Houston Astros 2021 Year in Review: Lance McCullers Jr.
Astros’ playoff ace and six-year starter Lance McCullers Jr.’s season was a storied one.
After signing a five-year contract extension through 2026 worth $85 million in the spring, Lance McCullers Jr. went on to have a career-year with the Houston Astros. Usually players have their best years the year their contract runs out and before they sign an extension but McCullers had other plans.
Throughout the regular season, McCullers was as consistent as could be, having his best season of his career. Although he led the American League in walks, the right-hander also led the league in both hits (6.8) and home runs (0.7) per nine innings.
McCullers led the Astros’ staff along with Zack Greinke this season ending with the Astros having the lowest opponents batting average in the American League. McCullers held opponents to a .205 average and the Astros to a .228 average as a team.
McCullers also had the best year of his career to date in both wins with 13 and a 3.18 ERA, which landed him as second best in the AL. The devastating curveball that McCullers is known for continues to be his best pitch with opponents hitting .149 against it and it being thrown 25 percent of the time.
This was in tandem with his slider, where opponents were hitting .150 and that pitch being thrown 26% of the time, opposing players might get one chance to get a hit each at bat. His curveball is still feared throughout the league, and he mixed in pretty evenly his slider and cutter, while saving his low 80s change up for select times.
Although McCullers playoff experience was limited, his impact was huge and propelled the Astros to the American League Championship Series. With his two starts, McCullers gave up one earned run giving him a 0.84 ERA for the playoffs over 10.2 innings pitched.
McCullers Game 1 start got the postseason off in the right direction for the Astros with a 6.2 inning shutout gem that set the tone for the series that the Astros took 3-1. There is little doubt that the Astros would have been in a better position to win it all had McCullers postseason not been cut short with an injury.
Moving forward, McCullers looks to be one of the best number two starters in baseball pending the Astros signing a number one starter this offseason.
The Astros could certainly lean on him to be number one but he has a way to go rehabbing from his forearm injury that it would be in the best interest of the team and him to get another workhorse in the Astros can lean on as the number one.
McCullers had career highs in games and innings pitched and so we will look to him next season to repeat the workload of this season.