What can the Houston Astros expect out of their #2 starter in 2016?
One of the unsung heroes of the Houston Astros rotation for the past two seasons, right-hander Collin McHugh, was a low-risk claim off of waivers from the Colorado Rockies in December of 2013. However, McHugh has proved himself to be not only a solid number two guy behind AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel but has been one of the most underrated and underappreciated pitchers in the American League for the past two seasons.
When the Astros acquired him in late 2013, McHugh had a career 0-12 record giving up 47 earned runs in his 47.1 career innings pitched. He gave up over two home runs per nine innings on average in those seasons. In 2013, he averaged giving up a staggering 15.6 hits per nine innings between two major league stints with the New York Mets and the Rockies. McHugh wasn’t the only new Astro as Spring Training came around in 2014. Brent Strom, the Astros pitching coach, was about to start his first year in that role, and as they say, the rest is history.
In his first year in Houston, McHugh finished with an 11-9 record with a 2.73 ERA, 1.022 WHIP, and a fourth place finish in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He continued his success in 2015 with a 19-7 record with a 3.89 ERA, 1.277 WHIP, and an 8th place finish in AL Cy Young voting. McHugh finished both seasons with a WAR above 3.0 and finished close to 4.0 in 2015.
Part of what Strom has changed with McHugh is decreasing the use of his four seam and two seam fastball with the increased throwing off his breaking pitches, his slider and curveball, and the development of a cut fastball. This led to his ground ball percentage being over 40% in his years in Houston and a decrease in his home run to fly ball ratio to a career low 8.8% in 2015.
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McHugh comes into the new season yet again as the clear answer behind Keuchel in the starting rotation. Here is how he is going to do in 2016:
2016 for McHugh will be another solid season out of the number two spot. His numbers aren’t going to be as flashy as one would think placing eighth the year before in Cy Young voting. This is probably why the national media so undervalue him.
Coming into his third year as a member of the Houston Astros, McHugh’s shock factor has worn off. After pitching great for the past two seasons, consistency is the key for McHugh in 2016. With the numbers we have predicted for him, he will continue to be one of the most consistent arms in the rotation.
**Statistics provided by FanGraphs**