Astros: The evolution of the role of starters in the 2017 playoffs

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Justin Verlander
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Justin Verlander /

The Astros need more quality starts from starters not named Keuchel and Verlander versus the Yankees in the ALCS.

With the Astros advancing to the Championship Series, they have done so mostly with the pitching of Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. When you think of a playoff starter, you think of one who goes deep into the game while keeping their team in the game. You picture the Roger Clemens or Roy Oswalt‘s of the world. The New York Yankees came back in their series behind their pitching.

The starter would then hand the ball off to the setup guy(s) who would then hand it off to the closer. That’s what happens, pitching wins championships right? Twitter personality Tuve’s Tongue did some research on this around the trade deadline. He found that teams with the higher ranked pitching staff lost 75% of the time.

Wierd postseason so far.

This year’s playoffs got off to a rocky start with the Yankees and Twins Wild Card game for the ages. Luis Severino started that game for the Yankees but left after only retiring one hitter and allowing three runs. It looked like Ervin Santana, and the Twins were going to run away with that game. However, Santana only lasted two innings giving up four runs. Starter Jose Berrios was then brought in to pitch out of the bullpen.

Set to win the Cy Young award this year possibly, Corey Kluber has had two short appearances during the ALDS. Comeback player of the year candidate Brad Peacock only lasted 2 2/3 innings. There only have been nine quality starts in the playoffs in 34 starts. Some teams have used their relievers for 20 plus innings already.

The playoff bullpens are built to pitch multiple innings with a few relievers. You have seen McCullers, Ken Giles, and Verlander pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen. The Yankees have David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman to hold the lead late. There is a trend of the managers pulling a starter at the first sign of trouble, like Peacock and Charlie Morton.

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What about the Stros?

The Astros have only played four games in the ALDS, so far only one pitcher has gotten a quality start. That was Verlander in Game 1 when he pitched six innings and only gave up one run on a homer. He may have been able to go another inning, but the team already had a big lead. Keuchel only needed one more out to get a quality start but got the win while striking out seven hitters.

No other starter has gone beyond two innings for the Astros in the ALDS. In 35 total innings pitched, the bullpen has pitched 16 innings. That’s 46% of the total innings used, by the bullpen. That includes starters going to the bullpen such as Verlander and Lance McCullers. This is another trend in the playoffs this year, with the Red Sox and Astros bringing in Chris Sale and Verlander.

Next: Astros hint they will carry 12 pitchers for the ALCS

This has been an odd postseason to this point, but an exciting one with the Astros. With the Yankees winning last night, expect some epic matchups in the ALCS. The Astros matchup well versus the Yankees, but the team that pitches the best will win. Can the Yankees limit this dynamic Houston offense?

***Stats from ESPN and Baseball-Reference***