The Astros most likely need Dallas Keuchel at his best to attain postseason glory this Fall.
Early in the 2017 season, Dallas Keuchel was leading the charge for the Astros. Thanks in part to his early season success – 1.67 ERA in 75.2 innings – Houston was able to jump out to the team’s best start in franchise history.
In other words, the good times were rolling for Keuchel and the Astros.
Unfortunately, a persistent neck/nerve injury placed Keuchel on the DL following his June 2nd start in Arlington. He wouldn’t appear in another game in the majors until his July 28th start in Detroit. The hope then was Keuchel would pick up where left off in early June.
But life never works out that way, does it?
Keuchel in his first three starts from the DL did not look like the pitcher Houston needed for the stretch run.
Pitching line from 7/28 to 8/8: 12 IP, 23 H, 14 R, 8 BB, 7 SO; 10.50 ERA, 7.22 FIP, 5.91 xFIP
The three teams Keuchel faced in those three starts?
The Detroit Tigers, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago White Sox. Out of the three teams, only the Tigers (101 wRC+) have a wRC+ above 100. Remember that a 100 wRC+ is average, though.
Maybe the neck was still bothering Keuchel? After all, his release points were gradually shifting and his velocity was slightly dipping. Keuchel doesn’t have much velocity to spare, too.
Then the last two starts happened for Keuchel.
This is the Keuchel that the Astros needed. His start last Friday, in particular, against the Oakland Athletics was encouraging. Not only did he hold the opposing lineup to zero runs, Keuchel also generated 16 ground ball outs. In case you aren’t familiar with Keuchel, he is at his best when generates plenty of ground balls.
It’ll be interesting to see how Keuchel performs in the upcoming starts. While his velocity and release points look similar to his early season success, the past neck injury has to still be a concern.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs**