Tis’ the time of year where the Houston Astros have to plan their rotation carefully.
Anytime a team like the 2016 Houston Astros has to plan their rotation around a tough 13-game stretch, you need all hands on deck. Unfortunately the reigning AL Cy Young, Dallas Keuchel, has a bit uncertainty surrounding him this weekend.
The Astros bearded southpaw has reportedly been a battling fatigue lately so he will likely pitch either Saturday or Sunday instead of Friday. This news essentially forces Doug Fister to start the opener in Arlington.
This development is a little concerning if you are the Astros. After all, it doesn’t bode well if a key cog in your rotation is battling fatigue. But this is September and players bodies wear down. Especially a pitcher like Keuchel who has went multiple innings even in poor starts.
At the end of the day, this news could turn out to be nothing and the extra rest helps Keuchel in the stretch run.
The rotation’s performance over the next two weeks will be crucial to any hope of make the postseason two years in a row. With no Lance McCullers, the rotation has been leaning on hit-or-miss performances from their veteran starters. Joseph Musgrove has shown promise in his brief stint in the majors, but promise doesn’t guarantee wins in September.
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Overall, the Astros rotation has been better than the public perception. As a whole, the rotation ranks ninth in WAR (11.0) and FIP (4.08) entering yesterday. Even though Keuchel and Collin McHugh have yet to show their previous year’s form consistently, they are playoff tested now. Mike Fiers and Fister are solid veterans who can eat innings.
But the lack of a true ace in 2016 could be the team’s undoing. Not one Astros starter right now has been lights out like Keuchel was last season. McCullers had the look of a bound-to-be ace before his right elbow acted up again.
Only time will tell if there is enough pitching on this roster. Unfortunately for the Astros, time isn’t on their side right as they look up at their competition in the standings.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs**