Dan Peschong does the eeny, meeny, miny, mo with Astros’ 5th starter


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.

Along with those five – five other pitchers started games for the Astros last season – Jordan Lyles, Dallas Keuchel, Brett Oberholtzer, Jarred Cosart and Paul Clemens.

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.

Lucas Harrell

  • 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.

Dallas Keuchel

  • 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.

Paul Clemens

  • 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.

Asher Wojciechowski

  • 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.

Other considerations

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?

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72 comments on “Dan Peschong does the eeny, meeny, miny, mo with Astros’ 5th starter

  1. It probably won’t be Dallas Keuchel because he is likely the third best starter. As Astros’ pitchers go, he is second in SO/9 and fewest BB/9. In important peripheral stats he is dangerously close to league average. That puts him in the upper half of woeful Astros’ starting pitchers. Both Obie and Cossart lag behind Keuchel in most peripheral measures. They will likely regress in ’14. Though, his higher than average ground ball rate will continue to generate a lot of hits with the Astros’ unimproved infield defense.

    I’d like Keuchel to be our fifth starter, because that means we’d have a 3/4 at the back of the rotation.

    My vote goes to someone else.

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      • He was twelve strikeouts from being league average in SO/9. He was already better than LA in BB/9. He is much better than the league at inducing ground balls, but too many of those are getting to the outfield.That and too many of his fly balls leave the yard. I’d say if he can improve on just those things he’d be the third or fourth best starter on a good staff.

        I am not a big fan of terms like “fifth starter”, because a team typically has 8-10 starters. Plus, you don’t want to turn over 15% of your games to some scrub because he’s a ‘fifth starter’. But, in common parlance I’d like to have a ‘third or fourth starter’ as my fifth starter. Which implies we’d have a couple of ones or twos ahead of him.

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    • Becky, I love Folty and I like him as a starting pitcher more than a lot of others do, but I think he enters the scene later in the year or next spring. I see him and Appel joining the Astros close together.
      Folty threw a beautiful complete game in CC playoffs last year that probably vaults him into spring training w/ the big club, but most likely starting in a tandem rotation in OKC to begin the year.
      I’m convinced that Strom will use his methods of teaching to try and get Folty’s changeup delivery to appear to be a fastball coming out of his hand, giving Mike three devastating pitches, and let him work on that at OKC at the beginning of the year and try to get him to throw more pitches in the strike zone once he has the confidence to throw all three. Folty has proven very, very hard to hit against and now he needs to get it into his head that he can throw more strikes and quit walking himself into trouble.

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    • Becky – we can only make fun of one writer’s nightmare name at a time. Folty at 21 and coming off a strong AA season is most likely to start in AAA. But he has to be on the short list of call-ups.

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  2. This is difficult speculation because of the many variables: Luhnow says he may still pick up a starter, Strom and everything he brings to the club(Harrells’s terrible pitch selection?), White because of his injury, Wojo because we’ve never seen him.
    I’m aware of Keuchels advanced numbers and how they make him top of the graph pitcher on the Astros and he gets so many pulled ground balls. I’d love for Wojo to come in and wow the coaches in ST because it would just be so cool. Right now I’d guess Keuchel but I think there are some trades still coming involving Astros pitching.

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    • Fair speculation old pro. I really hope we get Asher W here – young pitchers need to get some innings under their belt and might as well do it in a year where we are finding our way.

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  3. Having dealt with ADHD in my own family, I have a STRONG feeling Lucas Harrell
    does have ADHD. He losses focus in a New York minute, and completely shuts down. The crazy stuff Bo Porter does with positioning behind him drove him nuts last year. NOT making excuses for Lucas, but he should at least get himself tested
    for it.

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  4. Dan, it’s off subject, but I wanted to point out a post in WTHB this morning about LHP Blaine Sims, the lefty knucklballer we picked up in minor league Rule five.
    When his minor league coach observed him throw it in outfield practice, he threw two in a row that started at the letters and ended up at the ankles. This coach went to the Braves brass and convinced them to let him work on it exclusively. They brought in Phil Niekro to help Sims refine his pitching philosophy as a knuckleball pitcher and Niekro says Sims has a major league knuckler. Niekro says he just has to get in games and get the confidence to throw it at different speeds. Sims has three different speeds on his knuckler so far. It is an interesting read.

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  5. Looking at Keuchel’s stats, he’s somewhat better than Wandy was at the same point of his career. If we end up with a Wandy out of the guy and support him with a real offense, he might win 14 to 16 plus games a year. Left handers typically mature a bit later.

    I’m also looking forward to seeing if Wojoski can go to Spring Training and win a job. If the curve ball continues to improve, he’s going to be good. A big prototypical right hander. Good, imposing mound presence.

    I’d take these two guys as my fourth and fifth starters today. Should be a real battle in ST. One thing for certain. Peabody is no lock.

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  6. One glance over of Feldman’s numbers has to be concerning for 10 mil a year. Cosart is going to be good, I watched this guy pitch from the first row between home plate and the third base dugout in New Orleans, this guy is for real. BUT I expect him to be inconsistent next year.

    This rotation has the makings of being the worst rotation in baseball in years. We better hope Keuchel can suprise, eat up innings, and be a .500 plus pitcher.

    Some may point to short, successful stints by the likes of Peacok and say there is your evidence. I counter with the fact that almost every pitcher that makes a big league roster is capable of going out and having short stints – my guess is we will see an inconsistent Peacock.

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      • Here’s an argument AGAINST Choo…

        $150 million equals a million per strikeout. Obp is good but if you add in those strikeout totals it leads me to believe we’ll see a lot of at bats where he’s just standing there watching the ball pass by. In our weak lineup I’d venture to guess the walks go way down too. Throw in the fact that he’s an average at best base runner, and that OBP starts to look a bit hollow.

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    • Norris 6-9 3.92
      Harrell 6-17 5.86
      Peacock 5-6 5.18
      Humber 0-8 7.90
      Bedard 4-12 4.59
      And you think this year’s rotation won’t be better than last year’s?

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      • Yes, I believe it will be worse than having Norris and Bedard in there – Feldman has as much of a chance of going Woody on you and posting a 5+ ERA, there isn’t even a Norris, who at times turned my hair gray, in there to eat up some innings. It is fully possible that we won’t record 75 quality starts as a rotation we posted last year. We may not get to 65. Thats how dismal I think the pitching situation is. Feldman helps, but I am not sure its enough help for 10 mil.

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      • Steven – It is possible that no one puts up numbers as good as Norris though over a whole year I think someone will beat the number of wins by a fair amount – but I think it is totally improbable that someone won’t beat Bedard’s numbers.
        Humber and Harrell were disasters – Peacock was bad and then decent upon recall.
        I will say that if things go bad I think there will be a cavalry to call upon from AA and AAA ball.

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  7. I wanted to wait a couple days so no one would think I was talking about them. But this discussion of what someone would be worth in 4-5-6 years. I was having that discussion one day concerning an employee at our company. An older man looked at me and said, “You are still going to spend $40 for a meal tonight, and not worry what it is worth in the morning.”

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      • this stuff about ‘it isnt my money anyway’, is a poor argument. think about if it were your business. it isnt the govt just giving money away.

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      • Well rj – I will never be the one spending the money or making the decisions so it really does not matter what I think anyways.

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      • Hey Dan. it does matter what you think. your opinion is one of the ones on here i respect most. youre right that all the opinions (including my own) on here are not gonna affect Luhnow one iota, but it is fun to see what everyone thinks. and my apologies if that seemed like a shot at you, i have had the ‘cold from hell’ the last few days and am probably even more cranky than usual.

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  8. Factoring in injuries, head cases, and regressions to the mean I’d say we’re two starters away from a rotation. I suspect Strom will improve our chances. If you look at other teams, they have been able to generate power arms through their system AND turn journeyman-level pitchers into successful big leaguers.

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  9. I guess I can hope for something like this.
    Cosart’s stats regress, so that naysayers are happy, but he pitches as well as Norris but has a .500 record due to more run support.
    Ober pitches 150 innings with a .400 winning % and a 4.00 era
    Peacock pitches like the last part of the season and has a .450 winning percentage.
    Feldman’s stats match last year’s stat and he has a 4.00 era and a 10-10 record and pitches 25 starts.
    Dallas Keuchel takes Bedards place as #5 starter and has a 4.80 era and goes 6-10 instead of 4-12 with a 4.60 era.
    That’s about a 10 win improvement for the starters, which isn’t a fantasy dream, but achievable, I think. It gets you to 61 wins.
    If the bullpen is below average, BUT not the worst in history, you could get 10 more wins from them instead of the incredible losses they had last year and get to 71 wins.

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    • This reminds us of our glass half-full prognostications for a team .750 OPS last season. I expect Cosart to put up good numbers and be competitive. He’s likely going to give the ball to the bullpen for 3 innings a game though…so the wins may be tough to come by. As for the others, I’d be surprised if anyone else has a sub-4.00 ERA come the All-Star break.

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    • I agree. If we are sitting here next year at this time, and talking about how horrible the Astros were at 71-91 – I would take that is a HUGE step forward. That means in 2015, just 10 more wins and we are at .500. From 51 wins to .500 in two years would be wonderful. Actually 1OldPro – I would take 10 more wins next year and 20 more the following. Someone has posted numerous time “addition by subtraction” – I think that is very accurate, but please get a TV deal done by March.

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      • Astro45, its really all about the bullpen. If the starters get 10+ more wins it’s because the bullpen delivers 10+ more saves. and if the bullpen gets 10 more wins it’s because the starters kept the games close and the team scored more runs when it counted 10+ times. I reviewed the Astros pitching stats today for the first time in months and some of the best stats of the year were put up by the relievers we had in the bullpen at the end of the year and some of the worst stats of the year were by six guys who aren’t here anymore, like Ambriz, Wright and Blackley.

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      • Stats are very interesting when you look as the year progressed. One quick look is baseball-reference “team” and compare the red/green graph of Astros vs. say A’s (graph stops at 10 run differential). We got blown out so many times, so just as you say, if we can stay close into latter part of the game, we can turn some of them around to wins. And if we can find a couple or three starters that eat 180-200 innings, that takes the bullpen into the 7th during those games.

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      • There are a lot of areas that are ripe for improvement on this team because so many areas were not just bad, but historically bad. Let’s hope that a bit better in all areas raises their confidence and overall performance. That said – 71-91 would be a really big improvement and just typing that makes me sad.

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      • 71-91 would not be a terrible record in the context of rebuilding. Teams intending to contend (Toronto – 74-88, Philly – 73-89 SF – 76-86) were all within a handful of that record. Improving by 20 wins won’t be easy…but I believe you almost have to try to lose 111 games.

        One think I’m having trouble understanding is why some people here are so glad to see Bedard go. He gave up 4 or more runs in 8 of 26 starts. The most runs he surrendered in any start was 6. He moved in and out of the bullpen as needed. The only reason not to bring him back was that he was on a strict 100 pitch limit and only exceeded 5 innings pitched in 12 of his 26 starts. I’m just can’t see any expectations of improving on those 26 starts though.

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      • Devin, I think Keuchel is a better, younger Bedard. I said that? It didn’t hurt at all.
        When I was looking at those stats today I noticed we had only two complete games by the entire staff all year. They were both by Oberholtzer. I think if we’re looking for an innings eater, he might be that guy. He’s a battler, a brawler and I think he won’t back off this year. He fought his way to the bigs when few in the org gave him little chance and I believe he intends to stay. He was a rookie, he pitched well and I think he will be better this year.

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      • Bedard has been very injury prone in recent years, although he made it through most of last year injury free. Great pitcher in his prime. But i wouldnt bet on another year without injury for him.

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  10. Here’s the deal for me – 95 of our starts last season were by starters with an ERA of 5 or more. And conversely – only 67 starts were by starters with an ERA of under 5 (20 starts were by pitchers still on the team – Cosart and Oberholtzer). A lot of their success or failure will be predicated on whether Cosart and Oberholtzer are the real deal and whether others – perhaps Peacock and Keuchel can move the needle to the positive side.
    I see it as about a 70% chance that they will have a better starting rotation than last season – about a 30% chance that it will be a lot better.
    And as usual – I would never bet or have someone bet on my thoughts which are usually off….or overly optimistic.

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    • Every year we seem optimistic that the Astros have gotten better pitching. We talked about Lyles putting it together this time last year. We thought Norris was going to step up. Harrel had a similar season two years ago to what Feldman did last year. I don’t like being the glass half empty guy – but I am a realist. I am not convinced that this rotation is any better than the rotations of the last 3-4 years. I am also convinced that if the starting 5 is predicted in the article correctly, that Cosart is the only one that will be here in 2016.

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    • I freely admit my complaints about the roster may not be grounded in reality. It’s obvious, to me, that Luhnow would not pay $30 million to Feldman if he could bring a better starter to town for that money. I’m concerned we’ll end up paying him about $500k per start when all is said and done. At this point I’d say it is critical we get some injection from our system that puts the team into respectability.

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    • I think that the future is coming from the minor league system – we will have to see who it is and how fast they get here – but that is what needs to be the basis for the long term health and success of the team.

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  11. Just scanned the FAs left and truly it is/was a weak group. There are a few relievers left that would help depending on salary demands. And don’t throw anything at me, but a reasonably priced Lance Berkman for DH would be a good possibility. Not much else is worth a phone call.

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  12. One thought concerning payroll. Right now, it is sitting on about $32 Million +/- plus Castro’s final number. But for next year (if my list is correct) Valdes, Harrell, White, Corporan, Wallace, Bass, MGonzalez, and Carter all hit arbitration and become at least twice as expensive at 2013. Wandy finally goes away for good, but just keeping the youngsters together is going to jump the payroll. (I know some of these will hopefully be gone) So if the Astros stand pat next winter, the payroll will go up at least $7-10 Million more than 2013. Unless you replace each one of them with a rookie. It makes a huge leap if 3-4 more FAs are signed in 2014. So Crane needs a deal on TV rights that at least pays him something if he is maxed out on borrowing.

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    • I re-read the story. As one that got a BBA in accounting, passed the CPA exam and by then determined I HATED public accounting – in reading the article, our senior partner told me over 50 years ago. “Just remember that figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

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  13. Not a bad signing – He is coming off two very solid years in the Indians and Red Sox bullpens – is coming home and signs to a 1 yr with a team option for a second yr. If they bring Veras in – the bullpen looks a whole lot better than last season.

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  14. I love this, too. it’s great motivation for fans from the area to go see players they went to school with pitch for the Astros. Let’s face it, Reid Ryan needs all the help he can get. Albers was one of the two relievers I had targeted, along with Veras. Qualls is just a bonus!

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  15. Do you guys remember Ryan Feel?? I remember when he took his life last year, and what a blow that was. His mother allowed the docs to remove his brain to study concussion problems. He had the SAME brain injury that some of the football players have been diagnosed with. Just a sad, sad story…….there were 18 players who were put on the DL last year with concussions……..10 of them were catchers.
    NO sport is worth risking your brain with. Now is the time to get Mr. Castro some reps at first base.

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      • I think every baseball fan (except maybe Pete Rose) thinks this is needed and long overdue. Enforcement may be a little rough getting started, but will mellow out by mid-season. I can’t believe the Player’s association will delay this a year.

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