In 2016, the Astros’ starting pitching had a 4.06 ERA which was fifth in the AL and 1.29 WHIP which was sixth in the AL. Their starters were pretty good over the whole year, but not good enough especially with the late season Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers problems.
In 2017 the starting pitching through Saturday was almost the same as 2016 with a 4.17 ERA for fifth in the AL and a 1.27 WHIP which is tied for fourth in the league. Yet this is definitely a time when overall stats do not tell the whole story.
Part of the story is addition by subtraction. In the playoffs, Mike Fiers and his 5.22 ERA, who has started the most games (28) for this team in 2017 will not be starting any games and may not be in the bullpen. Joe Musgrove who had a horrible 6.12 ERA in his 15 starts has morphed into a super setup man after his move to the bullpen. David Paulino who suffered a pharmaceutical malfunction had a nasty 6.52 ERA in six starts this season. Those folks will not be driving the starting rotation’s ERA upward.
And there is addition by addition times two. Justin Verlander came over to the Astros on August 31st and has been a beast since then with four dominant wins. But beyond that he has made the rest of the rotation better.
- From August 31 to September 23, a period when the Astros were 16-6, the starting pitchers (not named Fiers) have been 12-3 with a 2.31 ERA.
- In those 20 appearances the non-Fiers starters have given up one or fewer runs 11 times and two or fewer runs 17 times. That is just impressive. Even in the massacre in Oakland where the pitching gave up 41 runs in four games, the starters were only responsible for 11 earned runs.
- Verlander has looked like someone who smells a chance at a WS ring as he has been 4-0 with a microscopic 0.64 ERA and 0.571 WHIP and a nasty 10.3 K/9 IP to go with a great 1.6 BB/9 IP.
And of course there is addition by addition in getting healthy Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh back and possibly All-Star Lance McCullers. Oh and the third guy in the rotation should be Brad Peacock who has been brilliant in a season he almost started as a DFA. His 12-2 record and 2.98 ERA has been the kind of performance out of nowhere that a championship team often trips upon. And there is Charlie Morton who was solid this season except for one injury time out and has been very good in the second half of the season with a 7-4 record and 3.48 ERA after the All-Star break.
Bottom line: Whether the Astros hit the postseason with or without McCullers in their rotation, they have an ace and four or five kings to choose from….