Astros: Is Collin McHugh a Closer-Candidate?

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: Ken Giles #53 of the Houston Astros hands the ball to A.J. Hinch #14 of the Houston Astros as he leaves the game during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: Ken Giles #53 of the Houston Astros hands the ball to A.J. Hinch #14 of the Houston Astros as he leaves the game during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /
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Don’t at me. I’m being serious Astros fans.

After a 2015 season when he won 19 games, and 2016 where he carried the Astros rotation in their efforts to reach the playoffs, McHugh went down in 2017, and pitched very little. Now in 2018, McHugh finds himself in limbo. A starting pitcher turned reliever, he is looking for his niche, and being a closer could be in the cards for the right-hander.

Making the Most of His Outings

McHugh has thrown 13.1 innings this season, all in relief. He has a .68 ERA, with 19 strikeouts. He has allowed seven hits, one earned run, one home run, one hit batsman and four walks. Although a very limited sample size, he is finding ways to get outs and avoid runs in the latter innings of games. He has great stuff and produces soft contact. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but McHugh can find outs when absolutely needed.

Why He Doesn’t Fit the Role

One benefit of having Collin in the bullpen is the need for extended relief outings. He would also fill into the rotation in the event of an injury. McHugh is a great option for spot starts. He isn’t the ideal mold for a closer since they are mostly hard-throwing, overpowering pitchers. But look at the success Bud Norris is having with the Cardinals.

There are Exceptions

However, some of the best closers in the past were not of this mold. For example, Trevor Hoffman produced 601 saves in his career. He deceived hitter well, without the use of high velocity. There’s no reason McHugh couldn’t tap into this style and get the last outs of a ball game.

Next: Time to compete in the (Oakland) Coliseum

The bullpen is struggling. There will be plenty of questions until the bullpen steps up. There is plenty to consider about McHugh’s role, but he provides a few options to a pitching staff that is looking for answers this season. They will likely look for answers outside of the organization closer to the trade deadline.

***Stats courtesy of MLB.com***

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