Back when my wife was a bit of a rebellious teenager, she used to have a conversation with her father that went something like this. “Don’t be worried about me, Dad.” Her dad would reply, “I’m not worried, I’m concerned.”
In some ways this ties to the feelings about the Houston Astros rotation this season. There are obvious elephants in the room (and no, this is not related to J.D. Davis‘ feelings about Alex Bregman) and most fans waver between concern and all out worry on these items.
Worry/Concern #1 – The health of Collin McHugh. Though his career arc has been on a downward slide – from an excellent 2014 to a solid 2015 to a mediocre 2016 – he still has 43 wins in those three seasons, which is two more than his bearded Cy-Kick Dallas Keuchel. He has had shoulder soreness this spring. He is throwing finally, but is likely headed to the DL to start the season and after what happened with Keuchel last season, it is likely the team will go slow with him.
Worry/Concern #2 – Can Lance McCullers Jr. be dominant and healthy for a whole season. He has put up two matching 3.22 ERAs in his first two seasons in the majors and is striking out more than 10 hitters per 9 innings. But Lance and his high heat and devastating curve ball started the 2016 season injured and only lasted 82 innings before missing the rest of the season. He has been working on a delivery change to take the strain off his arm. Can he cut down on pitch counts and base runners (a bad 1.543 WHIP in 2016) and nurse his arm all the way through 2017?
Worry/Concern #3 – Will the 2015 or even the 2014 Dallas Keuchel return? You know the story – he lied about his injury and struggled through a bad 2016 after a very good 2014 and a supreme 2015. This spring he has shown up as the good DK, which is the best positive sign this year. Will he hold it?
Worry/Concern #4 – Is Charlie Morton a mirage or even a PED mad cheater? No, it is not likely the new Astro is on the juice with testing these days, but his story is just so unusual that if he comes through as he has shown this spring, he may be THE story in baseball. To date:
- His career numbers are 46-71, with a 4.55 ERA, 1.441 WHIP and a -2.6 WAR.
- In his last 5 seasons he has thrown over 130 innings once.
- In 9 seasons he has won more games than he lost once.
- At the age of 32, when most pitchers are thinking about how little time they have left, he changed his delivery and tacked multiple mph to his pitches.
Will he continue to pitch as the Astros thought he would when they signed him early in free agency and as he has excelled during ST?
Worry/Concern #5 – Is Joseph Musgrove the real deal or will he get figured out the next time through the league? He was solid in 10 starts at the end of 2016 with a 4-4 record and 4.04 ERA. But guys have looked good before in short stints (e.g. Kevin Chapman with a 1.77 ERA in 25 games in his 2013 debut) and fallen on their faces over a full season…..OK – I’m really not worried about this one. I think the guy is very good, but the question is still out there.
Worry/Concern #6 – Who would the Astros give up to get a rotation “upgrade” and would that upgrade turn into Scott Kazmir II? The discussions about trading some combination of Alex Bregman, Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and/or Musgrove for Jose Quintana has been tantalizing and upsetting. Can the Astros avoid making this trade or make the trade for a more palatable package of prospects?
So, in the list above….
- What keeps you up worried at night?
- What has you concerned but not worried?
- What does not bother you a bit?