Honest look back at Astros 2016: Blame the starting pitching
No, I have not been on a bender the last week, unless you count bottled water. I have been a little depressed about another 6 months invested in a season that as Chip succinctly stated was “just not good enough for Houston”. And I was struggling to decide on what to write about.
“Dave Hudgens – Jeff Luhnow’s Rasputin?”
“Five Games that Might Have Put the Astros in a One and Done Playoff”
“Why Does God Hate Me?”
Finally, it was time to do what is necessitated when the pen (OK, keyboard) seems like a West Texas dry hole. It was time to look at the facts and write about them. And the facts about the Astros 2016 point to a season that fell short of the playoff run of 2015 due to the Starting pitching (mostly). Yes, better offense might have overcome the problems but the offense scored basically the same amount of runs 4.47 Runs/game in 2016 vs. 4.50 runs/game in 2015. The bullpen was down a bit with a .29 ERA uptick from 2015, which will be explained a bit below.
No, the big fail was the starting pitching that was sterling in 2015 (3.71 ERA) and below league average in 2016 (4.37 ERA). A few quick facts:
- In 2015, pitchers with an ERA over 4.30 started only 35 games. In 2016, this number swelled to 123 thanks mostly to Dallas Keuchel (4.55 in 26 starts), Doug Fister (4.64 in 32 starts), Collin McHugh (4.34 in 33 starts), and Mike Fiers (4.48 in 30 starts).
- In 2015, a solid 64 games were started by pitchers with and ERA below 3.50. In 2015 this number plummeted to only 24 starts including the long injured Lance McCullers Jr, the long gone Scott Feldman and the long reliever Chris Devenski. To be honest, Feldman’s ERA was due to his successful move to the bullpen, not due to his starts.
- In 2015, the starting pitchers were a combined 13 games over .500 at 59-46, while they fell off to below .500 in 2016 at 57-59.
- In 2015, the starters pitched a combined 983 innings (2nd in the AL) which is a very good 6.07 innings per start. This fell in 2016 to a below average 917 innings (9th in the AL) at 5.66 innings per start.
- The starting pitchers failure to pitch deep caused the bullpen to go from the 2nd least innings pitched in 2015 to the 3rd most in 2016 and no doubt contributed to their higher ERA as they had to cover about 20% more innings on the season.
The Astros first priority in the off-season (other than bringing all their coaches back) has to be to decide the best path to address the starting pitching.
- Package a good major leaguer or two with prospects and go after a real #1?
- Wait on 2014/2015 Keuchel to return?
- Pray that Mr. McCullers heals up entirely?
- Add Devenski and/or Joseph Musgrove and/or Michael Feliz to the rotation?
- Re-sign Fister and trade him before he goes south?
- Some combination of those 5 choices above?
My friends – what do you think?