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The Astros plan to limit innings, Velazquez to Corpus Christi

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The Astros are very aware of the fact that they need to find a way to limit the innings of Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez, if they want to be able to use those two pitchers in a potential playoff series. Recently there has been thoughts of a six-man rotation to limit the number of regular season starts for the young pitchers. However, this would not be done until the rosters expand in September when you would be able to carry an extra starting pitcher.

Both McCullers and Velasquez were not stretched out in the minors like the Astros would have wanted. As they pitch in the minor leagues, the normal procedures are to build gradually up the innings each year. The purpose for this is to get them ready for the major league workload.  McCullers was needed early this year, and Velasquez is coming off injuries, so neither pitcher was stretched out to pitch too many innings in 2015.

Lance McCullers

If the Astros stay with a five-man rotation with 76 games left, Lance McCullers will pitch about 15 times. Let’s assume that he will pitch five to six innings each start, that would be 75 to 90 more innings this year. Between Double-A and the Astros this year, McCullers has pitched 87 1/3 innings. Under the current course, McCullers will have pitched 162 and 177 innings pitched in his rookie year.

Recently McCullers stats have been compared to Jose Fernadez’s rookie season in 2013, in which the Marlins set limits of innings pitched for him at the beginning of that year of between 150 and 170 innings. When he approached the 170 innings limit (172 2/3 innings), the Marlins indeed shut him down. However, even with shutting him down early, Fernandez still needed Tommy John surgery in the 2014 season.

McCullers could be the Astros second best pitcher right now, but with my projections above for McCullers at 162 and 177 innings, he would surpass the 170 inning limit in the regular season. That would eliminate McCullers from pitching in the postseason. If he is the Astros second best pitcher, this would be a big loss to the Astros. According to Baseball-Reference, McCullers’ high for innings pitched was 104 2/3 in 2013.

Vincent Velasquez

Velasquez was slowed down with a Lat injury during spring training and the start of the 2015 season. The Astros will be extra careful with Velasquez with his injury history, but he has still found a way to pitch 58 1/3 innings in 2015 after his 6 1/3 innings effort last night. With the same number of projected games that Velasquez could pitch in as McCullers, he would finish between 133 and 148 innings. This may seem like a better situation than McCullers, but you have to keep in mind that his workload over the years has not been able to be built up.

After last night’s game, the Astros announced that they have sent Velasquez to Corpus Christi trying to limit innings pitched.

The corresponding move will be to bring up Brett Oberholtzer to pitch Thursday’s game, and in effect will push all the other starters back one day.

This will help Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh as well. The Astros have the All-Star break coming up, and could have sent Velasquez down to prevent him from pitching again with the Astros until after the All-Star break. Just to stay sharp, Velasquez could pitch two to three innings with the Hooks, and then could get recalled later.

Six-Man Rotation

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While that helps a little, it only saves one or two starts for Velasquez. However, going with a six-man rotation in September could limit their starts in September from six to four or five starts. The Astros could also skip McCullers once in the rotation and then Velasquez. Here are Brian McTaggart’s thoughts of a potential six-man rotation. Even Keuchel could use a break every now-and-then, as he is on pace to shatter his previous career highs in innings pitched.

Another idea to limit the innings of McCullers and Velasquez is to trade for a top of the rotation pitcher. Since George Springer‘s injury, the team has a losing record of 2-4. They could use a pitcher who could go deep into games, but how much will they have to give up?

CTH’s For/Against Trading for a starter

Houston Astros: CTH’s July Trade Deadline Preview

The Houston Astros Should Not Trade for Cole Hamels

The Houston Astros Absolutely Should Trade for Cole Hamels

The Houston Astros Should NOT Trade for Johnny Cueto

The Houston Astros Should Trade for Johnny Cueto

The Houston Astros Should Trade for Scott Kazmir

The Houston Astros Should NOT Trade for Scott Kazmir

Later today, I will write a small piece on whether Dan Straily will stick around.

Next: Vincent Velasquez remains win-less as Indians blank the Astros, 2-0

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