Our blogging friend Mr. Bill was pondering the reasons behind the fall-off of the Astros’ pitching in 2016. Let’s recount the failures and discuss:
- Dallas Keuchel, the reigning Cy Young Award winner coming off a 20 win season and a 2.48 ERA in 2015 (Career 3.58 ERA prior to 2016) had a 9 win season and a 4.55 ERA
- Collin McHugh coming off a 19 win season with a 3.84 ERA in 2015 (Career 4.03 ERA prior to 2016) dipped to a 13 win season and a 4.34 ERA.
- Doug Fister who had an injury shortened 2015 with 5 wins and a 4.19 ERA (A sparkling career ERA of 3.41 prior to 2016) had 12 wins, but ended up with a 4.64 ERA.
- Mike Fiers had 7 wins and a 3.69 ERA between Milwaukee and Houston in 2015 (Career 3.61 ERA) won 11 games but ended with a 4.48 ERA.
- Lance McCullers eerily had exactly 6 wins and exactly a 3.22 ERA in 2015 and 2016. But of course only pitched 81 innings as his bum shoulder went out multiple times.
- Ken Giles who had 6 wins and 15 saves and a 1.80 ERA in 2015 (with a 1.56 ERA in 2014 and 2015) had 2 wins, 15 saves and a 4.11 ERA in 2016.
- Tony Sipp coming off of a 1.99 ERA (3.49 career ERA) ballooned up to a 4.95 ERA and gave up home runs 3 times more often than in 2015.
Now was this bad luck? Bad coaching by Brent Strom? Too many innings pitched in 2015? Too few innings pitched in 2016 spring training? Pitchers hiding injuries? Smaller strike zones? Pitching up in the zone? Too many pitchers (not named McCullers or Giles) throwing 89 mph fastballs?
To be fair, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek and Will Harris were mostly their normal effective selves. Chris Devenski was a revelation. Scott Feldman prior to his trade did a great job shifting from the rotation to long relief. Michael Feliz and Joseph Musgrove both had ups and downs, but enough ups to record 12 wins between them in only 125 innings combined.
The most likely story is that there was a combination of things going on here. McCullers increased his innings by a large amount in 2015 (which at his young age made him a prime candidate for an injury according to the Verducci effect).
Keuchel had an increase in innings and had some really big pitch counts late in the season leading to the crushing he took in his relief effort against the Royals. And of course he admitted he hid an injury for most of the season.
McHugh was lucky to win 19 in 2015 and was a bit less lucky in 2016. Fister was coming off an injury filled season where he did not throw that many innings and seemed to run out of gas in August in 2016.
Fiers looked like someone who would be less effective with more exposure to the AL. Sipp had a down year like he has done previously. Giles seemed to struggle with not being the closer and did better (with some meltdowns) after becoming the closer.
The philosophy of pitching fastballs up if true from Strom, seemed to be not near as effective at 89 mph as it was at 92 or 93 mph.
So what do you think?