros are counting on Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, and Lance McCullers or Vincent Velasquez. If McHugh continues to struggle, they might need to take him out of the playoff plans.

The Astros have proved recently that they will not tolerate losing, as some players were sent packing to Fresno for not performing up to par. Has McHugh earned himself a few more starts to regain his 2014 self? If McHugh continues to struggle, would that mean the Astros will try to trade for a top pitcher? That all rest on the shoulders on McHugh.

Do you think McHugh’s recent struggles increase the need for a starting pitcher?

Next: Chris Carter is Coming to Life

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