6. Collin McHugh second half dominance by Clint Irle.
After a huge 2015, Collin McHugh looked poised to provide a solid complement to Dallas Keuchel and the Astros rotation. However, 2016 was a year of struggles for McHugh that ended with a great September and October.
After Game 1 of the 2015 ALDS, I was convinced McHugh was ready to be as great as his game allowed. He showed true competitor grit and the ability to stay ahead of hitters. Unfortunately, McHugh struggled in 2016, boasting a 13-10 record and left a lot of us wondering what to expect heading into 2017. After some trade speculation, it was clear the Astros would not part with the right-hander.
Mr. Late Season?
As much as the struggle was real, McHugh carded a 4-0 record during September and October. He provided a much-needed jolt to the rotation as the Astros pushed for the playoffs. He was able to stay healthy the entire season and pitch well down the stretch.
McHugh is a great asset to the rotation heading into 2017. As he continues to development his change-up to offset the curveball, we will see McHugh provide quality starts and give the Astros plenty of chances to win throughout the season. I feel he finds his true potential in the bigger stages and will be a tough opponent in the playoffs.
5. Springer staying healthy all year by Mike Wilson.
That sentiment seemed to be ever-present when discussing the Astros dynamic Right Fielder, George Springer. After his first two seasons in Houston had been cut short by injuries, it seemed he might just be one of those guys that had all the tools but couldn’t stay healthy. His talent and raw abilities are on full display anytime he’s on the field
A bit of a streaky hitter, Springer has shown he can carry an offense by himself if necessary. He’s hit for average, shown substantial power, and I’d personally rather watch few others play defense.
Seemingly from the moment, he burst onto the scene (feasting on AL pitching in May of 2014 to the tune of 10 HR & an OPS of 1.032 in 25 games) he brought a glimmer of hope and excitement to a fanbase that needed something to cling to. Then the injuries. His rookie season ended after just 78 games, and he missed 60 games in the middle of the 2015 season; that’s a total of 144 games missed over his first two seasons in Houston.
That matters because the 2015 Houston Astros played at a .558 clip with him and were just a .483 team when he was on the DL. In hindsight, that matters a little more when your team missed a division title by just two games.
While the 2016 Houston Astros weren’t the rousing success many expected, it’d be hard to say it was anything less than a successful year for Springer. He slashed .269/.359/.457 with an OPS of .815 with 29 HRs and 82 RBI. That’s not too shabby for a leadoff hitter. He was a candidate for the final All-Star vote and a Gold Glove finalist as well.
As far as the All-Star vote, Springer would have been selected, if he weren’t up against the entire country of Canada and Michael Saunders (any lingering bitterness from that was wiped away by what the Blue Jays did in the playoffs).
While the Astros pitching staff was ravaged by injuries, down the stretch, George Springer was in the lineup every day offering All Star & Gold Glove quality play in Right Field. Here’s hoping for another healthy season, because Springer is a very important piece to whatever success the 2017 Astros will have. What if? Well, now we know what he’s capable of, and it’s pretty good.