The Astros appear to be using all the cheat codes when the starters are on the mound.
When you think of the Houston Astros, you think of them winning the first World Series in franchise history. You also remember that they have a rich history of strong starting pitchers in franchise history. This team is better than the team that won it all last year with the boosts to the rotation over the past 12 months. The addition of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole has made this rotation elite.
Unless a starting pitcher has a bad day, this group has no drop off between any pitcher. The weak spot of the rotation has been Dallas Keuchel (0-3, 3.52 ERA) and Lance McCullers (2-1, 5.57 ERA), but they bounced back this week with strong starts. Keuchel will look to build on his complete game start this week, even though it resulted in a loss.
The Houston Astros have a 10-4 record with a 2.15 ERA in 21 starts. With a 14-7 overall record, most of the success has stemmed from the rotation. In 129 2/3 innings, they have struck out 166 hitters.
If you look at the top five in ERA in the AL right now, three Astros sit at the top.
Morton is the best right now with a 0.72 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 25 innings. Cole sits second with a 0.96 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 28 innings. After last night’s performance by Verlander, he sits in second place with a 1.10 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings.
The White Sox looked like they had no chance to beat Verlander last night. With Keuchel on the mound tonight, there is not much of a drop-off. Should this rotation stay healthy and the offense becomes more consistent, they could surpass the franchise record of 102 wins achieved in 1998. The Astros starters are 1-4 in games where the offense scores 0-2 runs. Meanwhile, the starters are 9-0 when the offense scores 3 or more runs.
The best thing about the Astros rotation is that they are pitching deep into games and not overusing the bullpen. Many people would say the bullpen is the weakest part of the team. The less it needs to be used the better and will save the arms later in the season. Last year, there was a noticeable drop in the performance of the bullpen late in the season. Chris Devenski lost some of his effectiveness, and Ken Giles was a disaster in the playoffs.
The relievers currently have a 4-3 record with a 2.85 ERA. With some bad performances from Tony Sipp, the rest of the bullpen has a 4.05 or lower. With the starters going deep into, averaging a little more than six innings per start, the bullpen is staying fresh. Hopefully, this continues, but this rotation is fun to watch while they are dominating.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference and ESPN***