He was once the subject of swirling trade rumors in July. Since then, Jose Urquidy has been having the best stretch of his MLB career.
There are times in a season when a fanbase has to be brutally honest with itself, and Houston Astros supporters are experiencing one right now. If you are an Astros fan reading this (and a vast majority are), tell yourself the truth, especially after he just went 7 innings for the third time in his past four starts yesterday: you did not think that things would turn out this well with Jose Urquidy.
I’ll admit, I didn’t either. If the Astros did end up trading a controllable starter at the trade deadline 3 weeks ago, I would’ve dealt him. However, he deserves a tip of the cap from the entire city. Since it was rumored that Urquidy was on the trade block, he has had the best run of his baseball career.
In late July, Urquidy announced that he was changing agents to Scott Boras, which fueled discussion that he would eventually be traded. Since that happened, he has made 6 starts and recorded a 2.52 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP in 39.1 innings. This is a stark contrast to his first half of the season in which he posted a 4.09 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. He has become a centerpiece of the Astros’ rotation, and a key part of his contributions to the team in that stretch have been those aforementioned 39.1 innings, which lead the pitching staff.
Urquidy’s workload has been stretched out this season like never before, and he has responded by continually proving he is up to the task. He came up in late 2019, mostly as an opener/long-relief type (especially in the postseason). By 2021, he was a full-fledged starter, but still averaged around 5 innings per start and missed some time with injury. This season, he has been continuously emptying the tank, averaging closer to 6 innings and 92 pitches per start.
Despite a slow beginning in 2022, it’s almost as though Urquidy became aware the second his name started to bounce around the rumor mill and immediately decided to give the Astros every reason to keep him. They opted to trade their lone non-controllable starter in Jake Odorizzi instead, and Urquidy took his place in the rotation on a contending team and ran with it. His ERA, WHIP, and innings count have all been ace material since it was considered a possibility that he would be traded.
It’s only fair to acknowledge, though, that his statistical profile indicates some unsustainability in his performance of late. His ERA since he changed agents is 2.52, but both his FIP and xFIP are identically higher at 4.16. He’s striking out less than 7 batters per 9 innings, the lowest rate on the staff, and he has been lucky enough to strand 87.1% of inherited runners on base. All this is to say that opponents are still putting the bat on the ball, yet he’s showing that isn’t such a bad thing.
The quality of contact that Urquidy has surrendered over this timespan is a lot lower than it was at the start of the year. His Statcast xwOBA went from an egregious .411 in April to a mediocre .344 in June, and then it plummeted to an elite .257 in July and a .279 so far in August. In each month from April through June, his exit velocity was above 90 MPH, and it has been below that mark in July and August. His hard hit rate has been down the past two months as well.
His pound-the-zone, no-walks, pitch-to-contact approach was hampering him early in the year, but it’s elevating him now. He has proved himself worthy of being a mainstay in the Astros’ rotation since it was rumored that he could have been traded, and he figures to start in some key postseason games in October. So far, choosing to not give up on him has been an excellent decision by Houston’s front office. If he keeps pitching like this, the best thing to happen to the Astros at the trade deadline will end up being the move they didn’t make.