By Dan Peschong
Looking back at 2013 – I will give high marks to anyone who can tell me who started the first 4 games of the season for the Astros and who was the 5th pitcher to start a game (which occurred in the 8th game of the season).
Most of you probably got Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell, who pitched well in the first two games of the season (though Harrell had no chance of winning against the Rangers Whirling Durvish). Some may remember that Philip Humber and Brad Peacock were the game 3 and 4 starters and I would say most would have thought Erik Bedard would have started a game before Humber and Peacock – though he did finish a game before them – saving the opener for Norris before starting the 8th game of the season.
Heading into Spring Training, the consensus seems to be that there are four front-runners for the first four spots in the rotation, Cosart, Oberholtzer, Peacock and newly acquired Scott Feldman. While nothing is certain for a team coming off a 111 loss season, those four would seem to have a leg up on four of the rotations spots – but the 5th spot would seem to be wide open.
Candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation.
- Arguments For – Has more experience than other candidates (not all of it good). Is one year removed from a very solid 11-11 season with a 3.76 ERA in 2012. If you want to get anything for him – you need to get him to pitch decently and then quickly trade him.
- Arguments Against – His 6-17 season last year was really putrid, culminating in a July and August where he gave up an OPS of .956 and 1.006. (For some perspective the individual AL OPS leader last season was Miguel Cabrera at 1.078). He did poorly as a starter but was even worse out of the bullpen. He seemed to be on the edge of emotional confrontation and meltdown the whole second half of 2013.
- Arguments For – Of the 10 pitchers that started games last season – he had the 5th best ERA. He would potentially give the Astros a second lefty in the rotation with Oberholtzer. After his first real extended exposure to the MLB – could improve.
- Arguments Against – Really pitched consistently poorly all year and did not really show improvement. Was really hammered by right-handed batters and was not too good against lefties.
- Arguments For – Clemens was thrown into the rotation coming down the stretch and in his 5 starts he had a respectable 3.72 ERA. He has the Braves pedigree coming over from Atlanta in the Michael Bourn trade.
- Arguments Against – Overall pitched poorly and was particularly susceptible to the gopher ball giving up 16 HR in only 73 IP. His WHIP was over 1.4 and he struggled with finding a strikeout pitch.
- Arguments For – Pitched great at AA after coming over from Toronto in the JA Happ trade and was promoted to OKC in early 2013 where he pitched solidly in 22 starts – 3.56 ERA and a WHIP under 1.20.
- Arguments Against – A lot tougher to type his name than Joe Smith.
The Astros have 22 pitchers on their 40 man (and only 16 position players, since they have 2 openings), so there are plenty of potential options. Here are a few:
- The lame – Rudy Owens and Alex White – who missed most and all of 2013, respectively, due to injuries.
- The new – Anthony Bass obtained from the Padres yesterday – who has 18 starts in 3 MLB stints – though none last season.
- The question marks – Jose Cisnero and David Martinez – who both pitched out of the pen at the end of 2013, but who both had been starters in the minors.
- The TBD – there is no indication that Luhnow is absolutely done picking up pitchers, so the 5th starter might not even be here yet.
My choice would be to let Asher Wojalphabet take a shot at this fifth spot without ever seeing him pitch.
What would be your choice and why?