The Houston Astros have an advantage that most teams in playoff competition don’t have, and that is a quality and deep rotation. The Astros added two arms to the rotation in July with the trade deadline trades for Scott Kazmir and Mike Fiers. Also, Scott Feldman returned to the Astros rotation after recovering from a torn meniscus earlier in the season. I had the same surgery two years ago and in still gets sore sometimes, so for him to be pitching better than before the surgery is impressive. Granted, Feldman had better physical trainers and he is more athletic.
Two players who were in the rotation spent some time in Corpus Christi to save innings for September and beyond, in Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez. These two arms have rejoined the Astros for now, with Velasquez serving as the power arm out of the bullpen and McCullers reclaims his spot in the rotation with a seven innings effort in his first start back. Hinch surprisingly lets McCullers stretch out, but with the way the Astros rotation has pitched, you can’t blame him.
Dallas Keuchel is the ace you think he is and could be working on a contract extension behind the scenes as Evan Drellich reports. Locking up a pitcher who is not even eligible to be a free-agent until after the 2018 season is always a good move, it worked for Clayton Kershaw. Collin McHugh could also be a candidate for an extension, but the Astros will keep him on current contract for now.
The Astros keep hoping that one of the six pitchers would help them make their decision easier by pitching poorly, but the pitchers keep upholding their part of the bargain and pitching well.
As you can see from Richard Justice’s Tweet, during the last home stand the Astros rotation held its own with a major league leading 2.13 ERA. The Astros as a team has an American League-leading 3.35 ERA according to ESPN. The Astros rotation is stacked, so let’s look at the stat from each current member of the Astros rotation.
Keuchel: 14-6/ 2.37 ERA/ 156 strikeouts in 178 2/3 innings.
Kazmir: 7-8/ 2.39 ERA/ 131 strikeouts in 147 innings.
McHugh: 13-7/ 3.96 ERA/ 128 strikeouts in 159 innings.
McCullers: 5-4/ 3.12 ERA/ 87 strikeouts in 83 2/3 innings.
Fiers: 6-9/ 3.63 ERA/ 146 strikeouts in 144 innings.
Feldman: 5-5/ 3.75 ERA/ 59 strikeouts in 105 2/3 innings.
Looking at these stats, all these pitchers would be pitching in the rotation of any team. Should McCullers be on the Nationals, he would be close to being shut down. In the MLB playoffs, the starting rotation goes four pitchers deep unless you have Madison Bumgarner pitching in three games of the series. So which four of the Astros pitchers would make the starting rotation in a potential playoff rotation.
My guess would be that Keuchel and Kazmir will be the one and two pitchers in the playoffs. McCullers has proven to be one of the top pitchers in the rotation so that he could slot into the third game. I believe that McHugh has earned the fourth game of the potential playoff series, especially with his recent history of being a second half pitcher.
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While Feldman and Fiers may not make the playoff rotation, if the two of them keep pitching well enough to save some innings from the other pitchers. Fiers will be able to get a little extra rest after his 133 pitch no-hitter on Friday night because of the sixth man rotation. I see the Astros giving Kuechel and Kazmir the ball on normal rest but splitting the other starts between the four pitchers.
If all six pitchers are keeping the team in the games, it’s easy for Hinch to justify keeping them all in the rotation to save the arms for the playoffs. The one thing that needs some work is the Astros offense, Feldman kept the game scoreless last night for eight innings, but the Astros were unable to capitalize by scoring. The Astros may have ninety-nine problems, but the rotation is not one.