The Houston Astros desperately needed a standout starting pitching performance and Lance McCullers Jr. provided that.
As you’ll come to see, I’m a big numbers guy. I spend way too much time on Fangraphs vindicating whatever obscure theory about the Houston Astros I feel like making on any given day. But for Lance McCullers Jr.‘s performance against the San Francisco Giants, I don’t even care about numbers… although I may still use some later.
What I care about is the faith we can feel moving forward with McCullers. It was a big ask expecting McCullers to step into Gerrit Cole‘s vacant rotation spot. How do you replace the best pitcher in baseball?
You don’t. But what we saw from McCullers against the Giants should give us hope that at the very least, he can provide quality starts and keep us in the game like he was not able to do when he was shelled for eight runs against the Diamondbacks.
Lance McCullers Jr. gave the Astros the best gift—faith in a starter
The big reason we should have faith isn’t just the fact that he threw a lot of strikes, that he attacked the strike zone, that he used his defense—those are all nice too.
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But what gives me the most faith is how easily he was able to make adjustments. Against the Diamondbacks, he tried to do too much and when he faltered, he only tried too hard even more, leaving the DIamondbacks absolutely pelting the ball.
Fast forward to the Giants game and no one could get good contact on the ball. He was inducing far more ground balls, avoiding the barrel of the bat, and using his curveball, not always to punch people out but to keep hitters guessing.
It translated to the longest no-hit bid of the MLB season, but with just five strikeouts to show for it, a total that continues his downward trajectory of K/9 (had to get some Fangraphs in there…), it wasn’t the McCullers we were used to seeing from years past. This was a mature McCullers who wanted outs however he could get them. Again, he played to his defense and let them do the work.
Whatever the numbers say, the end result says more—it looks like McCullers is capable of making the adjustments the Astros need to ensure that they get quality innings from their starters more than just when Zack Greinke performs.
That faith is so much more valuable than numbers. Now let’s see it happen again. And maybe next time the bullpen can make it more conclusive.