The Houston Astros already had Carlos Correa win the American League Rookie of the Year award in 2015 and their manager A.J. Hinch finished second in the AL Manager of the Year, so was there a third award for the Astros? In fact, Dallas Keuchel received more first-place votes than Correa or Hinch did in winning the AL Cy Young award 22-8. The runner-up was Toronto Blue Jays pitcher David Price, who helped the Jays reach the ALCS versus the Kansas City Royals. Sonny Gray was in the mix, but he has plenty of time left in the future.
Why did Keuchel win in a landslide? This post will look at the criteria that the BBWAA writers could use to choose who wins the Cy Young award. The Astros’ ace was dependable down the stretch and in the playoffs. He is the third Astros pitcher to win the Cy Young award, as Mike Scott (1986) and Roger Clemens (2004).
Keuchel is the definition of the durability of a pitcher. Did he have his clunkers, yes, but he pitched 232 innings in the regular season for the Astros. Pitch count was not used too often with Keuchel this year, as he and Hinch had a good relationship. Hinch would let his ace tell him how he feels about continuing and leave him in most of the time. Keuchel led the league with 27 quality starts, which meant that 82% of his starts this year he went at least six innings giving up three runs or less via ESPN pitching stats. Keuchel also faced a league-high 911 batters in 2015; that’s durable.
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When the writers sat down to vote, they had to do a double take when they looked at Keuchel’s home stats in 2015. He went 15-0 with a 1.46 ERA in 129 1/3 innings while striking out 139 hitters in the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park. He dominated so much that the Astros decided to capitalize on his success by creating Keuchel’s Corner. To those of you with the unfortunate circumstance of never watching an Astros game, the fans were given orange Keuchel shirts with a beard.
The knock on Keuchel in the past was that he didn’t strike out many hitters, this changed in 2015 as he struck out 216 hitters, which was a 48% increase from 2014. He struck out 146 hitters in 2014, so the extra 70 strikeouts in the season helped him be successful. He may not be a hard thrower, but he knows how to pitch.
While most writers will give the cliche answer, “wins doesn’t mean that a pitcher is good, but he is lucky.” This may be true but look at his other stats at the same time. Keuchel led the American League with 20 wins, 15 of them were at home. While he might have been an average pitcher on the road, he offsets that at home where he was channeling Tom Glavine. With the Astros on the rise, look for Keuchel to continue winning with the Astros.
The Overall Package
Keuchel’s star has emerged in 2015, as he was selected to start the MLB All-Star game for the American League. While most people know him for the beard, the opposing pitchers, most notably the Yankees fear the beard. Keuchel knows how to pitch to get the ground ball, and won his second straight Rawlings Gold Glove Award this year. His WAR was 7.2, which shows his value to the Astros in their return to the playoffs after the decade absence.
Congrats to Keuchel and the Astros. If you have time this offseason Dallas, I would love to do an interview with you. You can contact me at @Eric_CTH.