How does this Astros’ rotation stack up?

Again – YIE (Yes It’s Early), but…..this Astros’ starting rotation is already being heralded as an all time great staff. For the purposes of this blog post the task will be narrowed to comparing these five against great Astro rotations of the past. Yes, they might be compared against all-time baseball rotations like the 1954 Cleveland Indians, the 1960’s Dodgers or the 1970’s Orioles, but the research budget has been slashed during the recent economic downturn, plus the staff here does not want to attempt that task only to be told that the greatest staff belonged to the Cleveland Spiders of 1887.

Here is a look at some great Astros starting rotations…..PLEASE NOTE – where pitchers worked out of the ‘pen and the rotation, the stats given are as starters only…..

2018 Rotation

Ace Ventura, I mean Ace Justin Verlander has continued his stingy pitching from 2017 with a 1.10 ERA / 0.762 WHIP and 3 wins in his first 5 starts. Charlie Morton has been more frugal with a 0.72 ERA and 3 wins in his first 4 starts. Gerrit Cole has been almost as much of a Scrooge with a 2-1 record (not his fault) 1.29 ERA and 0.771 WHIP. Dallas Keuchel struggled a bit early, but his last two starts have been strong and he sits at 1-3 with a 3.10 ERA. One terrible 8 run inning has Lance McCullers Jr. with a 4.67 ERA and 1.444 WHIP. in his 26 other innings he has a terrific 2.08 ERA and he is coming off his best outing of the season.

2005 Rotation

The 2005 Astros rode their pitching, much more so than their hitting to the NL title and the World Series in 2005. Their top 3 in the rotation, Roy Oswalt (20-12, 2.94 ERA), Andy Pettitte (17-9, 2.39) and Roger Clemens (13-8, 1.87) were great, but past those three they gave 61 starts to the shaky triumvirate of Brandon Backe (10-8, 4.83 ERA), rookie Wandy Rodriguez (10-9, 5.41) and Ezequiel Astacio (3-6, 5.83).

Advantage 2018 – due to 4 and 5

1998 Rotation

The Astros were a good club but the addition of Randy Johnson (10-1, 1.28 ERA) at the trade deadline made them a dangerous club. The rest of the rotation plus one were solid – Shane Reynolds (19-8, 3.51), Jose Lima (16-8, 3.70), Mike Hampton (11-7, 3.36), Sean Bregman (12-8, 3.75) and Pete Schourek (7-6, 4.50).

Slight Advantage 2018 – better 2 thru 4

1986 Rotation

The Astros season ended in that 16 inning heartbreaker with the Mets, hoping for their ace Mike Scott (18-10, 2.22 ERA) to pitch in the 7th game that never happened. This team had a lot of good choices for filling out the rotation – Bob Knepper (16-12, 3.18), Nolan Ryan (12-8, 3.34), Jim Deshaies (12-5, 3.25), Danny Darwin (8-9, 3.26) and Matt Keough (2-3, 3.41) among others.

Slight Advantage – 1986 – This is almost a coin flip

1981 Rotation

The season began with a strike and ended up about 50 games short of a normal season and it sure looks like the pitching was ahead of the hitting. The Astros season ended in more heartbreak as they lost 3 straight to the Dodgers in a playoff after winning the first two games. Their five man rotation was nails. Nolan Ryan (11-5, 1.69 ERA), Bob Knepper (9-5, 2.18), Don Sutton (11-9, 2.61), Joe Niekro (9-9, 2.82) and Verne Ruhle (4-5, 2.87) all performed terrifically.

Advantage 1981 – Though how much the Astrodome and the strike shortened season played into these numbers….

1971 Rotation

This was a strength for a team that was only 79-83 on the season. They were led by the late Don Wilson (16-10, 2.46 ERA) and Larry Dierker (12-6, 2.72 ERA). Though they weren’t rewarded with wins, both Ken Forsch (8-8, 2.68) and Jack Billingham (10-16, 3.39) were good. The fifth spot was problematic between Wade Blasingame (9-11, 4.61) and Tom Griffin (0-4, 5.34). The most intriguing other starter was rookie J.R. Richard (2-1, 3.43) who opened eyes and scared the hell out of hitters in a short cup of coffee.

Advantage 2018 – The #5 spot clinches it


How do you rank these rotations?

Can the 2018 rotation end up the best?

Which rotation of the past was the most wasted in the playoffs?


84 comments on “How does this Astros’ rotation stack up?

  1. If we went head-to-head . . .

    Is JV better than Nolan Ryan? Uh . . . no.

    Is Keuchel [2018 vintage] better than Knepper [1981 vintage]? Uh . . . no.

    Is McCullers [2018 vintage] better than Don Sutton [1981 vintage]? Absolutely not.

    Is Gerrit Cole [2018 vintage] better than Joe Niekro [1981 vintage]? This is closer; but I still have to say ‘no’.

    Is Charlie Morton [2018 vintage] better than Vern Ruhle [1981 vintage]? This is also close – and maybe, at least right now, Charlie’s phenomenal start to the year gives him the edge.

    All things considered, I don’t think it is just nostalgia on my part to say the 1981 rotation was as good as it gets – and that the 2018 rotation is the best since, but is still 2nd best overall.

    But let’s talk again in October.


  2. Just looking at the numbers, based on WAR contributed by the starting rotations you mentioned:
    2005 – 19.1
    1998 – 18.1
    1986 – 18
    1981 – 14.2, in a short season – grossed up for a full season – 20.9
    1971 – 13.7
    One you left out as worthy of mention is the 1969 staff: Dierker, Griffin, Wilson, Lemaster and Jim Ray got 152 of the starts and threw up 18.6 WAR.

    For comparison:
    1954 Indians – 17.4 (grossed up to 162 games = 18.6
    1970 Orioles – 15.5
    1969 Mets – 18.7 (counting #6 starter Nolan Ryan)
    1966 Dodgers – 19.6 – and that’s just 4 pitchers who got all but 8 starts (WAR for the entire staff was 28.1, which is astounding)

    Not everyone loves WAR, and may be debatable at the margins, but overall a pretty good yardstick I think. Plus, most of these numbers I just added up in my head breezing thru Baseball Reference, so there may be a clunker in there.


  3. Imagine James Rodney Richard in the 1981 rotation instead of say… Verne Ruhle, who could swing back to the bullpen.
    Losing JR probably cost us a WS or maybe two.


  4. That 1981 rotation’s supporting cast wasn’t bad either:
    – Terry Puhl;
    – Jose’ Cruz;
    – Cesar Cedeno;
    – Phil Garner;
    – Art Howe;
    – Craig Reynolds;
    – Denny Walling;
    – Danny Heep
    – Dickie Thon;
    – Rafael Landestoy;
    – Alan Ashby.

    And the bullpen had Joe Sambito and Dave Smith.


  5. I hate giving this kid an out on the bases, just when we’re making him work. I might take a page out of OP’s book tonight and turn this thing off.

    That marketing lady in the booth is annoying me too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We need to keep a positive record against Division teams. We can’t expect other teams to win it for us.

    It is not the end of the world but I am starting to buy gold and silver plus stock up on more canned goods.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Got home in time to see some of Ohtani, to see us go up, then down again. What Roadthriller says above is what I’ve been thinking but didn’t want to say too soon. That there’s a slight pattern developing of games we lose that, last year, we would have won. Hope Roadthriller and I are dead wrong.


  8. Couple of takes from the game. Base running mistakes (2 in the last 2 games Gurriel and Gonzales). RISP 3 for 8 and 0 for 4. Situational hitting sure isn’t what it was last year. Right now we’re not doing the little (or big) things needed to win games. The overall hitting was good last night with marked improvement but maybe the guys are pressing. It sure looks like some are. Our starting pitching will have off nights buy still solid. The bull pen is coming around but Joe Smith just didn’t have it last night. Not impressed.


  9. I think it would have been better for Altuve if the just dropped 100 million in his account next year , never told him. He look so uptight and pressing for a guy that is a MVP and world champion. He needs to relax, have some fun again. All the money and hoopla has messed him up right now. He needs Belttran!


    • I wonder. No homers, only three 2B and a bunch of fly balls on the track. I would bet his average exit velocity is way down and his O-Swing way up. I know its heresy but I would be tempted to swap him and Springer in the lineup until and if Jose starts driving the ball again.


    • Diane – last thing I saw he was helping out with his native Puerto Rico recovery from hurricanes. Of course the bigger question is whether he was the critical one or was it Alex Cora. Or is it just that Altuve is straining under the weight of hitting no HRs so far (which is pretty insane with as many hits as he has).


      • Dan, I was concerned when we lost Cora too. It seems as soon as you finally collect a critical mass, other people start messing with it. I don’t know which, if any, of those factors is key, but I’m not getting the exact same sense of childlike joy that I got last year. Full disclosure, however, I have not seen every game.


  10. I’ve not really studied Smith before this year but he reminds me a lot of Pat Neshek who had to stay at just above the knees and below to be effective. Joe did not get some calls on high strikes last night which put him behind the eight ball but it looks like he has to work down for his slider to bite and to be effective. He has a pretty good track record so I’m also hoping for some regression. Simmons is reminding me of the 2016 Robinson Cano who just wore us out. He’s doing more damage than Trout and Pujols combined. And speaking of situational hitting Springer hit the ball on the nose but Cozart made a terrific play to end the inning. At least he hit the ball. Unfortunately Fisher reverted to his passive self and took strike three to end the game. The homer was nice but I still think Kemp and him should trade places.


    • Relievers are volatile and probably not going to pan out as good investments with the crazy money they’ve been getting the last few offseasons. I opened my big mouth and suggested we weakened our bullpen for no good reason with the Cole trade and picked up a pitcher who would be 4th or 5th in our rotation at best. I was half wrong – Cole looks fantastic and is a guy you want starting one of your first two games in a playoff series as of right now. The point still stands that we lost good (and possibly great) bullpen pieces but acquired two relievers not worth their contracts (Rondon and Smith) and kept another who we don’t need to discuss further (Sipp).

      Liked by 2 people

  11. So Billy C – my suggestion is we have Gattis take over the Beltran role of sidling up to the guys and giving them tips. And we tell the guys to do the exact opposite of anything Evan tells them to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He is a sure thing Hall of Famer – one of the greatest hitters in our life time and sometimes he can overcome the fact that his legs have failed him to channel that greatness.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I got home at the 7th and JV had it going on, which I can say now. Thought I was gonna be an eyewitness to history. Oh well, guys, let’s just get this one.


  13. You are a rhymin’ fool, Dan. Guys, you done what I tole you to do. Now obey me, and do it more often. Saw Jose jive dancin’ in the dugout. Let’s see a little more of that, please. Next thang you know, we’ll be back where we wuz.


  14. A number of nice things to this win – ignoring the fact that JV had another sterling effort and put us back in 1st place…
    – Jose’s first dinger
    – Jake and Derek had two hits in the same game including a HR – when they have been struggling to combine for two hits in a week
    – Huge two out hit by Bregman who let Tropeano get in a hole and then hit the cripple
    – Giles with another clean inning and a save


  15. Just saw the replay of Altuve’s no doubter first HR of the season. The guys gave him the silent treatment (except for JV who did not get the memo) and Jose was hilarious dancing down the dugout with hands raised while they all ignored him. And then mobbed him…


    • Dan, I knew I saw ‘Tuve dancing in the dugout when I was watching the game but I couldn’t pick up the silent treatment. Anyway, they have it on the website.
      I’m just sitting here watching it and laughing 🙂


  16. Turned it off after the third inning because I couldn’t stand it. I never watched the Walking Dead but I thought it was on today.
    Turned it back on an hour later after checking the score.
    I fear I am running out of patience.


    • I was fortunate enough to be working earlier today. It was 3 zip when I checked in, although the Astros only had 2 hits at that point. Had we not dealt for Verlander late last year, we might be a pretty disgruntled group by now! Delighted to see Jake go long, but that in no way convinces me he’s back on his way to giving us the .800 plus OPS we got from him last year. Yep, still some cynic in me.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. It feels so good to watch the Astros lose 2 in a row and know that JV was next up. With so many strong starters there is a good chance that one of them will be the stopper for any slump.


  18. Dang it!! I was hoping our guys could keep Uncle Albert outta the Crawford boxes this series! Trout is a given, if any team can keep him from hitting a homerun against them, consider it a HUGE gift…but dam-it Albert!! Come on dude, give it a rest! You already hold the distinction of being the only guy who has hit more homeruns in Minute Maid than anyone else!
    Saw Kate and Verlander sitting next to Jim Crane and his wife at the Rockets game tonight….made me smile!! The perks of the game!
    Better pay attention to Tropeano….he looked VERY good today. AND…where is Hank Conger???? Ugh.😩
    The A’s, and Manea, and Mengden are on their way to Houston. JEEZE.


  19. Thought I’d give you an update on Farquhar. The doctors are pleased with his progress, and he will be in the hospital for another 3 weeks. His recovery will be in context of months, and years…..not weeks. Needless to say Danny has thrown his last pitch in MLB. Becky⚾


    • That’s depressing. It hit a little close for me. I’ll be 40 in August and I’ve already had 2 full blown strokes in addition to several mini strokes. I’m about 75 to 85% normal these days from last 3 Aug when I had my last one which is considered to be good but I still get frustrated with myself,and I only work in a call center. I can only imagine what this young man is going through.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry, Billy. That is rough and hope things even out for you. Thanks, Becky, for the update. Brain injuries are debilitating. At the same time, I understand they are progressing at a good pace in understanding and treating.


  20. Wayne Graham, 82, is out at Rice after all these years. It is rumored Lance Berkman is in the running for the job, and Graham has expressed some hurt. Of course, Andy Pettite has been coaching with Lance at Second. So this should be interesting.


    • Wow, Wayne Graham has been the face of Rice baseball for a long time. It would be fun if Lance returned to coach at his old school.


      • Lance and Andy were both under Graham’s tutelage at one time or other. That’s why Graham is hurting, in addition to loss of job. He has done wonders at Rice and do wish it could have been his decision.


      • Nothing against Lance or Andy, but Wayne Graham had excellent assistant coaches throughout his tenure at Rice. Some of them might lack the name recognition that would help with recruiting, but it shouldn’t be hard for Rice to find some very qualified candidates to replace him.


  21. -Percentage-wise, Pujols has hit a lot of teams harder than he hit the Astros. He has just faced the Astros 300+ more times than he has any other team, thanks to Bud Selig and the other owners who exiled the Astros.. If you don’t believe me, go Baseball Reference and look at his career splits against all the teams. He murdered the Cubs, Brewers and Pirates and a lot of NL teams to a much higher percentage than the Astros.
    -If the PCL is a hitter-friendly league, I understand why Fresno is crushing the ball. What I don’t understand is why Hauschild, Thornton and Emanuel are thriving while Martes and Armenteros are getting hit so hard.
    -I’m supposing that Abraham Toro Hernandez has decided to go with the name Abraham Toro.
    -The 2018 Astros are now known as a team with several holes in their lineup and much better starting pitching.
    -Drew Ferguson is a righty hitter in Fresno who is hitting well against the few lefties he has faced and is absolutely killing it against RHP. The last time I saw a guy make the jump from AA to AAA like Ferguson and Stubbs have, it was Kike Hernandez.
    -The Astros deserve a day off after the schedule they have faced the last two weeks. Give the schedule makers a map!


    • Yes, so how do we fix those holes? If Marwin had his career year in 2017, then someone else is going to have to pick up the slack. I think it’s safe to say that it won’t be Jake or Fish. Carlos will have a huge year, but let’s face it, our catchers will not keep producing as they are now. We’re going to need a bat or two from somewhere at some point.


      • I’m not giving up on Fisher helping us this year. I can see the Astros adding a bat at the deadline to replace Gattis. It’ll probably be a rental as they have guys in the minors ready to jump into the mix starting in 2019. I’m just not sure they want to throw White or Davis into the pressure cooker of a pennant race and playoffs this year.


      • Tim, White might get a shot in the interim. And then maybe we’ll find out a bit more about him. He produced during his short stint last year.


  22. Yeah, so why so many more strikeouts so far? Don’t blame Springer, Bregman, Altuve, or Gurriel. They’re about the same through April 25, 2017 and 2018 give or take a couple of games.

    The culprits when comparing 2017 to 2018?

    Correa 13/27
    Marwin 13/23
    Jake 10/30
    Reddick 11/18
    Aoki/Fish 4/22
    McCann 6/11

    Yuli had 7 K’s early last year. Between him and Davis, this years count is 16.
    Gattis had 5 behind the plate last year through the 25th, Stassi 14.
    At DH, Beltran with 18, Gattis with 23 this year.

    Hopefully this is a trend that will not continue, whether guys start hitting better, or we get guys that will hit better.

    One thing for certain, we’re not hitting the ball as hard or far. We hit .283 last year. .257 so far. OPS was .823 on the season! .748 so far. Slugging was .478 compared to our . 407 April this year. The good news is that our pitching has been so good that our competition has hit just .202 against us with a .601 OPS, and yes, quite a few more strike outs from them too, 273 compared to our own 236.

    In closing this odd long post from daveb, I think Carlos and Marwin and Reddick will start making more contact. I hope that if Jake and Fish do not, Luhnow has a response. He needs to have one, because we can’t expect our starters to be so strong for so long.


    • Yes, the K’s are up daveb, but I just compared the two Aprils for the Astros offense and here is what I found.

      2017 – 25 Games / 112 Runs / .272 BA / .340 OBP/ .765 OPS
      2018 – 23 Games (so far) / 113 Runs / .257 BA / .341 OBP / .744 OPS

      So they took awhile to get rolling last season too.


      • Dan, my expectation is that the power will heat up with the weather. But, as OP notes, I agree that we’ve got a few holes, especially in left field and maybe again at that darn DH slot. I’m probably not being patient enough with Gattis, but he looks a mess with a bat in his hand. And 52 K’s out of Fisher and Jake is a very serious concern, because they simply can’t get the ball in play often enough. There are 5 guys that I’m not at all concerned about. That’s not enough.


  23. PCL Mysteries . . .

    A few of the crazy BAs for Fresno:
    – Stubbs .388
    – Ferguson .384
    – J.D. Davis .364
    – Tony Kemp .325
    – Tyler White .324
    – AJ Reed .271

    Poor young KTuck is ‘struggling’ at .266/.352/.771 with 1 HR and 11 RBIs

    Meanwhile, somehow a few pitchers seem to have the mojo over the wind:

    – Kent Emmanuel – 16.2 IP, 1.08 ERA with 0.66 WHIP;
    – Cy Sneed – 19.2 IP, 1.83 ERA with a 1.27 WHIP
    – Trent Thornton – 18.1 IP, 3.93 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP

    Hauschild has a 4.29 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP, but he’s struck out 25 in 21 IP


    • It bears noting that the only other hitters in the entire organization that presently have a BA over .320 are Myles Straw and Taylor Jones, who are hitting .369 and .358 respectively at AA Corpus Christi.


  24. Somebody out there please take responsibility for making sure Dallas Keuchel eats his ‘0’ shaped cereal this morning? I would do it, but I am three hours away.

    It’s all about the follow-up, folks.


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