Starter #1: Dallas Keuchel
The Astros starting rotation begins and ends with Dallas Keuchel. It is basically that simple of an equation. Take the 2015 season for example. As you may recall, Keuchel won the Cy Young and posted a 2.91 FIP/5.9 WAR. By no coincidence, the Astros advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Fast forward to the following season, and the bearded southpaw posted a 3.87 FIP/2.7 WAR. Clearly a step back for Keuchel, who also experienced a troublesome left shoulder injury that hampered him. In turn, the Astros won 84 games and missed the playoffs. You can’t help but wonder if a healthy Keuchel would’ve been the difference in regards to consecutive playoff berths.
Enter 2017 and the Astros are once again banking on Keuchel to regain his “ace” form. To be honest, this isn’t exactly the worst idea ever. If you take Keuchel’s history from 2013-15, the Astros are smart to bet on him. But only if he is healthy and regains a tick or two on his velocity.
In case you may not remember, Keuchel’s velocity at the start of last season was notably lower than his prior April starts earlier seasons. For example, his fastball velocity in 2015 to start the season was 90.19 MPH. The same month the next year saw his fastball velocity drop to 88.04 MPH. Yes, that is not a good sign. On the positive side though, he did increase his velocity each month before his shoulder injury sidelined him. And thus far in Spring Training, his velocity seems to be in a good spot.