This is a post your loyal writer started about 3 weeks ago (that is if you count writing only the title as starting a post). In truth, the question here is a little broader as the Astros lost one great starter (Gerrit Cole) and one good starter (Wade Miley), who collapsed down the stretch last season.
In 2019, Cole was brilliant – 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 Ks over 212.1 IPs.
Miley was 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA over 167.1 IP.
That is almost 400 innings of solid to unworldly production that the Astros will have to replace. Can they do it well enough to contend in 2020?
It says here that they can do it and here is how…..
- Zack Greinke. You can say that we had him last season, but we only had him for two months of last season. Greinke, who has had over 200 innings in 5 of the last 6 seasons and 158.2 in his injury-shortened 2016 season will be with the Astros the whole season. And based on how he has pitched the last 6 seasons, plus specifically how well he pitched in 2019 (18-5, 2.93 ERA in 208.2 IP) there is no reason to expect he will not give the Astros at least 90% of what Cole gave them in 2019.
- Lance McCullers Jr.. Will he throw 167.1 IP like Miley did last season? No, but remember he threw 128.1 IP with a 3.86 ERA and a blown-out elbow at the end of 2018. If he can throw between 120 and 140 innings at close to his career 3.67 ERA the Astros would take that right now and not look back. If he could give them the 3.22 ERA he put up in his first two seasons with the team they would be popping corks.
- Jose Urquidy. Jose, who showed well in the regular season (2-1 and 3.95) and then pitched brilliantly and with tremendous poise in Game 5 of the World Series, could give the Astros better production at the bottom of the rotation than they had before the Greinke trade at the deadline.
- Addition by subtraction. The Astros will not have Corbin Martin‘s five starts at 5.59 ERA, Collin McHugh‘s 6.37 ERA in his 8 starts, Framber Valdez‘s 7.07 ERA in his 8 starts (hopefully he will be a new Framber if he does start this season) or Aaron Sanchez‘s 4.82 ERA in 4 starts (yeah I remember the no-no he led off).
- Addition by addition. It may feel like wishful thinking, but the Astros have some intriguing arms to throw out there to help fill the gap if Lance misses some time. Wunderkind Bryan Abreu, a completely new Framber Valdez, a completely new Josh James (who looks ready to grab the 5th spot in the rotation), swingman Austin Pruitt and top prospect Forrest Whitley may all help out during this 2020 season.
The bottom line is there is no way to know exactly what the Astros lost for 2020 from Cole and Miley. They might have trouble repeating their success from 2019. But the Astros have quite a few good options to piece together a successful rotation in 2020 without those two folks. (Oh and they do have the reigning Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander at the top of the rotation to bring leadership to this revamped rotation).
Will the Astros miss Cole (who has been a stand out in defending his team’s actions in 2018 and 2019)? Yes, but maybe not as much as we might have feared.