CHIPALATTA

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Opening day: Comparing 2013 and 2014 pitching


They say the game of baseball is all about pitching and defense. Enter your favorite “Rah roh George!” or “Houston, we’ve got a problem!” line here. There isn’t a marked difference from last April to this April. Still, though the edge may go to the 2014 rotation, it’s not a slam dunk.

The primary difference is that this rotation may get a chance to gel together. Last year’s opening day starter Bud Norris was on the trade block starting in spring training. Most of this year’s rotation should avoid the trade talk for the duration of the season as long as they perform.

You can read other Astros’ comparisons today:

We rated the rotation in the order Bo Porter set up his rotation in 2013 and how he’s lined them up to start this season.

You can argue this one all day and all night. And you wouldn’t be wrong. In other words, somewhat of a tossup, but I’ll give Feldman the edge because of maturity. Bud might still be in Houston if not for attitude. Edge: Feldman.

Do you even have to ask? The Astros are better in the #2 slot in 2014. No brainer, hands down. Cosart has better stuff, more upside and — injuries aside — will last longer in the rotation this season. Edge: Cosart. By. A. Mile.

Humber actually had a solid spring, but ended up spending more time in Oklahoma City than Houston. Because of his youth, not to mention his southpawness, Oberholtzer can step up big if he can connect his 2013 season with strong innings early on this season. Edge: Oberholtzer, if only because of his strong 2013 season.

Harrell was bumped down in the rotation (#2 to #4) this season and Peacock is in the bullpen. Honestly, come the break, Harrell could be gone or in the bullpen and Peacock could be back in the rotation. Both have flashes, but neither will provide the consistency the Astros need. Edge: Pick ’em.

Some would call Keuchel a young man’s version of Bedard. Soft-throwing. Finesse. Crafty. Both pitched in relief and as a starter. In all likelihood, Keuchel will do so again. You could argue that Keuchel should win this battle because of his youth and the fact he’s my sleeper. He’s another pitcher who has the potential of going wire to wire on the roster. Edge: Pick ’em.

And, then, there’s the bullpen.

Bo Porter trotted out 26 different players to pitch last season. Of those 26, Norris was the only one who did not pitch in relief. That was out of necessity.

As long as injuries don’t take their toll, the bullpen — at least on paper — should be improved considerably. Even though Jesse Crain may not return for several weeks, Chad Qualls, Matt Albers, Josh Fields and other should bring some stability to the late game for Houston.

Come on, tell me you’d rather have these guys (from 2013) carrying gas cans to the mound: Hector Ambriz, Xavier Cedeno, Rhiner Cruz and friends. Instead of Qualls, Albers, Fields, Kevin Chapman and Peacock.

Edge: 2014 pen. No argument. Without a doubt.

Now, here’s the ace up the sleeve or you could even call these guys a secret weapon of sorts. There are actually 3-4 players in the upper minors who could make a big splash by either late May or June. In fact, any one of them could be game changers and become the Roy Oswalt of 2001.

Alex White

  • Working his way back from Tommy John surgery last April. Most people forget he was tabbed as the fifth starter before he was injured. The 25-year-old is a former first rounder who possible top-of-the-rotation stuff. He could start in Houston’s bullpen sooner than later.

Asher Wojciechowski.

  • The product of the J.A. Happ trade likely would have been on the roster albeit for that back strain. The Astros won’t rush him back, and he’ll need time to get into pitching shape. But he should be part of the mid-season cavalry for the pitching corps.

Michael Foltynewicz.

  • Some believe he could actually be the best pitching prospect in the organization, and he’s pitched only 103 innings above A ball. Seasoning and getting control of that fastball is all that separates him from a call to Houston. Realistically, he could be a 2015 addition, but don’t count out 2014. Some people will scoff at the fact I can see him as a future closer, but I’m not alone in that mindset.

How do you rank ’em?

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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in Colorado Springs, CO, and is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 40 years. A native of Natchitoches, La., Chip enjoys watching baseball at most any level, especially pro and college. Several years ago, he worked as an associate of Pastor John Bosman, who enjoyed giving nick names to his staff. He came up with Chipalatta, and it’s stuck.

4 comments on “Opening day: Comparing 2013 and 2014 pitching

  1. Devin
    April 1, 2014

    Peacock Won the fifth spot over White last year. White was slotted in the bullpen before losing velocity in final spring start and having elbow examined.

    I agree bullpen is far better on paper. I like Norris and bedard over anyone in our 2014 rotation not named Cosart. Braves might be pining for Olberholtzer this year.

    Like

  2. 1oldpro
    April 1, 2014

    This is not a downer comment. It is an upper comment. The pitching staff this year is better because of who is gone. A lot of bad pitchers that were here last year are gone and the ones replacing them are better pitchers. That said, I think the biggest difference in the staff will be Strom adding pitches and knowledge to the guys that are there now.
    Strom helps build this staff and that makes a difference.
    I would be careful thinking White helps this team this year. It is dangerous talking about a pitcher’s great “stuff” after TJ surgery.
    And I, for one, do see Folty as a closer. I just don’t want to write him off as a #2 starter at his young age. He has a lot of innings in the minors learning his trade. The last game he pitched was a gem in the playoffs so I think he is a guy who can bring it when he has to but doesn’t always bring it because he thinks he’s ready and doesn’t concentrate 100%, similar to Cosart in the minors.

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  3. BrianT
    April 1, 2014

    I think we are going to see much better pitching this season, and oddly it begins with our bullpen. Knowing you have competent arms for the 7th, 8th and 9th innings means our starters can breathe easier and feel free to challenge a hitter or two.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dan P
    April 1, 2014

    Thoughts
    – I think Harrell will be a big test of Strom’s ability. There is no doubt that a huge chunk of Harrell’s problems last season were between his ears. Worried about defensive shifts, not able to have pitch placement like in 2012, seemed to mail it in when sent to the pen….
    – The biggest hope is that we can get some more innings from the starters this season – so that an improved bullpen does not get run into the ground.
    – It is hard to picture the bullpen not being better than in 2013 – it was terrible and inexperienced (after Veras and Wright left) and the additions of Qualls, Albers (and hopefully soon Crain) and more seasoning with Fields and Chapman – we should see a much improved product out of the pen.
    – I’m sure wanting to see some young pitching rise up soon – Wojo and Folty – maybe White – maybe Buchanan.

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