Astros rotation battle: Mike Fiers vs. Joe Musgrove
By Eric Huysman
If Brad Peacock is about to enter the Astros rotation, who would be going to the bullpen?
If the last appearances for Joe Musgrove and Mike Fiers were job interviews for a spot in the rotation, one of them shined. Before the game last night, it was announced that Dallas Keuchel would most likely get the start today. Not sure what the vagueness was for, after all, the Astros had to sell Keuchel Korner tickets. In all the news surrounding Brian McCann and Keuchel’s return, some other news came about.
According to Jake Kaplan, the Astros are considering starting Brad Peacock in the Minnesota series. If they do this, it could be to push all the starters back a game to get a little extra rest in this long season. However, with Keuchel back, there is no room for a sixth wheel in the rotation. Someone has to go.
Who will be the fifth wheel?
It’s safe to say that Keuchel, Lance McCullers, and Charlie Morton are safe. That leaves a battle between Fiers and Musgrove for the final spot. While Peacock may not be the long-term answer, he is the best short-term answer we have. Until we find a better option, we need to find the one with the fewer faults at the moment. Let A.J. Hinch choose wisely!
Do you want my opinion? I guess you do because you are reading this post. Last night, Musgrove pitched his best game of the season. I’m not going to go all fanboy and say that his start will keep him in the rotation, but it won’t hurt. Musgrove threw seven shutout innings while striking out six batters. He was under control for most of the game.
Last game that Fiers pitched, he didn’t have as much success. While he didn’t get destroyed, he couldn’t go five innings. Hinch did not wait too long to pull the plug on his night, pulling him after 85 pitches. Aside from his first start of the season, Fiers has had an ERA over five after every start. Did I mention that he has allowed a league-high 18 homers?
Comparing Fiers and Musgrove.
Managers like when their pitchers go deep into games to save the bullpen arms. The quality start stat came around to reward pitchers who can the get job done. Unless it’s the STAAR test, it’s hard to judge a pitcher off of one start. However, when you only go five innings or less in five of nine starts. Conversely, Musgrove has gone five innings or less four out of ten starts for the Astros.
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Musgrove is now 4-4 with a 4.89 ERA while striking out 43 hitters in 53 1/3 innings. He has allowed nine homers this year compared to Fiers 18. They have both walked 17, so control is shaky either way. Fiers is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA while striking out 38 hitters in 46 2/3 innings.
By looking at the data, it’s not hard to see that Musgrove is the better option now. Plus, you wouldn’t put one of your young pitchers in the long relief role. Had Collin McHugh not been injured, Fiers would have been the long reliever anyway. What’s the difference now? We will find out Sunday what the plan is.
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Maybe if Fiers becomes the long reliever, he will be able to add some more velocity. He doesn’t have to conserve energy anymore and will have limited exposure. Either way, it’s nice that the fifth starter is the only major issue with this first place team. Go Astros!
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs***