Astros AM: Looking at Potential Playoff Rotation

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Aug 8, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Collin McHugh (31) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 8, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Collin McHugh (31) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Looking at the potential rotation arms if the Astros make the playoffs.

While we are certainly a long way away from locking in playoff rosters or buying tickets, it doesn’t hurt to think ahead a little to the scenarios that present themselves if the Astros make the playoffs. One of those that is a little more intriguing than this time last year is the potential rotation. Typically, a seven game series will require at least three starters, and sometimes four, with the remainder going to the bullpen.

Last year, you had the future Cy Young winner in Dallas Kuechel anchoring the rotation, followed closely by, who would become a 19-game winner in Collin McHugh. Right behind them was the rookie phenom, fire-baller Lance McCullers. This year all have had their struggles, and, at this writing, McCullers hasn’t pitched off of a mound in weeks. The most consistent starter has perhaps been free-agent aquisition Doug Fister. With that in mind, let’s look at the options.

Let’s start with last year’s model . . .

Dallas Keuchel – Still the ace of the staff, though he’s come back to earth a little bit. Kuechel still has an intense grit about him and seems to rise to the occasion more in big games. There’s no reason to think you don’t want him in the Wild Card game, and as soon as you can get him in the divisional series.

Collin McHugh – At times, he looks like 19-game winner Collin McHugh and at times he looks like the McHugh that had him very well-traveled until he found a home in Houston. Again, a gritty veteran who has pitched in some big games cannot be overlooked.

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Lance McCullers – Currently he’s on the disabled list and you have no assurance that he’d be ready to go by October. However, if he can get a couple of quality starts in September, you know he’s another big game competitor and he has to be given serious consideration, even if you cannot expect 7 innings out of him.

How about some fresh options . . .

Doug Fister – The veteran right-hander has quietly had the most consistent season of any Astros pitcher. If McCullers is healthy, Fister is at least your number four starter in the playoffs, and if McCullers is hurt, he’s at least your number three. Given his season, you’d have to be confident if his turn came up in the Wild Card game.

Mike Fiers – The former Milwaukee Brewer has been sort of streaky in 2016. He’s had some periods where he’s had several solid outings in a row, but then another streak follows of rough outings. He, at times, has seemingly been fighting for his job. He’s under consideration for a start, but might be better suited as a long man in the playoffs.

Joseph Musgrove – For the second year in a row, here’s a rookie that has pushed his name into consideration to start in the playoffs. Musgrove doesn’t walk many, and has had several good outings. After a couple of rough ones, Musgrove is said to have made adjustments to get back to what got him to the big leagues and that seems to have straightened him out. The negatives are simply experience-related. The positives are that the league has not seen him that much yet. If McCullers is not healthy, I start Musgrove at least ahead of Fiers.

If everyone was available for a seven game series, I’d go with Keuchel, McCullers, Fister and McHugh in that order. However, I would not hesitate to call on Musgrove in a game three or four scenario.

What do you think?

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