Even though the Astros only have two of their five starting pitchers from 2018 currently remaining, the AL West is still playing catch-up.
There are 51 days until the first pitch of the initial Spring Training game for the Astros, but who’s counting. There is still plenty of time for free agent signings and trades to be made. Houston’s GM Jeff Luhnow seems to be playing it cool and conservative in his search for pitching support, and why not.
Let’s take a look at some of the statistics of the AL West team’s starters from last season. The rotation of the Astros had an ERA of 3.16, a full point ahead of Oakland’s 4.17, with the Angels and Mariners right behind them with a 4.34 and 4.35 respectively. The Texas Rangers were way back there with a 5.37 ERA.
The Astros’ starters allowed their opponents a meager .219 batting average. Once again, the Athletics came closest to Houston in the division with a .248 BA allowed. Houston led the league with 1101 SO’s by their starters, far outpacing their division foes by 300 or more. The list goes on, statistic after statistic, the disparity between the Astros and the rest of the West was glaring.
Yes, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are the only two starters left from that 2018 rotation. But Collin McHugh will be sliding back into the mix, coming up from the bullpen to reprise his role as a starter. McHugh’s starting performance of 2015, and again in 2018 before relegating his position to Charlie Morton, was very close to Dallas Keuchel‘s numbers of last season.
So on paper, the top three positions should yield little, if any, drop off in performance from last year to the upcoming season. Barring no changes, the final two spots in the rotation would be manned by the Astros’ top prospects, to be determined later.
There’s ample time for Luhnow to add someone to the staff through free agency or the trade market. A lot of Spring Training to play, to evaluate the youngsters’ ability to step up. Then, there is always the possibility of a late-season trade to make any adjustments if needed. And to help matters, none of the other teams in the division have made any earth shattering moves to help themselves. Will there be a drop off in performance? Maybe, maybe not. Will it be too much to weather the playoffs? Time will tell.