As the trade deadline comes closer, the Houston Astros are in a prime position to make a move.
With a loaded farm system and needs at the major league level, the Astros could become very busy in the month of July. One of the areas that people has speculated change in is the starting rotation. With names like Jose Quintana, Gerrit Cole and Sonny Gray possibly becoming available to the highest bidder. It is easy for fans to take the current starting rotation, and especially the ace, for granted.
It may be hard to forget, but the Astros have a former American League Cy Young award winner at the top of the starting rotation. After struggling in 2016, left-handed ace Dallas Keuchel may be on pace to win a second one after this season is over.
In 11 starts, Keuchel is 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. With an opposing batting average of .183, the 29-year-old has only given up more than two earned runs in a start only once this season, a May 5th appearance against the Los Angeles Angels in which he pitched into and ran into some trouble in the ninth inning.
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Despite these impressive numbers, it is easy to forget how good Keuchel really is. The main reason for that is he is not very flashy in terms of getting batters out. With pitchers in the AL like Chris Sale or Chris Archer, using the strike out to get majority of hitters out, Keuchel is not that kind of pitcher. In 75.2 innings of work this season, he only has 69 strikeouts. However, he is back on the pace of his 2015 season, averaging just over eight strikeouts per nine innings of work. Also, Keuchel currently has a career high in strikeout percentage, striking out 24.4 percent of all batters faced.
Instead, Keuchel likes to initiate contact and get hitters out via the ground ball. This season, he is No. 1 in baseball with a ground ball percentage at 67.4 percent, 5.7 percentage points higher than his rotation counterpart Lance McCullers. With this, his fly ball percentage is at an all time low at 18.4 percent.
Just look at what Keuchel did against the Texas Rangers in his last start. In six shutout innings of work, he only gave up three hits, walking two and striking out seven in the 7-1 win. He was fairly efficient as well, averaging close to 15 pitches per inning as well as throwing 60.6 percent of his pitches as strikes.
It is easy to see that Keuchel is one of the best pitchers in the AL right now when you look at his stats. He is leading a pitching staff that is second in baseball with a 3.52 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP. Even though an upgrade in the pitching rotation would be nice to provide depth come September and October, Astros fans should take a step back and be thankful for the left-hander that goes on the mound every fifth day.
***Stats provided by MLB.com, FanGraphs and ESPN.com***