Grading Lance McCullers Jr.'s 2022 season
The 2022 Houston Astros secured their second World Series in franchise history. After 106 wins and a world championship, it's safe to say most members of the team performed well and met or exceeded expectations.
This offseason, Climbing Tal's Hill will be offering up their report card for the 2022 Astros. Our first installment graded the rotation mainstays that threw the majority of the season. Hunter Brown and Lance McCullers Jr. were omitted from the piece, but would be receiving a piece of their own.
Lance McCullers Jr. only made eight starts in 2022 after recovering from a forearm injury the previous postseason. He then started three playoff games.
LMJ finished 4-2 with a 2.27 era in 47.2 innings pitched. He finished with a 1.238 WHIP. His Statcast metrics were mostly in line with his 2021 season, when he finished seventh in the Cy Young voting. Over the course of a full 2023 season, it's more than reasonable to expect McCullers to regain his peak form. If he does, that will give Houston three likely top-10 finishers in the Cy Young voting, along with Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez.
But that's next season. We've still got to address this October.
Through the course of his career, LMJ has been known as a big-game performer. He's consistently shown up and shoved under the brightest of lights. This remained the case in the ALDS against Seattle. In six-innings of his Game 3 start, McCullers allowed only two hits and yielded no runs. The Astros of course won that game in 18 innings.
Beyond that, his October was a struggle. LMJ struggled his way through the deciding Game 4 of the ALCS, going five innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits. He didn't have close to his best stuff, but did enough to keep the Astros in the game until their offense came alive.
Game three of the World Series was a different story entirely. In 4.1 innings, LMJ gave up seven runs on five big flies. It was a historically bad World Series start, with McCullers becoming the first pitcher in playoff history to give up five home runs in a game.
The Astros of course bounced back and won the next three games to win the World Series.
LMJ's season was a tale of two stories. His regular season was a complete success and showed he should have zero issues rebounding from his injury. His first playoff start was one of the better of his career, inciting even more hope.
His next two were complete let-downs, but a pitcher of LMJ's disposition should have no issues flushing them headed into next season.
His first nine starts merit an A. His second two merit a C. We'll meet in the middle for McCuller's score.
Lance McCullers Jr.'s 2022 Report Card: B (86/100)