Dependent on how the upcoming offseason unfolds, Dallas Keuchel‘s tenure in Houston may end soon.
At the time of this writing, the Astros’ lone lefty mainstay in the rotation is scheduled to pitch in Game 3 of the ALDS at Cleveland this upcoming Monday, October 8th. While I would love to see Houston win their way to a second World Series title, there are no guarantees in postseason baseball. For all we know the Astros may not advance past the Indians.
Regardless, there is a distinct possibility that Keuchel may not pitch much longer as an Astro. I know, it’s a sad reality. With Keuchel set to reach free agency for the first time, he has a prime opportunity to get paid major dollars in context of the current salary structure within the sport. You can’t blame any player for seeking top dollar. Heck, I would as well. Unfortunately for Houston, this wonderful opportunity could lead him to sign with another franchise. Quality starting pitchers tend do well on the open market in terms of compensation, especially if a team has a glaring need in the rotation.
In short, Keuchel’s next start could possibly be his last as an Astro. In light of this potential scenario, let’s take a bit of time to appreciate Keuchel in advance of his next, perhaps final, start sporting the H-star.
Since his debut on June 17, 2012 against the Rangers in Arlington, Keuchel transformed himself from a pitcher on a rebuilding club looking to stick around to a one of the better starting pitchers in baseball. Out of all starting pitchers since 2012 with at least 1,000 innings pitched, he ranks 19th in ERA+ (108), and 20th in both ERA (3.66) and FIP (3.72). If you change the search to start at 2014, Keuchel jumps to 15th in ERA+ (120), 12th in ERA (3.28), and 13th in FIP (3.45). For a little extra context, current teammate, Justin Verlander, is near Keuchel in this search as well.
Keuchel has a legacy in Houston, too. If he doesn’t throw another regular season inning for the Astros, he would leave the franchise with a 19.1 fWAR, which is currently the ninth-best in club history. In 2015, he became one of three Astros’ pitchers to win a Cy Young award, joining Mike Scott in 1986 and Roger Clemens in 2004.
If pitcher wins matter to you, he is currently in 11th place with 76. During a time when the club was losing 100-plus games on a regular basis, Keuchel emerged as one of the gems of the rebuild along with Jose Altuve. The Astros probably aren’t the 2017 World Series champions without those two players.
One could also make the argument that the Astros aren’t in the position they’re in today without Keuchel. Sure, Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, and Charlie Morton have pitched quite well this season, but the bearded southpaw’s contributions shouldn’t be overlooked. Over 204 2/3 innings, Keuchel has posted a 3.74 ERA and 3.69 FIP, which are relatively close to his career numbers. This season was the first time since 2015 that Keuchel pitched more than 200 innings. The strikeouts were down, but so were his walks. Keuchel also limited home runs by opposing hitters, which was a concern at times last season. As the rotation’s lone lefty for most of the season, he has done a terrific job with everything considered.
Game 3 of the ALDS against the Indians figures to be a crucial one. Either the Astros are in the driver’s seat, or looking for way to stay in the series. Keuchel will be asked to step up at least one more time. If it’s the last time, well, it has been a heck of a ride. One worth remembering.