“Cy” Keuchel experienced a disappointing 2016 season.
Coming off a Cy Young winning year, bolstering 20 wins and a 2.48 ERA, Dallas Keuchel was poised for the role of “Ace” and lead the rotation as the Astros looked to reach the postseason for the second consecutive year.
How it Began
After a snow out, Keuchel made the start for the 2016 season opener. He threw seven innings, allowing two runs from three hits. Even with a delay, Keuchel performed as an “ace” would and began the season with a victory on the road. Everything seemed well, and it seemed that he would be picking up where he left of from his 2015 campaign.
How it Ended
However, the rest of the season would not be kind to Keuchel. He posted a 9-12 record, with a 4.55 ERA. He threw 168 innings before being shut down in September for shoulder inflammation.
What we saw from Keuchel in 2016 was much like the pitcher we knew before 2015. In a sense, his 2015 season was an anomaly, and showed that he can put together great pitching performances. However, this off-season will need Keuchel to regain the feel and mindset used to win 20 games and a Cy Young award.
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Keuchel lacked quality starts, saw his average velocity drop and was not a recipient of great run support in 2016. Via Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post, one of the major issues he faced in 2016 was the lack of production when throwing his cut-fastball.
He used his cutter to run under the hands of right-handed hitters. However, the loss of the cutter forced him to pitch to hitters differently. He was unable to attack hitters with one of his most prolific pitches, which limits the ability to use his array of pitches to complement his cutter. All in all, there was a decline in Keuchel’s accuracy, and this attributed to his inability to produce quality starts.
Other Factors to Consider
One of the most interesting issues that Keuchel ran into during the 2016, is the lack of run support h received during his starts. I recall several games which I tuned in to see, and could not help but notice that Keuchel lacked run support. There are a few ways to view this issue. First, it’s likely that Keuchel just fell into bad matchups for their hitters. Second, the pressure and expectations became too much for Keuchel to handle. He provided a season of great success, and the expectation to reproduce the performances can weigh much more than any other issues faced on the field.
A Flawed Mindset?
Back in June, Keuchel had a bit of a scuffle with a fan on Twitter about his performance. Keuchel’s response was to through his Cy Young award at the fan. I can agree with Keuchel being abe to give evidence to his success However, I disagree with him in regards to using a prior year award to support a lackluster season.
What to Fix
The recipe for success for Keuchel will consist of three things. First, he will need to find his cutter so he can set up the rest of his pitches. Second, he must re-establish his humility as a starting pitcher. He will need to remember that he only had one year of success.
Lastly, the bearded southpaw should pitch like a man with nothing to lose. The past is he past, and even though all great athletes use past experiences to build confidence, it cannot be used to defend current year performances.
What to Expect
The Astros will need to Keuchel to provide quality starts and be a key piece in their pursuit of a World Series title. And I expect Keuchel to rebound from his 2016 campaign, and rebuild the “Fear of the Beard”.
**Statistics and data provided by MLB.com, Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and Neil Greenberg from The Washington Post**