Nothing’s changed: Pitching and defense still wins baseball games

In football, if you can’t run the football and play defense, you aren’t going to win many games.

In hockey, a strong goalie — or not — often defines your win-loss record.

In baseball, it’s pitching and defense. History is replete with examples of great hitting teams that run up against good pitching and fall flat. Doesn’t matter if it’s little league or major league.

Same will be true with the Astros in 2017. And that’s the reason you’ve seen Houston connected to almost every viable pitching addition from Kansas City to Chicago and every free agent in between.

Jeff Luhnow believes he can’t — or at least won’t — go to battle with his rotation and bullpen as it is now. He may tell you that he’s okay with the status quo, but his actions portend otherwise. And he won’t make the upgrades to the hitting he has without ensuring the pitching is at least A if not A-.

Now, the fact that he’s searching the countryside for pitching tells you something else. Luhnow is not satisfied with  about his rotation. He either doesn’t have confidence in the health of Dallas Keuchel and/or Lance McCullers Jr. or he’s just ready for a more consistent upgrade to Collin McHugh and/or Mike Fiers.

Keuchel, McCullers and newbie Charlie Morton seem set. Joe Musgrove, Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock seem destined for a shot at the back-end of the rotation. But it’s clear that Luhnow wants more than just an innings-eater like Fiers or McHugh now. Those pitchers were simply the bridge to get you to the promised land.

And, while he may be happy and content to run with Keuchel and McCullers, Luhnow may simply be in search for an upgrade to the upper-middle part of the rotation in case one of those falters again.

Make no mistake, however: The rotation is the key to 2017. Houston may increase its run production, lower its K/9, run the bases better, but it will only be to set up the pitching and defense. Sure, Carlos Correa will have a game-winning hit or two and Jose Altuve will steal a base that scores that late-inning run. But unless Keuchel, McCullers and others go deep into games and Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson and Will Harris tie up the back-end, the Astros will still struggle. If not in the regular season, then when the playoffs roll around.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the rotation:

Dallas Keuchel.

The crafty left-hander is the key to the rotation. As he goes, so goes the Astros, especially if Luhnow isn’t successful in landing another TOR pitcher. The question for Keuchel is will he be the Cy Young winner of 2015 or the regressive pitcher of 2016? Or somewhere in between? At his projected $9.5 million salary for 2017 — and higher next year — Keuchel is no longer a bargain unless he produces as a #1 or #2. That means 30+ starts and at least 2014-like numbers.

Lance McCullers.

Some would call McCullers — and not Keuchel — the key to rotation success. He’s younger (23), throws harder and generally seems to have more upside. The question for LMJ is can he handle the rigors of a 162-game schedule and make those 30+ starts of a strong TOR guy? Yes, he has the stuff, but he has more than 100 IP in two seasons thus far (2013 and 2015). He needs an injury-free season and 160+ IP this season to bust out and lose the questions marks.

Collin McHugh.

Still the best pickup of Luhnow’s Astros’ career and he’ll be a bargain again this year at the projected $4.6 million. He led the team in wins, starts, Ks, IP, K/BB ratio and other key indicators, but that was in part due to poor seasons from others. His 4.34 ERA and 1.408 WHIP won’t win him many awards. Nonetheless, he’s been a steady, consistent if not dependable cog in the rotation since joining the team in 2014. At this point, however, it appears Luhnow wants more than just steady.

Mike Fiers.

See Collin McHugh. Steady, innings-eater who will make about $4.3 million this year. For a pitcher who will give you 30 starts — as he has each of the last two seasons — that’s a bargain. But, if you can trade a steady, consistent McHugh and Fiers for an upgrade equal to Keuchel or McCullers, you do it. Frankly, whether it’s before opening day or by mid-season, Fiers isn’t likely to be in an Astros’ uniform for the entirety of 2017.

Charlie Morton.

Hmmm, did Luhnow sign Morton to make either McHugh or Fiers expendable? At two years, $14 million, Luhnow likes something about this guy that doesn’t necessarily show up in any of the basic stats (e.g. starts, ERA, K/BB, WHIP etc.). It’s also likely the Astros aren’t expecting to pay him $7 million a season to pull up the back-end of the rotation either.

Chris Devenksi.

Perhaps the ace up Luhnow’s and manager A.J. Hinch‘s sleeves. The 26-year-old was the after thought in the Brett Myers trade and perhaps may be the late bloomer destined to usurp innings from someone. The big question for this fan favorite is: Is he the real deal, can he handle 150+ IP or would he best serve the team in the bullpen a la Will Harris?

Joe Musgrove.

Like Devenski, Musgrove was the famed PTBNL in the J.A. Happ deal in 2012 and has only begun to hit his stride at 24. The former first round pick of the Blue Jays, Musgrove is under team control through 2023, so he’ll have every opportunity to make things work. In 2017, it’s quite possible he’ll have a rotation spot that will be his to lose as the team — and most fans — expect to see him succeed. Like others, his question will be how many innings the Astros can count on him for. Can they stretch him out for 150 IP? In six seasons, he’s pitched in only 32 professional games (399.1 IP), though he does seem destined as a starter.

These are some of the options. Yes, there are only five rotation spots, but starting a spring training with 6-7 options for those spots is not a bad thing. As I’ve mentioned before, these things have a way of working themselves out.

A good early spring from either Devenski or Musgrove will allow Luhnow to continue to shop Fiers and even McHugh, if they’re still in Houston by February or March.

So, here are your questions for today:

  • Assuming no other movement, name your starting rotation.
  • Keuchel is obviously the ace of the staff currently. By mid-season or season’s end, will that change? If so, who do you project?
  • Which Keuchel do you predict will show up in 2017? The 2014, 2015 or 2016 version?
  • What concerns you most about using the seven pitchers above to fill out the rotation?
  • Luhnow is not satisfied with the choices he currently has. What do you believe worries him the most?
  • And, a couple of Francis Martes questions:
    • Will Martes be a factor for Houston in 2017?
    • Who will be a better starter in 2019: Martes or Jose Quintana, whom the Astros have rumored interest in?

50 comments on “Nothing’s changed: Pitching and defense still wins baseball games

  1. Maybe a pipe dream but what’s wrong with a 6 man rotation? I know it’s unusual but might avoid burnout in August/September. Another option is to let the “6th man” or long reliever start once or twice a month. Same effect in my mind. Especially if we have the players to pull it off. I’m not so sure that Keuchel will return to 2015 form. I just never saw it last year. Looked like two different pitchers.


    • Zanuda, there are some plusses. One of the negatives, though, is that Keuchel has voiced his opposition to that format. He prefers to stay on the every fifth day rotation. As long as he’s healthy and productive, my guess is that the organization will give him plenty of input into that process. But, yes, with injuries and several options who have never pitched a large number of innings, something may have to give.


  2. 1. I wouldn’t be opposed to handling the rotation as:
    First half: Keuchel, McHugh, Morton, Fiers, LMJ
    Second half: Keuchel, McHugh, Musgrove, LMJ, best of Morton/Fiers
    Post-Season: Keuchel, LMJ, Musgrove, McHugh (if necessary)2. Keuchel of 2014. I doubt he regains that 2015 form, but a bounce back to 2014 isn’t out of the question. The big differences between the two years was that he threw a tick harder in 2015 and was struck out quite a few more hitters. The real key is control. Forget talk about umpires squeezing him – that’s what happens when you miss your spot by a couple feet the pitch before. If he hits his spots he’ll continue to induce weak contact and put up very good numbers.
    3. My concern is not letting the best 5 start, but going with the five most expensive.
    4. Playing time being dictated by salary
    5. Martes:
    – Non-factor in 2017
    – Push. Quintana isn’t really a hard thrower. I could see him lasting and being nearly as effective in 2019. I’m not predicting breakout success for Martes until we see him handle some major league hitters.


  3. I want a shiny new Lexus to drive next year. It’s not that my Honda is not doing its job. But I recently bought a new, nice house, and got to thinking how much better a Lexus would look in my driveway than my Honda does.

    Alas, upon consideration, I cannot justify spending the kind of money – or make the contractual commitment – the dealer is demanding for that shiny new Lexus. And you know, that thing might just turn out to be a lemon, and break down on me the first time I take it out on a road trip. Where would I be then? I think I’ll just FIER up old Honda – and if anyone doesn’t like it, let’s just say ‘MUCK HUGH!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Bill, I got that shiny new Lexus last January. I traded in my Ford Edge that still had quite a few good miles left on it. It was a gamble but what in life isn’t.
      I have to say the pleasure of that new Lexus was well worth the money.
      Now, if I the dealer had demanded a family member or even my beloved little Roxy ( dog), I would still be driving that old Ford.


  4. 1.Assuming no other movement, name my rotation: Keuchel, LMJ, Musgrove, Morton, McHugh. Four M’s and a K
    2. I think Keuchel would remain the ace of the staff with LMJ right behind.
    3. Which Keuchel shows up? The one who his projections say will show up, that is a blend of 2015 and 2016.
    4. What concerns me the most about using the seven pitchers named above is the Texas Rangers.
    5. I think Luhnow is worried the most about the overall strength of the rotation when facing good teams.
    6. Will Martes be a factor in Houston in 2017? If I am not allowed a maybe, then I will go with yes. I think he will be a June call up, giving him that extra Arb year.
    7. I think Martes will be a better starter in 2019 than Quintana.


  5. *Assuming no other movement, name your starting rotation*

    First two times through, it is:

    If Keuchel still can’t break 90 mph or get critical outs in his first two starts, and looks like last year’s Keuchel instead of the 2016 version I give Devenski or Feliz [whoever is available and looking good] his third start and give Morton McCullers’ third start to allow him to take over the #1 position, facing other team’s aces. Then, if either of my spot starters look really good, I switch the rotation to the M & Ms:

    The spot starter who did really well [Devenski? Feliz? Morton?]

    If neither ‘spot starter’ did really well, Fiers is my #5 as long as we keep winning over 55% of the games he starts.


  6. Assuming no other movement, name your starting rotation.- As it stands – Keuchel, LMJ, Musgrove, Morton, McHugh. Fiers starts as a long man with Feliz – Devenski moves to primary setup along with Harris and Gregerson. I’m going with Giles as a closer. Sipp is there and whatever lefty looks he can get lefty hitters out at a sub .220 clip. I assume they are going with 13 pitchers.

    Keuchel is obviously the ace of the staff currently. By mid-season or season’s end, will that change? If so, who do you project? – It won’t change. If it does, Musgrove.

    Which Keuchel do you predict will show up in 2017? The 2014, 2015 or 2016 version? – Can’t predict because I don’t know how his arm feels. He is still fairly young, it’s quite possible that the kind of innings he threw in 14 and 15 caught up to him in 16. It maybe health, or it just maybe this is who he is now. Fingers crossed that he is hitting 90 on the gun consistently in ST.

    What concerns you most about using the seven pitchers above to fill out the rotation? – Keuchel – health. LMJ – health. Mugrove – youth and consistency. Morton – health. McHugh – has the league caught up to his pitch sequencing? Fiers – I’ve seen what he is, I appreciate the A game Fiers, but the B game Fiers has an ability to put us out of a game before our offense can work on winning a game. I don’t see Devenski in the rotation because there are better options, and he found a niche roll he could fill. I’m doubtful he has the same success as a starter.

    Luhnow is not satisfied with the choices he currently has. What do you believe worries him the most? – consistency in both health and performance.

    Will Martes be a factor for Houston in 2017? – maybe second half.

    Who will be a better starter in 2019: Martes or Jose Quintana, whom the Astros have rumored interest in? Martes, three more years is a long time for Quintana to remain that consistent.

    I know the talent that LMJ has. Power arm. Major league pedigree – something to be said to watch it up close growing up and have that kind of access to it. I want to see him in the zone a little more. I want to see him trust his changeup more. I love the 8-9 inning monster games that he gives at time, and get frustrated at the 5 inning, 110 pitch games at times – and hope most of his starts land in the middle of that. The question the stats can’t answer right now – are the ball/strike ratios because he doesn’t have command or doesn’t trust his stuff as much as he should? His minor league numbers lean command – but he doesn’t have a huge sample at any level against particular levels of competition. Pitching is all confidence, and the guy sounds confident in interviews – so I’m optimistic about where he goes from here. He has a tremendous combination of power and spin that gives you the feeling that he is the best pitcher on the staff – Fiers and Morton both have better spin rates on certain pitches, but neither has his velocity – BUT he HAS to get off of 5.00 BB/9 to take the next step and become an ace. Even his rookie year was an unspectacular 3.08, though that is certainly a good enough number to live by if you are dominating hitters with stuff.


  7. I think as the season develops, Musgrove will move upward in the hierarchy of this pitching staff with Devenski right behind him. Then hopefully Martes will push his way onto the team. I love the ceiling of McCullars, but have pessimism concerning his health. i would love for Keuchel to be dominant again, but I certainly have doubts that he will. What about Paulino? Would he be a possible callup this season and where would he fit? I agree with Chip that Fiers will probably be traded. From what I’ve seen from Peacock, I think he might be gone also.


    • WARNING: Moving from preaching to meddling.

      Well, OP, you have a point. Sort of like watching the developing news regarding Russia meddling in the election. The CIA allegedly said the Russians did, but they told Congress something different and now the CIA says “Umm, we’ll get back to you on that!” Meanwhile the White House — which knew about the supposed hacks early this year — is saying they told Congress, but they wouldn’t do anything about it. And the WH didn’t move unilaterally — they say — because they thought their candidate would win anyway. Geez, yes, these guys get paid to do this, but it sure does look easier when watching from afar, doesn’t it?

      Yes, perhaps once a month we should publish An Open Letter to Jeff Luhnow with all of our suggestions that seem obvious to everyone except those suits who reside in the front office over at MMP.

      * Devenski to rotation.
      * Springer to center field.
      * Don’t do a Martes+ deal for Quintana.
      * Just say “no” to Valbuena and EE.
      * Write in Altuve in lead off and leave him alone.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Assuming no other movement, name your starting rotation. Keuchel, LMJ, McHugh, Morton, Musgrove with Fiers in the bullpen.

    Keuchel is obviously the ace of the staff currently. By mid-season or season’s end, will that change? If so, who do you project? I think it will still be Keuchel.

    Which Keuchel do you predict will show up in 2017? The 2014, 2015 or 2016 version? I am expecting something around the 2014 Keuchel to pitch in 2017,

    What concerns you most about using the seven pitchers above to fill out the rotation? Primarily health is my major concern. If they all remain relatively healthy I think the rotation is fine.

    Luhnow is not satisfied with the choices he currently has. What do you believe worries him the most? Health again. I think he wants to manage the innings of LMJ and Musgrove and adding another starter will allow him to that.

    And, a couple of Francis Martes questions: Will Martes be a factor for Houston in 2017? If he is still with the team I think he will be a factor in the 2nd half. There will be the inevitable injuries and he will probably be the first man up when that happens.

    Who will be a better starter in 2019: Martes or Jose Quintana, whom the Astros have rumored interest in? This is very difficult to answer since Martes will still be relatively young. I will say that Martes will be more overpowering and have more Ks, but I think Q will be more consistent (better WHIP, better HR/9).


  9. I have a couple questions for the commenters here.

    1. If the proposed rumor of Musgrove, Martes and KTuck for Quintana are accurate and you are allowed to remove one of the 3 from that trade, which player do you absolutely want to keep?

    2. Would you rather trade Devenski or Musgrove if you know one of them has to go in a trade?


    • I wouldn’t trade either Musgrove or Martes for Quintana, much less both.

      Devenski – Musgrove has more upside. I don’t think either are future number 1’s, but while I think Devenski tops out as a MOR, I do think Musgrove is a guy you can build around as a TOR presence, just probably not Cy talent.


    • Tim, It would ruin my day to lose Musgrove, who I believe will be a solid pitcher for years and I think Martes has a shot of being special for the Astros also. But in your question of just keeping one of the three, I’d keep Tucker. I think he has the potential to be an all star. He’s going through the minors like Bregman did and he is quite a bit younger. He is playing like he was drafted from college, not high school.

      I would hope that we keep all three of these kids

      Between Musgrove and Devenski, I’d keep Musgrove.

      Essentially, I’m ready to play with what we have and not trade..


  10. I know, the prediction gurus are predicting Clayton Kershaw’s second coming is coming to Houston in 2017 in the form of Charlie Morton. Maybe so. I won’t complain if it happens. A little crow would taste just fine to me. But looking at historic numbers from games played in the real world [as opposed to the world of geek-fantasy where what matters is how many times a guy can make a curve ball rotate before it gets mashed by somebody’s bat] well . . . . Well, by the numbers extracted from games played in the real world, against real hitters, I cannot see how Charlie Morton has done anything to justify the conclusion that he can either keep Rangers, Angels, As, and Mariners off the bases [his lifetime BB/9 is 3.4; his lifetime WHIP is 1.44; and his lifetime H/9 is 9.6] OR get left-handed hitters out [in 2015, before he was injured, lefties hit .301 against him]. His actual stats make him look like just another low velocity, low strikeout, low ceiling guy who fits exactly nowhere in [a] our rotation; [b] our bullpen, or [c] our future.

    Let the fun begin. What am I missing here?


    • Morton isn’t really a low velocity guy – he was pretty consistent at 93 last year. What he is a giant poster for what the words “injury prone” mean, and its not one injury that keeps coming, he has dealt with something in every quadrant from all over the place. I wouldn’t have given the guy 14 million dollars, but the Astros did- so I’m rooting for 30 starts. He looks a lot like a league average pitcher – he doesn’t get guys to go out of the zone more than league average, none of his pitches register as above average, he walks guys around league average, he seems like the perfect innings eater, 4th guy, until you realize he doesn’t stay on the field enough to eat innings.

      That said, this is what I think the Astros saw – he has something like 10 of the top 100 pitches thrown last year in spin rate (and he only pitched 17 innings) – and he had increased velocity on his two seamer, he looked pretty good in some of those less talked about stats, even if it was just 17 innings. There is a shot to be had – but he looks like the classic lets bring him in for a look guy, not lets give him 14 million and a rotation spot guy. Luhnow is rolling some dice here.

      Here is the end of Jeff Sullivans article on fangraphs that points a lot of this out –

      “So the chance the Astros are taking is that last April’s Charlie Morton isn’t gone forever. Where the Phillies, justifiably, see an enormous injury risk, the Astros see a guy with upside, a guy who started 23 games the year before. The year before that, he started 26. Morton does have almost 900 big-league innings under his belt, and in his most recent innings, he threw his best-ever stuff, with a new pitch to use against lefties. Given a market so uninspiring, the Astros found themselves a sleeper.”

      I don’t know I agree, he is writing a complete narrative on 17 innings, but you can’t deny the facts he is using to push it – increased velocity, a new pitch, and higher spin rates. Included in that 17 innings was a sequence against the best left handed hitter in the game, Bryce Harper, in which Morton struck him out in 4 pitches. It’s one at bat, so its useless in analysis, but he does look like a different pitcher than the Morton of 12-14 that couldn’t get a left hander out if you are into the eye test.


    • The Astros are also keying in on Morton’s ability to get ground balls. Basically, they’re thinking their shifting tendencies will reduce the number of those ground balls making it to the outfield thus improving Morton’s performance. Based on what guys like Ivan Nova have been asking it would seem Morton is a relatively low risk gamble.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m not prepared to suggest a rotation yet, because McCullers, Musgrove and probably Morton will not be allowed to come close to 200 innings during the season, especially if they are considered part of any post season plans. None of them have been close to 200 before, unless it was back in high school ball. That tells me that Luhnow still wants at least a Quintana or a Gio Gonzalez to provide a certain level of quality and the closest thing possible to a guarantee of 200 innings.

    We’re going to use 8 to 10 guys in the rotation at some point, assuming good health, in order to get the best four guys into the post season, healthy and rested.

    My guess right now: Keuchel, Musgrove, Lance if healthy, Devenski if not, New Guy. And the new guy could well be a summer time pick up.


      • I didn’t say that. I’m on the record as one who does not see Salty being much help to this club. If he proves me wrong, my respect for Luhnow becomes elevated.


    • And, daveb, that really begs my question. You are correct…half the rotation hasn’t demonstrated the potential to throw the requisite innings of a full-time rotation piece. So…

      Question: Why run the risk of giving up/trading two guys who have provided that level of activity (160+ IP) in McHugh and Fiers?

      Liked by 2 people

      • I also think McHugh will pitch a good part of the season in the rotation. I’m just hoping we have four better guys lined up as post season starters.


      • I am of the same thinking as Steven. I don’t think the Astros will trade McHugh and I wouldn’t trade him even if the Astros acquired Quintana. I think they only trade Fiers if they acquired another starter that can eat innings and pitch better than him, like Quintana. Otherwise, I see no reason to trade 2 guys that will give you solid MORP to BORP numbers, especially considering the inevitable injuries that will occur.

        I’m also higher on Morton than most here. My only concern with him is health, but if he remains healthy I think he could be a 2 WAR pitcher, which is a bargain at $7M/year. Granted, it is a gamble based upon a short sample size last year, but, as Steven pointed out, the Pirates corrected a flaw in his delivery and his velocity increased. He also developed the cutter that was helping getting LHs out better. Steamer is projecting 1.6 WAR from Morton and, if that plays out, he is still a relative bargain at the price we paid for him. What is encouraging to me is that his injury last year had nothing to do with his arm. With that being said, if he resorts to being an injury-plagued pitcher the signing could backfire.


      • Correction, it was OP that mentioned the Pirates correcting a flaw in Morton’s delivery. My apologies to OP for not giving him the recognition on this.


    • Chip – I like McHugh, and I would have him around in my rotation. I would move him if he was part of a package that upgrades the rotation.

      Fiers – I’ve been a fan in the past. Last year just seemed like too many 4-5 innings starts where he left after giving up 4 runs or more. He also had some runs of 7 inning, 1 run type games that gave his team a chance to win. I won’t cry if Fiers is here and in the rotation, but I would give him up if it was part of a package that brought in a more consistent pitcher – i.e. Quintana. I also don’t think he opens in the rotation though because of the options you originally listed he is probably the worst pitcher.

      I’m guessing the Astros are concerned with his salary versus performance.

      I would agree that I’m hard pressed to find a starter on this team that I can say I think will throw 200 innings. Maybe Keuchel. I doubt Morton does, but the difference is if he is capable of doing it (staying healthy) the Astros will give them too him. They won’t allow Musgrove or McCullers to get there. Knowing this does seem to increase the value of McHugh, another guy they will certainly give 200 innings too if he is up to the task himself.

      I can see this bullpen being a top 5 bullpen in innings pitched, increasing their importance and putting Feliz and Devenski back in the same spots as last year.


  12. Assuming no other movement, name your starting rotation.
    Keuchel, LMJ, Musgrove, McHugh, Devenski – I don’t get Morton at all – makes no sense to me
    Keuchel is obviously the ace of the staff currently. By mid-season or season’s end, will that change? If so, who do you project?
    Keuchel will be the ace of the staff
    Which Keuchel do you predict will show up in 2017? The 2014, 2015 or 2016 version?
    2014 version first half of season / 2015 version second half of season
    What concerns you most about using the seven pitchers above to fill out the rotation?
    I am not sure I want Morton out there
    Luhnow is not satisfied with the choices he currently has. What do you believe worries him the most?
    That 2016 Keuchel is 2017 Keuchel and that LMJ is a Ferrari who morphs into fragile china
    And, a couple of Francis Martes questions: Will Martes be a factor for Houston in 2017?
    Who will be a better starter in 2019: Martes or Jose Quintana, whom the Astros have rumored interest in?


  13. I saw a power pitcher with control in Musgrove after he adjusted back to his form. He hit 97 in a couple of starts last year and that blew me away.
    The Astros saw a new Charlie Morton last year after he added over 2.0 mph to all three of his pitches and added a 90mph cutter that he had given up three years earlier. His fastball averaged 94.3 mph last season because the Pirates had found a flaw in his delivery and fixed that. He was not a soft tosser and is a very good ground ball pitcher who didn’t hurt his arm, he tore his hamstring running.
    Devenski is a power pitcher. He can hit 95 with his fastball, has one of the best change ups you will ever see and gained huge confidence in his curve by the end of the year. He pitched almost 100 innings in relief, so there is no way he isn’t capable of pitching a lot of innings as a starter. And he was always a starter in the minor leagues
    Dallas Keuchel was hurt last year, but he is healthy right now
    LMJ was hurt last year but he is healthy right now.
    Collin McHugh was our most dependable pitcher down the stretch last year, when we were fighting for a playoff spot.
    I think we are better off than most people believe we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. 200 innings per year?

    In 2005 the Astros had three pitchers over 200 innings – Roy O [241.2], Petitte [222.1] and Clemens [211.1].

    Since then, the pickings have been mighty slim for guys who went 200 innings:

    In 2006 the Astros had two pitchers over 200 innings – Roy O [220] and Petitte [214]

    In 2007 the Astros had one pitcher over 200 innings – Roy O with 212.

    In 2008 the Astros had one pitcher over 200 innings – Roy O with 208.2

    In 2009 the Astros had one pitcher over 200 innings – Wandy Rodrigues with 205.

    In 2010 the Astros had one pitcher over 200 innings – Brett Myers with 223.2

    In 2011 the Astros had one pitcher over 200 innings – Brett Myers with 216.

    In 2012 the Astros had one pitcher [Lucas Harrel] who threw more than 190 innings.

    In 2013 the Astros had no pitcher [including DK] who threw more than 153.2 innings.

    In 2014 the Astros had one pitcher who through 200 innings – DK at exactly 200.0

    In 2015 the Astros had two who threw 200; DK threw 232.00 and McHugh threw 203.2.

    In 2016 the Astros had no one who threw 200 innings – or even came close.

    Heck, if we get anybody above 190 innings this year, I’ll be surprised. If we have Devenski, Feliz, Paulino, Peacock, Rodgers, and maybe Martes to take a few spot starts in the stretch run, I don’t expect to need anybody – with the exception of our ace [whoever that might turn out to be] to get over 190.


    • Bill – I would say though we have to separate the players we think the Astros will be willing to give 200 innings to versus the ones we expect they will intentionally keep short.

      I think Keuchel, Morton and McHugh are guys that control their own 200 inning destiny. Not saying any will get there, but the Astros won’t protect them from it. If they can, health and performance wise, they will get the chance. I think McCullers, Musgrove, Devenski, Feliz, Paulino, etc, will not even if they win a spot in the rotation and/or stay healthy enough for future consideration. I would like them to take the harness off LMJ, but I don’t think they will and don’t blame them. It wouldn’t surprise me even if he is healthy that he gets skipped ever so often to give him extra time between starts.

      I agree that no one in our rotation probably gets there though.


    • So Bill, does that mean you think we’ll pretty much have things wrapped up and be able to use spot starters during the stretch run, thus insuring a nicely aligned, rested post season rotation? I’m delighted with that premise.


      • All the money has gone into the offense. We have built what should be a juggernaut – solid from slot 1 through slot 9. From time to time, especially against the other team’s 2-5 starters, I think the FO and Mr. Hinch will feel okay about throwing a ‘slot’ starter in and letting the offenses go head to head.


  15. Although I agree with the lists proposal, I have a great new idea. Let’s start a different pitcher each game and let him pitch 4+ innings. Then bring in another starter for the rest of the game. I would call it “tandem pitching”. It will revolutionize the game…………😎

    Liked by 1 person

    • The bad news is, the Astros F.O. seems to be considering exactly that. Maybe they’ll call it: “Don’t stretch ’em – fetch ’em!”, or perhaps “Don’t expand ’em; tandem at random, and to *!$% with the fandom!”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, I’m new to this site, but have been rooting for the Astros since the 90s.
      I’ve read that the Astros use this system of 2 pitchers going 4 innings in the minors and they do call it “tandem pitching”. It is an interesting idea and a good way to limit a starter’s innings and keep your “backup starters” stretched out. You might be able to do that once (maybe twice) through the rotation with our younger guys. I like a version of this without making it formalized.
      You’d have 2 or 3 long relievers in the pen. Pick 2 guys out of the rotation each time through and have them on short leashes — if a guy reaches 2nd base in the 5th inning or later, take them out and put in a long reliever or a short reliever to finish the inning and start the next inning clean with the long reliever. If the starter is cruising though, I’d let him keep pitching. I wouldn’t do it for the same pitcher all the time though; starters do need experience working out of jams and pitching farther into games. This method could also be used early in the season to limit pitchers’ innings early in the season, and slowly work up to pitch longer. .
      Now to the questions:
      1. Assuming no other movement, name your starting rotation.
      Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh, Morton, Musgrove (Bullpen: Devenski, Feliz, Fiers, Sipp, LHP TBD, Harris, Gregerson, Giles) Continuing with above thought, McCullers, Morton, Musgrove are the guys whose innings could be kept low at the start of the season through my version of “tandem pitching” with Devenski, Feliz, and Fiers able to pitch long out of the pen. I would let them pitch longer as the season progresses.
      2. Keuchel is obviously the ace of the staff currently. By mid-season or season’s end, will that change? If so, who do you project?
      Keuchel still considered ace, McCullers right there too though.
      3. Which Keuchel do you predict will show up in 2017? The 2014, 2015 or 2016 version?
      2014 (better than 2016 but not Cy Young quality)
      4. What concerns you most about using the seven pitchers above to fill out the rotation?
      Playoffs, we need 3 better-than-good starters in the playoffs. Keuchel and McCullers make 2 if they are effective and healthy. Who is the 3rd? I’m fine with McHugh being 4th.
      5. Luhnow is not satisfied with the choices he currently has. What do you believe worries him the most?
      Health of Keuchel, McCullers, Morton. Young guys not quite ready.
      6. And, a couple of Francis Martes questions:
      Will Martes be a factor for Houston in 2017?
      Most likely after All-Star break. He will pitch if we have injuries or ineffectiveness in the rotation.
      7. Who will be a better starter in 2019: Martes or Jose Quintana, whom the Astros have rumored interest in?
      Quintana. I can’t say Martes until he pitches in the majors.


      • The only thing wrong with your tandem system is that real pitchers want to pitch. They want to pitch, they want to win and they don’t want to be taken out of the game in the fifth inning.
        A real pitcher’s dream is to get to the major leagues, be the best they can be, be appreciated for being a good pitcher pitching solid innings and having their game turned over for an inning or two for a closer to save.
        The tandem system in the majors is just as good a plan as it is in the minors. It is a great way to have your pitchers begging to go pitch for another team that lets them become stars and make a lot of money. It is also a great system for developing pitchers who can’t go more than five innings.
        That is my opinion of the tandem system.
        When the BBWAA starts voting in starting pitchers who average five inning starts for their careers, the tandem system will have found its niche.


  16. MLB’s touting the rumor that the Astro’s are still trying to work a deal with the Whitesox for Quintana. The price is steep as we have already discovered.


  17. Chris Archer, Jose Quintana, whomever.
    After years of wiping their noses, feeding their hunger, buying their school books, sending them to school and going to their baseball games, sons Frances, Devo, Paulino, Lance and Joseph are all grown up and ready to get out there and support our family in our old age. After all these years of love and nurturing lets trade them for somebody else’s kid who may or may not want to do what our own kids have been waiting to do for years.
    And while we’re at it, let’s send young Kyle away in that trade, even though he is the only guy in our house who has the stuff to replace George when he goes off to a foreign land(perhaps in New England) in a couple of years to look for greener(redder) pastures.
    After all these years with our homegrown guys, don’t we have one of them who has the talent to step in and take over the family business. If not, then why all the talk in the last five years about building the farm system for the future.
    If we need a top of the rotation guy, how come it can’t be Frances Martes? After all, that’s the line we’ve been fed throughout all these sucking years.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thinking about 1OP’s comment on “real pitchers”, many of us remember when a “real pitcher” threw complete games. In 1966 MLB had 61 pitchers with 5 or more CGs; in 2016 that number was 2 (Sale and Cueto). To me a real pitcher is a guy who gets outs efficiently. Maybe instead of looking at innings, the criteria for a starter ought to be “times through the lineup” and the target is 3, or 27 batters faced. Get 7 or 8 innings out of that assignment consistently and you can go anywhere and make the big $.

    In looking at how the Astros starting pitchers splits compare on times thru the lineup I was really surprised. In 2016 the Astros starters gave up .281/.339/.446 slash line to hitters in their first PA of the game. For the AL the average was .258/.318/.422. The same kind of spread also applied in 2015: Astros .273/.335/.425; AL .255/.313/.410
    Those are really significant differences. Maybe our guys don’t warm up properly? Maybe the relievers (who had much better splits) ought to pitch the first 3 innings?


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