Meet the Astros’ new ace Collin McHugh??


In 2018, two of the top five pitchers in the American League were the two best pitchers in the Astros’ rotation: Ace 1 Justin Verlander and Ace 2 Gerrit Cole. A half step behind these two lurked Charlie Morton, who would have been the ace on the 12 AL teams not named the Rays, the Indians and the Astros.

Flash forward to mid-April 2019 and the team is Morton-less, Cole is 1-2 and Verlander’s ERA is a run higher than he ended up in 2018. But have no fear Collin McHugh is here!

OK, this definitely comes under the heading of YIE.  Here is a reminder of the origins of YIE back in 2015…an acronym for Yes It’s Early which was invented here (as far as we know).

https://chipalatta.com/2015/04/27/astros-2015-yie-but-could-it-be-one-of-those-years/

Yes, it is early, but along with the return to health of Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, the other thing that should warm the hearts of Astro fans is how Collin McHugh has stepped up to pitch better than any of the other four pitchers in the rotation.

Here is a reminder of the long, strange trip that McHugh has taken to reach his current spot in the baseball world. At the ages of 25 and 26, he had a few cups of coffee with the Mets and Rockies and after a career MLB mark of 0-8 with an 8.94 ERA, he was released. At a crossroad in his career where many guys head home and get a day job, he was picked up by the Astros, the worst team in the majors after the 2014 season. He then found new life under pitching coach Brent Strom and put up two strong seasons as the #2 starter behind Dallas Keuchel (11-9 / 2.73 ERA and 19-7 / 3.89 ERA). In 2016 his ERA ticked up even more to 4.34 and in 2017 he spent the majority of the season on the DL.

When McHugh came to spring training in 2018 he had lost his place in the starting rotation but had found a slider. As a starter, he had relied heavily on his fastball, curve and cut fastball, but hitters seemed to have learned to lay off his curve and his fastball was hittable. He did not mope going to the bullpen but excelled using his new found slider to post a 6-2 record and 1.99 ERA in 58 appearances.

This season in four appearances Collin has been terrific with a 3-1 record, 1.96 ERA and 0.826 WHIP.  His 10.6 K/9 IP and 2.7 BB/9 IP are trailing Verlander and Cole a bit, but he’s only giving up 4.7 hits and 0.4 HRs per 9 IP. He lost his first game to the Rays giving up only 2 runs in 5 innings and then has had three 6 inning performance in wins, where he gave up 1, 2 and 0 runs.

Sure, over the course of the season he will likely not be the Astros best starting pitcher. But, a close imitation of Charlie Morton would be a huge boost to the Astros chances this season.

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91 comments on “Meet the Astros’ new ace Collin McHugh??

  1. Just for fun I went back and read that 2015 post. Man a lot has changed since then. Names I haven’t thought about in years, like Wojo, Sclafani, and Deduno

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  2. If you look at the “Related” links you will see Brian Ts post from January 1 telling everyone McHugh was the answer to rotation questions.
    Good job Brian!!

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  3. And don’t forget Sandy, who staunchly kept saying “McHugh” in answer to rotation questions in years past. Which brings up another question: Where exactly is Sandy?

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  4. Let Collin be Collin. Or, as Tom Petty might have said it.

    He’s got a good curve . . . with a break late and nasty!
    Throws a two-seam, and a hard slider too.
    He’s got a good heart . . . won’t need angioplasty!
    Unlike Gerrit Cole . . . he’s still in good with ‘Blue’!

    – So let’s FREE . . . FREE COLLIN!
    Yeah let’s FREE . . . FREE COLLIN

    It’s like a bad dream . . . when he blows one right past ya;
    Ya wanted to swing, but . . . your bat froze in place.
    Here throws a moonbeam . . . looks like its comin’ right at ya;
    then it breaks, and breaks -and there’s egg on your face!

    – So let’s FREE . . . FREE COLLIN!
    Yeah, let’s FREE . . . FREE COLLIN!

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  5. Of course it’s very early, but the Luhnow replacements for our friend Charlie Morton and our former Cy Young have been every bit as good as the more expensive versions. At the same time, our pen has remained mostly excellent.

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  6. JB Bukauskas had another really ugly night. 2.1 innings pitched, 6 runs [so far] on 3 hits and FIVE WALKS [2 straight with the bases loaded]. His ERA on the year is now over 19.00. At first I thought he was working on a new pitch; now I wonder if he is injured.

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  7. McHugh was just amazed as we were when he won 19 games! I keep saying there is absolutely no letting Brent Strom retire! McHugh has sung his praises time, and time again. He might be right behind Springer for another 2yr extension! Speaking about the bullpen, how about Mr. Josh James this past week! He righted his ship pretty quick! I imagine those young guys are soaking up some really good tips from Verlander and Cole, because Josh will probably be in the mix for a rotation spot next year. I’m in Chip’S neck of the woods for the Easter weekend! 500 lbs of Crawfish for Good Friday and barbecue for Easter Sunday!
    Dan….we hope you are on the way to feeling better very soon!🙏

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  8. I for one was very skeptical of McHugh because I remember him as a starter being hit hard in several games. So bad it looked like he was tipping his pitches. Now if just doesn’t flunk a urine test, we should do fine with our current starters.

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  9. After 46 at bats, Kyle Tucker is now hitting .109 with a 3 something OPS. Assign those numbers to Tony Kemp or Tyler White and we’d be begging for a replacement today.

    Last week, I half seriously asked if maybe Kyle was moping. It’s not just a 13 game minor league funk that he’s in. He had a bad spring too.

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  10. McHugh’s fastball is a full 2 mph slower on average this season than last because he has to pace himself in a starter. His slider usage is up to 32% and his changeup is almost non existent because he is using his 74mph curve as a change of pace off of his 81 mph slider.
    The thing I like most about McHugh is that he has become a smart starting pitcher with four decent pitches. With the high spin rate he always had on his curve, I am not surprised about his success with the slider. He has become a good pitcher because he has good stuff.

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    • Yeah he is. I feel bad because I want him to succeed but this is painful to watch . It could be worse though…he could be unemployed Evan Gattis

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  11. Not complaining about the score but I’m hating all those strikeouts. Could have scored more if the back nine gets in gear. Smyly is paintin corners though with all those curvy pitches, lol

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  12. Some Saturday morning thoughts about the Astros:
    *I have some questions about the wisdom of asking a bad baserunning team to be more aggressive running the bases. Especially when they have the highest BA in MLB.
    *When, in his Astros history, has Collin McHugh not shown he could be a terrific #3 starter? And then he added a slider.
    * Again, Fangraphs has the Astros ranked way down there defensively, while MLB stats have the Astros ranked first in Defensive Efficiency Ratio. Lets get serious here. We watch all of the games. Does anybody on this blog have any problems with the Astros defense so far this season?
    * Eventually, if Tyler White doesn’t hit, the Astros will be forced to do something they didn’t want to do. Why don’t the Astros have Myles Straw play some 1B, along with SS in Round Rock?

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    • Totally agree on the base running issue. We don’t need to steal bases most of the time. Collin has got to be one of the most flexible, team first guys in the game. He embraces whatever role he’s thrust into. I have little confidence in advanced defensive ratings/metrics. I’d like to see Straw get plenty of time figuring out short before we think about seeing what he can do at first. We always have Reddick and Diaz in a pinch.

      Re: White. Hinch had to think last night was a perfect opportunity for Tyler to break out, against a hittable lefty. He looked worse than he has all year, going back to ST.

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      • I’d like White to make it but I see no sign of him breaking out. Maybe another month but after that it’s time to make a change. As it’s been mentioned before the Astros have never really had a consistent DH. I missed about half the game but also had to watch the 1st inning show. Just super! Keep it up guys.

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      • Of larger concern to me is that it does not look like White is in any better shape than he was at the beginning of ST. You’d think they’d try to give him some help. Maybe they have, but Room Service still beckons.

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  13. A few thoughts –
    – I was not able to watch yesterday’s game, tracked it off and on with mlb.com Gameday. Watched the repeat of the first inning this morning – the first three hitters just walloped Smyly – Springer’s double was the hardest one hit just not with the right launch angle (I’m amazed at what stuff this old dog learns about along the way). Nice to see them get after hittable pitches
    – It’s a little more than 3 weeks into the season – don’t give up on anyone – White included. There have been many a season where a guy reverses an early season trend in the wink of an eye
    – OP – this is a good fielding club – I’m not sure if any stats accurately reflect the new defenses with the shifts anymore
    – Astros aggressive base running – even aggressive runners have to pick the spots and our guys look brainless
    – Does a JV start of 7 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, 8 Ks – seem ho-hum? Spoiled us
    – Now it’s Cole’s turn to get some hitting support
    – Bregman’s swing on his home run last night seemed so effortless – boy the ball just jumped off that bat.
    – It is fun being an Astros fan right now that is for sure

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  14. Nathan Eovaldi, the Red Sox’s $68 million man, went on the IL this morning with a “foreign body” in his elbow. Last year he had surgery for the same thing.

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    • The Sox don’t have a quick fix for their pitching woes. You have wonder if Sale is healthy. How often does one of the best pitchers in the game get beaten up out of the blocks as he has? They’ve really been nursing his pitch count too. I don’t think his problems are all due to tipping pitches.

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    • Mrs. Sarge had asked me, earlier this season, why the Astros did not sign Eovaldi. I said that he is injury prone. Welp, here he is again. I did remind her of this today…

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  15. Jacob DeGrom, of the Mets, was placed on the IL, this past Friday, due to elbow soreness. The club is not going to do an MRI on the elbow. Hmmm, if I were paying someone $27.5 million dollars to play for me, you bet I would be spending a small amount on an MRI.

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  16. This is going to be A looong night for Cole. He and Stassi are getting ready to rumble. *WOW*…Reddick is not a left fielder Hinch😠 Good Lord this is painful to watch.

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    • I only saw part of the first inning – Choo gets a double off Altuve’s glove – one of the walks was on a pitch fully inside the strike zone – then there was the bloop double that should have been caught – they don’t turn a DP -Correa boots one – Cole did nothing to stop the fire but he didn’t solely stoke the fire either

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      • By all means, that first shot off the tip of Altuve’s glove set the tone for the night. But that obvious strike out pitch was supposed to be on the inside part of the plate, where Stassi was set up, so he had no chance to frame it. He reached back out for it and the ump was sold on it being outside. When Reddick bailed on the pop up down the line, that was a killer, as was Correa’s one handed wave at what looked like a pretty routine grounder.

        Cole was not sharp nor were our guys in the field. And who would have expected Altuve to go 0 for 5 against those arms?

        I made the mistake of counting this game as a win before it started. Well, we can’t take anything for granted in baseball. I should know better.

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      • Nobody tipped the ball that Gallo hit. It cleared the foul pole and was claimed by a fan in the front row of the third tier of seats in rf.

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  17. These Rangers will likely lose 90 plus games, but they sure do like to beat us.

    We’ve got two of the best center fielders in the league on our bench, and one of the worst center fielders in the league in center field.

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  18. Spent the afternoon with my Houma family….eating and egg hunting! After looking at my phone in the 3rd inning, I was totally SHOCKED to see the score!
    Daaaym!! WHAT HAPPENED???? My phone died on me when the last chance to score was Chirinos, and the game was over. Let’s hope these guys don’t have anymore games like yesterday and today! Happy Easter blessings everyone!

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    • Great news Dan, glad to hear you’re all clear. Know you have to be greatly relieved. Praise the Lord for blessing his children. I’ve been battling prostate C going on 3 yrs June, but it’s low risk. Lord said go this far and no further. Had cervical fusion surgery back in Nov for bone spurs, still recovering and might have to let neuro guy work on back down the road. But I’m good with happy feet, not laid up, Lord keeping me strong despite some setbacks. I pray for all you guys for good health & to overcome setbacks. Keep the faith

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  19. More of a question than a statement: Do the Astros have metrics on injuries also? The Astros are without LMJ and Joe Smith. The Angels are without Heaney, Hermosillo, Middleton, Ohtani, Ramirez, Skaggs, Tropeano and Upton. Oakland has 7, Seattle 6, and Texas 6. It seems usually other teams have more on the DL.

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  20. No Dan, it’s not your fault. Collin had the ball up. He got beat up. But our bench does not impress so far. Kemp has been bad offensively since mid last year and is a carny act defensively. My own nephew is sloppy out of shape. I’m embarrassed. His numbers are indicative. Diaz, he’s another liability (so far) on the field and has not hit enough. Stassi, when you are hitting double sub Mendoza and getting far too many framing comments. Jake, well, he’s Jake. But, it is early. Our 25 man will look quite a bit different before long.

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    • I agree with you. We have too many potentials not to give them a shot. Quite disappointed in several but I don’t see it happening unless it becomes a big liability (losing).

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  21. I am fearful to post after Daveb because I don’t want him coming after me. However —- it was an interesting read in the article about Pujols passing Base Ruth in career RBIs. Then I see that the 200+ that Ruth had before 1920 is no longer counted. Seems odd because we see his WAR which I really doubt was an “official stat” in 1920 either.

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    • Albert Pujols passing Babe Ruth in RBI’s(when he actually didn’t) is like me passing a guy in a wheelchair with my car. It is an accomplishment which isn’t an accomplishment.
      Wake me up when Pujols really does pass the Babe in RBIs.
      By the way, when I looked at the stats for both players, I noticed that Albert has GIDP more times than anyone else in baseball history.
      When you add in Ruth’s WAR as a pitcher, he is very close to 200 career WAR and Pujols is sitting at 100 career WAR, according to Baseball Reference.
      I do concede that Pujols has probably faced much better pitching in his career.

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    • 45 you remain one of my favorite humans! And let me remind myself that our squad has just come off a 5 and 3 road trip. If they do that all season and continue to play well at home, well then we’ll be in great shape, with or without my nephew.

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  22. An early Minor league report:

    Triple A: Round Rock is 10-7 and leads its division by 1 game. Jack Mayfield is slashing .360/.414/1.094; Yordan Alvarez is slashing .315/.439/1.310, with 9 HR and 23 RBI, and has walked more than he has struck out; Myles Straw is slashing .313/.356/.819; the pitching hasn’t been great, but it really hasn’t needed to be. [Interesting things to watch: 1. If the real Kyle Tucker ever shows up . . . ; and 2. A.J. Reed is playing himself into the front of the line at DFA airport]

    Double A: Corpus Christi is struggling at 8-9 and in 3rd place in the Texas League, behind Frisco [Rangers], and Midland. Charles McCormick is slashing .316/.519/1.045, with 16 BBs to only 5 Ks; Lorenzo Quintana is slashing .314/.351/.837; Josh Rojas and Stephen Wrenn both have OBPs over .400; except for Tyler Ivy, the pitching has been pretty atrocious. [Interesting thing to watch: where is all that great pitching our organization is supposed to have?]

    High A: The Fayetteville Woodpeckers are 10-8 and in 2nd place in their division behind the much higher flying Delaware [Mighty?] Ducks. Jake Adams is slashing .346/.407/.926 with 3 HRs and 15 RBIs; Seth Beer is slashing .333/.403/.942 with 3 HRs and 17 RBI, and as many walks as Ks; Brian De la Cruz is slashing .333/.383/.939; Colton Shaver has also shown some good promise, though he lags pretty far behind the others I mentioned in every category besides HRs and OBP. Led by Carlos Senabria, Christian Javier, Bryan Abreu [who has 25 Ks in 14 IP], Parker Mushinski, and Peter Solomon, the pitching has been solid.

    Low A: The Quad Cities River Bandits are 8-7 but that is only good enough for 4th place in their division. The Bandits’ offense is just anemic in every category. Pitching has been all that has kept them in games. That charge has been led by Shawn Dubin, RJ Freure, Nivaldo Rodriguez, Humberto Castellanos, and Luis Garcia. [Note: Do not expect a championship team out of this group].

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    • With regard to Round Rock, I should mention that a few of their pitchers have been especially bad. The worst offenders are:

      1. Dean Deetz – 3.00 WHIP and 11.12 ERA; 10 BBs and 3 HRs in 5.2 IP;
      2. Akeem Bostick – 1.90 WHIP and .450 ERA; 6 BBs in 10 IP;
      3. Cionel Perez – 1.84 WHIP and 6.10 ERA; 8 BBS in 10.1 IP;
      3. Brendan McCurry – 1.65 WHIP and 6.10 ERA, and 12 hits in 10.1 IP.

      I would mention how uninspiring Kent Emmanuel has been, but that should come as no surprise to anyone. Why exactly is Kent still part of our organization?

      The biggest disappointment so far has to be Rogelio Armenteros. He’s not been as bad as the above listed guys, but this should be his year to make to to the big club – and he’s looking very ‘meh’ – and not ready for prime time – with a 1.45 WHIP, and 5 BB in 11 IP.

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    • Yordan might be the guy that allows us to stomach Tucker becoming a bust if such a grave thing could happen. I especially like his combination of power and high OBP.

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      • Nice win for Round Rock today. Yordan with both a 2-run double and a 2-run home run, and blasts from Taylor Jones [2] and Jack Mayfield, gave our pitchers room to cruise.

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  23. i think thsi team will hit big time this year , SP we will need an upgrade if we want another WS ring again. We need a stellar number 3, CM is and has always been a #5 to me

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    • Alas, Kevin, if our SP can’t keep the other guys under 6 runs scored while they are in the game, it won’t really matter if our guys hit or not. Offensive comebacks only excite, long term, if they result in victories rather than big ‘game not on the line, so they just groove it’ easy HR stats.

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  24. Framber Valdez returns -and looks a lot like the Framber Valdez who got sent down to ‘work on some things’: 2.1 IP, 3 walks, 1 hit, 3 Ks – and the run he allowed turned out to be the run by which we lost. Sorry, Framber, striking out guys is great – but giving up walks and letting the guys you walk score on you is not.

    On the other hand, it appears pretty obvious to me that at Globe Life the Rangers have – and unashamedly use – the technology to know and communicate to their hitters the type and location of every pitch that is coming. They steal signs very well, and we can’t seem to come up with a system to effectively cross them up and use their penchant for electronic espionage against them. So, with impunity, they just lay off of the breaking stuff that they know is coming – esp. when they know our guys [esp. Cole, McHugh, Devenksi (usually), and Valdez] aren’t good at landing that breaking stuff anywhere near the strike zone. They sit dead red on the fastballs – and those boys can hit fastballs.

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  25. In case anyone is interested, Round Rock is playing Memphis in early ‘get away’ game right now. It is 2-2 in the bottom of the 3rd. The Express led 2-0 early on two solo jacks by Taylor Jones, but just now Brady Rodgers has become the latest to succumb to the organization’s ‘first give up a walk, then surrender a home run’ approach to pitching.

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  26. Good news folks. My biopsy results came back early and I am clear! Thank you for the prayers and all the kind words!!
    Now you can be mean to me some more.

    Liked by 1 person

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