The Astros’ rotation is driving a solid finish


We know how this goes: Consistency in anything can end up with a person, group, product, company, etc. being taken for granted. The Astros’ starting pitching may be headed in that direction as they are the one part of the team not named Jose Altuve that has been very consistent this season, especially down the stretch.

Season to Season Improvement

In almost every category of import, the Astros’ starting pitching has shown drastic improvement.

  • ERA: A nasty 4.72 ERA is now down to a decent 3.95
  • Innings pitched per start (with this bullpen this is critical): A not impressive 5.59 innings per start is a much better 6.00 innings per start
  • OPS Against: Was a crummy .778, down to an average .719
  • GOAO: An average 1.09 is now a league’s best 1.23, which also helps them to lead the league in enticing double plays (88) on the season

Down the Stretch

The Astros’ starters have been the key to the surge late in the season and to the way they have been playing near .500 ball since May.

  • In the last 18 games, the Astros have had only one game where the starter had given up more than 3 runs or failed to go at least 5 IP.
  • In the 48 games since the All Star Break, the starters have held the opposition to 3 runs or less in 38 of those games.
  • They have held the opposition to 0 or 1 run in 17 of those starts; 0, 1 or 2 runs in 27 of those 48 starts.
  • They have gone at least 7 innings in 17 of those starts and gone at least 6 innings in 30 of those starts

McHugh – Good first half becomes great second half

Collin McHugh has been good the whole year and nails since the ASB. He is 4-1 with a 2.26 ERA after the break and the only complaint is that he is only averaging 6.45 innings per start, which is not bad – but 3rd on this staff in the second half.

Keuchel – Strong Starter – Bad Luck in the 2nd half

Dallas Keuchel has had a rotten 1-4 record after the ASB, off with his head. Oh well, that would ignore his fine 2.71 ERA and an even finer 6.9 innings per start. He has been super strong and super deserving of more run support.

Feldman – Very Solid and an Innings Eater

Down the stretch, Scott Feldman has been very solid and pitches deep into games. Since the break – his 3.55 ERA and his 7.1 innings per start have helped show the youngsters how it is done as he has compiled a 4-4 record.

Oberholtzer – Up and Down but not bad

Brett Oberholtzer has been inconsistent this year, but for a fourth starter has been decent. Down the stretch after the break his record has been 3-3, his ERA has been an average 4.24 and he is completing 6.37 innings per start.

Peacock – No doubt who is 5th in the rotation

Talking about Brad Peacock in the same conversation with these other four gentlemen kind of reminds me of how in A League of Their Own the news reel is showing the Rockford  Peaches and gives close-ups of all the cute players and then cuts away to a shot from 200 feet away of Marla Hooch.  Peacock’s second half stats are ugly compared to the other guys. His 1-2 record, 5.67 ERA and 4.95 innings per start are trailing the pack, but there is hope. In his last 4 starts since discovering he was tipping his pitches – he has given up 1, 1, 2 and 1 run in those starts (though he still has trouble getting through more than 5 to 6 innings due to pitch count).

So, what do you think of the Astros’ solid rotation and more importantly, who will be in it when they crank up 2015?

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108 comments on “The Astros’ rotation is driving a solid finish

  1. I probably should point out that GOAO is the ratio of ground ball outs to “air” ball outs – not to be confused with basketball air balls – but pop outs fly balls and line drive outs.

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    • Good question rj –
      Keuchel is arbitration eligible for 2016 and free agent eligible for 2019.
      McHugh, Obie and Peacock are arb eligible 2017 and FA eligible 2020.
      Feldman is making $12 million this season, $10 mill next and $8 mill for 2016.
      So you could theoretically (no personnel changes / no early contract signings) have this same staff for $12 mill next year and $10 mill. The power of young pitchers under contract control.

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      • Dan, it’s quite possible that Keuchel will move up to Arb 1 after the 2015 season. He’ll have a full 2 seasons under his belt after this year. All of which makes him one of several targets (Carter, Springer) for an early extension.

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    • Yeah – Chip -when I say arb eligible for 2016 – I meant after the 2015 season (so actually I was wrong when I said they could have the same staff for $10 million in 2016) – I’m guessing Keuchel would get $4 million in arb – though if he keeps performing they will be trying to contract him out of some of that arb time I believe. So they could have the same staff fo $13 or 14 million in 2016. (Though obviously it will be different).

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  2. Every night I’m amazed with what Strom has done with these starters, They are solid every night, if we could get more than 3 runs a game who knows. I mean really ,honestly Feldman, McHugh, Kuechel i would have said all 3 maybe 5th startrer, at the start of the year, on most big league teams.

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    • Yes, the consistency is almost a given – it is almost a shock when the starting pitchis is the reason for a loss.
      Feldman was brought in to be the veteran “ace” – though he normally was a #3 or #4 starter over the years.
      Keuchel was one of the guys fighting in ST to make this staff, so certainly he was at best a #5 around the league if he would even make a staff.
      McHugh was waived by the Rockies, picked up by the Astros and started the season in the minors – so he would not even make most staffs.

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  3. Although not big a fan of Feldman, his second half stats can’t be ignored, in spite of getting blown out twice. And while I’d like to see more from Oberholtzer and Peacock, it’s good to have Tropeano and Foltynewicz nearby. The one area on the club that I’m not concerned about for 2015 is the rotation. We’ve not been able to say that for some years now.

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    • That is true, daveb – do you think they will keep Feldman for 2015 – it would seem to make sense, but would not be surprising if they shop him at the next trade deadline.

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      • Dan, I think Feldman will start in 2015, but be gone by the deadline if he’s successful and if we have 5 other options for the rotation. I think we will at that point. On the other hand, Feldman has been pretty candid about his feelings for Bo. You never know…….

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    • Very good point daveb on Feldman’s feelings for Bo Porter and how that might cut short his time with the team.
      Why do I keep picturing Jeff Luhnow attending a baptism while back at the office all these “malcontents” are disappearing…..
      (Godfather reference for those who may not catch it).

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  4. and he has lots of help on the way. having success with the current group bodes well for when folty, appel, mccullers, hader, feliz, velasquez, tropeano, wojo etc arrive.

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    • I’ll be old pro for a moment here – the major league club is pushing to have their starters work deep into the games, while the tandem system in the minors would seem to reward those who work well for shorter stints. Is this cross-purposes? Will the successful pitchers in the tandem system be able to translate that to the majors?

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      • I think the tandem system is more about limiting innings on younger arms – and giving opportunity to multiple pitchers – but I do agree it may be counter intuitive for a franchise trying to extend its starters at the big league level.

        P.S. Don’t take that as a personal defense to the tandem system, I never really thought about it or commented on it before, but I’ll take my official stance now as it should be gone. Just trying to be in the head of the creator of said system.

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      • I was OK for tandem-ing for a couple months but I think you should spend a chunk of the season stretching folks out that will be starters

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  5. The league has not caught up with McHugh as some thought it might. Kudos for Luhnow.
    Keuchel underrated all year. Would be chewing the league up on a decent hitting team
    Feldman’s experience has really paid off once he got healthy. Gotta admire his guts.
    Ober has continued to battle through some rough patches in almost every game but seems to be learning how to get out of trouble. Does he have enough stuff to pitch without getting in trouble?
    Looking at Peacock, the last four starts makes you wonder if trading Cosart and focusing on Peacock has led to the discoveries of his flaws and that has led to him being able to fix them. Nitro’s start on Wednesday may have as much to do with Peacock’s future with the club as it does with Nick himself.
    We have to help the starting pitchers out with more runs and a better bullpen if we are going to be competitive next season. By competitive I mean .500 or better.
    Does anyone else agree with me that it might be better if Springer sits the rest of the season out and gets healthy and ready to play in the first Opening Day of his major league career next April 6th? He’s going to be pretty rusty if he returns.

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    • Nice summary of things old pro. Interesting thought that Cosart leaving has led to catching the flaws in Peacock’s delivery. Now if Strom can innoculate him against Bud Norris disease (90+ pitches after 5 innings) we might have something.
      I hope Tropeano gets enough exposure so that next season he is not overwhelmed and not too bright eyed….
      You are right about the offense – while the starting pitching is very consistent – the hitters are as likely to start off with shutout ball for 6 or 7 innings as they are to score early and fairly often. It seems like every time Keuchel pitches he is losing 1-0 in the 6th inning.
      On Springer – if there is any doubt – if he is anything but 100% don’t bring him back. And frankly we are almost to the point (the last couple weeks of the season) where you say – is there any point.
      I guess if they brought him back and he could work on that K rate I would be fine – something tells me that is not going to happen.

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  6. I certainly can’t fault Peacock for his number of pitches last night. Against Fernandez he could not afford one bad pitch and he left the game tied 0-0 against one of the top pitchers in baseball. He threw 32 balls facing 22 batters so he wasn’t wild. He just had to be so careful knowing we were probably not going to score.
    The bullpen with the best ERA in MLB beat the bullpen with the worst ERA in MLB last night. That’s the way it goes.

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    • I had an early day – so I did not get to watch him last night (oh and I made a boo-boo above – in his last 4 starts he has given up 1,1,2 and 0 runs.
      Facing someone like Fernandez sure raises the stress level and the careful level for the opposing starter.
      Now why would you think the bullpen with the 2.41 ERA would beat the bullpen with the 4.93 ERA. (Hey at least we are tied with the Rockies for the worst ERA – not all alone at the bottom).

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  7. Tri City plays for their league championship tonight. Game 3 in a best of 3.
    Tri City was shut out in game 1, 2-0.
    They won game 2, 3-0, but scored their three runs in the same inning on a bases loaded walk, then a wild pitch, and then a passed ball. So they have 1 rbi in the two games.
    They won it last year. Let’s see if they can do it again with a completely different team.

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    • Go Tri-City! (Any one know why it isn’t Tri-Cities – like Quad Cities??)
      It must be an interesting experience to guide a low minor league team into the playoffs. A lot of your best players during the season (AJ Reed, Ryan Bottger, JD Davis, Troy Scribner, etc) get promoted out from under you. You do get some guys promoted to you – like Derek Fisher – but it means that you are going into the post season with a bit weaker team and with guys who are adjusting to a new level.

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      • Great job, Dan! It’s the same thing in Lancaster. Look at that team in April and look at it now, including the pitchers.

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    • Old pro – I think player development while maintaining a winning attitude is as much art as science (my apologies to all techies including Herr Luhnow).

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      • daveb –
        I am not a cockeyed optimist nor a bopert pessimist – I am on the sunnier side of the middle.
        I like certain things Luhnow has done in picking up helpful waiver wire guys like Sipp, McHugh, Veras, in sticking to a plan he believes in, in not trying to short cut things with onerous contracts and in picking up helpful FAs like Feldman and Fowler and of course in making the minor league system viable again.
        But I am worried that a guy who seems to be very inflexible may cause the team to not be as good as they can be. Like we were talking about – I like having varying opinions in my organization – just to be able to absorb them and use them to grow the group.There are obviously things that people need to toe the line on, but we don’t need to be making trades and cuts based on a tight interpretation of the First Amendment.

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  8. To get back on topic a bit, another big factor in the rotation’s success has been its overall good health. Except for short stints on the DL for Feldman and McHugh the starters have been very durable. The stockpile of starters has allowed Luhnow to trade Lyles and Cosart within the past year with an already good return on investment with Fowler and a very high possibility of good returns on the Cosart trade. If Luhnow can spin off some of our excess inventory for upgrades at short, 3B and/or a consistently productive corner OF I would be a happy camper. I’m anxious to see Tropeano tomorrow and hope that Stassi will catch him. Would stand to reason that Stassi knows him well and its time for him to get some time behind the dish.

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    • Great point on health dr bill – the starters have been solid that way too.
      It would be great to have Tropeano show well down the stretch – the young man is probably not sleeping well tonight

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  9. The rotation has been a pleasant surprise the last two months, and we are getting spoiled watching these guys battle. I suspect Luhnow will give Tropeano every chance to fail, same goes for Folty, and my hope is one of them makes it on to the big club next year. I’m excited to hear Nick’s game tomorrow night…….if one of you guys get to watch the game, check back in to tell us how he looked! Like I said yesterday, Peacock might have been more relaxed on the mound last night, with out Porter giving him the stink eye in the dugout. He matched King Felix pitch for pitch,
    and that’s all we could ask for……..this group has already beaten him once this year!

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    • I’m pretty sure Porter was a big proponent for acquiring Peacock from Oakland. It would be disappointing if that relationship went sour, but there is a business component at play.

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    • Astros win 2-1. Villar the hero with great defense and GWRBI in the ninth with 2 outs. McHugh: 8 innings 1 run on 2 hits, and Fields with a 1-2-3 ninth inning save.

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      • Good for Villar and McHugh – co-heroes. Frankly Singleton almost was the Tri-hero – did knock in a run, but his rope of a double was literally 2″ from skimming over and he had beaten out an infield hit that scored Carter from 2nd!!! That was reversed. I was asleep for the last 3 innings.

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  10. Like I said, we are spoiled by the great pitching on this club. McHugh gives up two hits, and one run…..*ZERO* walks. Our little “junk pile” pitcher is starting to get some attention, and it’s well deserved! Villar made some outstanding plays tonight, why can’t he do that every time he plays. Pretty dang good game!

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  11. Now I am really confused about McHugh and the rookie of the year eligibility – the chron.com (spit!!) review of last night’s game is saying he is ROY eligible. If I am looking at the rules correctly it ties to having more than 50 innings pitched or 45 days in the majors (not including September callups). The guy has like 79 innings previously. Anybody understand what is happening here other than bad reporting?

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  12. According to baseball-reference.com Collin had a total of 47.1 IPs coming into this year. With the new rules requiring 50 IPs or less then he does qualify for ROY. He obviously won’t win it because of Jose Abreu, but he will garner some votes.

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    • Thanks Tim – I had an early morning duh moment – I didn’t notice that one of the inning numbers I was adding in was his total for the Mets plus Rockies last season – so I was double dipping his numbers. Yes he is under 50 innings and since he pitched mostly in Septembers he did not violate the 45 day rule.

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  13. Keuchel – 10 wins
    Cosart – 9 wins (13 counting NL starts)
    McHugh – 9 wins
    Feldman – 8 wins

    I know people like to dismiss wins as meaningless, but when was the last time we had multiple pitchers hit double digits?

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  14. So, how about a quick look at where we stand. the Astros are:
    9.5 games up on the Rangers
    5 games up on the Rockies
    4.5 games up on the D’backs
    1.5 games up on the Twins
    1 game up on the Red Sox
    Tied with the Cubbies
    and .5 game behind the White Sox

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  15. I am amazed by Colljn McHugh. The Mets and Rockies have got to look at him like the guy in the teen movie whose ex-girlfriend shows up at prom with the nerd, but now with contacts and a makeover, she’s smoking hot.

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    • Of course Brian T – the naysayers will say that the smoking hot McHugh will now look to date someone else – but he is stuck with the nerds – 2017 for arb and 2020 for FA.

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    • I am an engineer (if you look up nerd in the dictionary they show you a picture of an engineer) – so of course I run with the nerd metaphor. Of course being a nerd I run kind of funny in a very non-athletic way.

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  16. As hard as I’ve been on Luhnow, if that lengthy Bloomberg story that I skimmed through a few weeks ago is accurate, the advanced geek squad metrics helped turn McHugh around, by changing his pitch mix. I’m sure his pitching coach deserves some credit too, and of course McHugh for going out and executing, but if Luhnow’s system found something that no other organization had recognized, well, I’ve got to give our GM some credit. McHugh also gets a lot of movement on his pitches. And that helps me think that his success will not be a single season anomaly.

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    • If true – that is a heck of a story. I have to say – I saw him in person here last week and watched a chunk of last night’s game (along with previous games) and he just looks so comfortable and confident out there. Really mixing his pitches well and location is spot on. Fun to watch.

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    • Whats really interesting is this – he has dropped his fastball percentage below 50% – one of the very few pitchers in the majors to do so – and it has led to an increased strike out rate. He gets 30% of pitches he throws outside the strike zone to be chased – another outstanding stat. I don’t really see anything anamalous in his stats that look like they are overly affected by some luck – he looks like the real deal. I expect to continue to see him be effective bar injury.

      Now on the flip side his BABIP against is only .260 – I wouldn’t expect a repeat given just how good that number is – so maybe that sub 3 ERA shouldn’t be expected year in and year out – but then again how many people do that? Luhnow (or someone on his staff) certainly deserves kudos for finding this guy.

      His basic stat line for this year is looking eeringly similar to Roy Oswalts 2010 season lol.

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      • I like that he is finishing strong here – in his last 8 starts since August 1 – his ERA is 1.75 and he has not given up more than 2 runs in any of those games. If he continue the trend of the last 3 games ( 7 or more innings) and he is turning into the ace.

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    • Another interesting article on rotographs says he is throwing 60% breaking pitches this year – and says that is concern for future arm problems.

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      • I thought we debunked the myth that curve balls cause arm problems. Aren’t we seeing a higher number of UCL blowouts attributed to the added stress of throwing 95mph+?

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      • IDK, maybe it has been debunked, and someone forgot to tell rotographs. Given their track record I would guess it hasn’t been debunked to their satisfaction, I doubt their ignorance of said debunking.

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  17. A few stats to back up the statements about the quality of our starting pitching in 2014:

    Starting pitching WHIPs so far this year:
    McHugh – 1.04
    Keuchel – 1.21
    Feldman – 1.33
    Obie – 1.37
    Peacock – 1.54

    Starting pitching ERAs so far this year:
    McHugh – 2.79
    Keuchel – 3.06
    Feldman – 3.99
    Obei – 4.38
    Peacock – 4.80

    Starting pitching K’s per 9 so far this year
    McHugh 1.014
    Peacock 0.892
    Keuchel 0.724
    Feldman 0.582
    Obie 0.645

    Nick Tropeano – you are in good company. But you can still raise the bar, young man!

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    • His cleats are going to Cooperstown to commemorate his having 4 multi-steal games in a row – the first player to do that since Ray Chapman in 1917. Folks may know that Chapman was the only major leaguer to die from being struck with a pitched ball in 1920.

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  18. Ok you guys, SOMEONE is going to have to stay up tonight to let the rest of us who CAN’T see the game, how Tropeano looks on the mound! As for Altuve, I doubt his cleats will be the LAST of his things to go to Cooperstown! You gotta ask yourself, where in the world this team would be without him. Good thing we don’t have to consider that problem! Villar is back in the game tonight, let’s cross our fingers he
    doesn’t have a costly error…….

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  19. Bo Porter is on the MLB Network’s nightly highlight show right now. He’s done a really good job (in my opinion). Also, he was highly complimentary of the Houston organization and didn’t take the opportunity to say anything negative. I suspect he’s fielding TV offers right now, but I expect he’ll also get some interviews for coaching positions with other clubs. Who knows…maybe he’ll break the curse and find another managerial job down the road.

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  20. *VILLAR* GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!

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  21. Astros win 5-2. Nitro wins his first MLB game, Sipp gets the save. Altuve gets his 200th hit of the year. Win # 65.
    Befor the season started I said that if the Astros won 65, Porter should be MOY candidate, because of the team he had to start the year with. How ironic is that now?

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