Houston Astros’ Young Guns Picking Up Slack on Tough Season
In this year of uncertainty amid the Astros pitching staff, the young pitchers and rookies are shining and keeping this season alive.
After a great breakout 2015 season for the Houston Astros, in which Dallas Keuchel won the American League Cy Young Award, the 2016 season was supposed to be headlined by his pitching. Keuchel was no less than dominant last season with a 20-8 record and a 2.48 ERA. He also led the AL in wins, shutouts (2), innings pitched (232), ERA+ (157) and WHIP (1.017).
His dominance greatly increased when pitching at Minute Maid Park. At home last season he was 15-0 with a 1.46 ERA in 18 games. This season, however, has not been as kind to Keuchel. In 23 games so far this season he is 7-11 with a 4.56 ERA.
Even Collin McHugh has fallen off after two very good seasons. In 2014-15 he was 30-16 with a 3.39 ERA and was eighth in the AL in voting for the Cy Young Award with 19 wins in 2015. But the 2016 season has seen his numbers fall significantly as well. In his first 23 games this season he is 7-9 with a 4.69 ERA and a career-high 1.484 WHIP (at least 100 IP).
Who is the Ace?
So, what was supposed to be the Astros’ one-two punch in Keuchel and McHugh are now a combined 14-20 with a 4.62 ERA this year. That is not the way it was supposed to be. This absence of a clear ace on the pitching staff was a big part of the Astros’ slow start. The pitching staff had a league-worst 4.97 ERA through the first month of the season.
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The team has continued to struggle to find a clear top of the rotation pitcher. Many people were assuming they would add a top-level starter to the team at the trade deadline. But no such deal was made, and they were left with what they had to fight through a playoff race. But the story is not over.
The Astros have completely turned their season around on the mound. They are now second in the AL with a 3.79 team ERA. Perhaps the biggest change on the hill for the team is the emergence of several young arms. They have called up a lot of young talent this season. While not all the hitting prospects have contributed to the team may have hoped, most of the pitching prospects have started their seasons and careers on extreme high notes.
The Young Guns
Lance McCullers is the real story of the 2016 season. In 14 games this year he is 6-5 with a 3.22 ERA and has upped his K/9 from 9.2 in 2015 to a league-leading 11.8 in 2016. He is 5-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 10 home games this year. McCullers is just 22-years-old and looks like he could be one of the best pitchers in the game for years to come.
The Astros have also received contributions from 25-year-old Ken Giles and rookies: Chris Devenski, Michael Feliz, Joe Musgrove, James Hoyt and Jandel Gustave. They have a total of six pitchers under the age of 25 that have played this season. These pitchers are 16-13, 3.14 ERA and 1.228 WHIP. Between Devenski and Giles, they also have three saves.
“Since July 1, Giles has a team-leading 0.68 ERA and a 0.900 WHIP.”
Giles was an early disappointment this year. The Astros gave a haul of good young talent to the Philadelphia Phillies in return for him in the off-season. But he was unable to win the closer role out of spring training. He was then unable to impress early in the season, turning in a 9.00 ERA in the month of April.
Lately, though, Giles has begun to look like the pitcher Jeff Lunhow thought he was trading for. Since July 1, Giles has a team-leading 0.68 ERA and a 0.900 WHIP. He also did not allow a run in nine appearances in July.
Here is last night’s Talking Stros
But the rookie pitchers have been the real surprise. The five rookies that have made debuts this season are 9-5, 2.92 ERA and 1.042 WHIP. It seems as though Luhnow can do no wrong in calling up pitchers this season. The dominance of this young pitching staff has kept the Astros in the playoff hunt the entire season.
Next: Astros AM: Yulieski Gurriel Getting Promoted, To Triple-A Fresno
With seven pitchers currently on the 40-man roster being under the age of 25 and most of them already doing amazing things at the big league level, the Astros future looks extremely bright.
**Stats provided by Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com**