The Astros Big 4: Spin rate, strikeouts, and big-time outs?
How do the Astros big four starters compare to the legendary 90’s Braves big four?
The Houston Astros starting four pitchers (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, and Charlie Morton) over the season ranked first in the following categories.
Astros: 3.11 ERA, 3.2 FIP, 3.33 XFIP, 27.9 PITCHING WAR via Baseball-Reference.
The Astros also ranked first in run differential at years end. You can’t get there without a dominating starting four going deep into ballgames. That has been the key.
Looking at the top AL rotations.
All other staffs come in 2nd, the Indians currently sit at second behind the Astros, and they had their way with Corey Kluber in game one. In Game 2, Carlos Carrasco came out in an ill-advised move by Terry Francona, was replaced by a reliever, Andrew Miller. He had their number, and the second he was pulled, the Astros bats came alive. After Carrasco, the Indians don’t have much in their third pitcher and even more uncertainty in whomever they baptize as their fourth starter.
Beyond the Indians ( if the Astros take care of business as expected) the Red Sox and the Yankees have great pitching but aren’t near as solid with all four starters. Out of their four starters, they are sure to get quality starts out of both Luis Severino and Mashiro Tanaka. Sonny Gray is still struggling and Jordan Montgomery not a sure thing. This could be a vulnerability for the Yankees. Their bats have bailed them out at times and seemed to do so in Game 2 of the ALDS.
The Red Sox big four Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price, and Eduardo Rodriguez have many question marks. Sale shook off some lousy playoff mojo by dominating the baby bombers of New York in Game 1. Price came in and was shaky at best, all but assuring you won’t see him in a starting role again the series possibly the playoffs. Porcello has looked great lately, but Rodriguez has had some shaky starts. Regardless, not even this staff compares to the Astros starting four.
With this said the Astros are still the favorites and that’s with only comparing the starting four. If we get into the bullpen is a closed case, and they have what it takes to repeat.
What about the 90’s Braves big four?
I like to make one more comparison, and I am not one to compare players from different era’s, but I thought this would be fun to talk about. Growing up with baseball in the 90’s no one will forget the Braves and their big four. What a dominant group of pitchers they were winning 101 games three seasons in a row. So I will go out on a limb here what the Astros have put together is the most dominant staff since the Braves big four in the 90’s.
Before you blast me for comparing the Astros to a staff that has three Hall of Fame pitchers, hear me out in my reasoning.
The Astros starters in 2018 have 400 more strikeouts than the Braves did in the best years of (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery). The Astros 2018 staff boasts a 3.11 ERA where the Braves sported a respectable 3.18 ERA per Baseball-Reference. Both rotations had and have elite stuff that stands the test of time.
These staffs are similar in approach but what the Astros have in their front two at this point in their careers seems to give them the edge. Especially when you see what Keuchel and Morton can do on the back-end. In terms of S0/9 (strikeouts per 9), the Astros averaged 10.44. The Braves averaged no higher than 7.71 SO/9 in the span that they pitched together. Some would argue with the amount of record-setting strikeouts in 2018 skews the numbers and hitters were simply better in the NL in the 90’s. I will consider that.
Regardless of where you stand, Astros rotation 2018 vs. the league, or even the Braves in the late 90’s, they have definitely done enough to put themselves in elite company. I know these aren’t things to players worry about as they compete for another title. That’s why I am here to banter about and realize that we are witnessing history before our very eyes. Sit back, grab some popcorn, and watch as the Astros make history.