In the Astros off-season, the Astros potential rotation for 2020 looked something like this.
- Justin Verlander
- Zack Greinke
- Lance McCullers Jr.
- Jose Urquidy
- Pick one – Josh James, Framber Valdez, Brad Peacock, Austin Pruitt
The best-laid plans of mice and men went awry from the very beginning. Urquidy, Peacock and Pruitt were injured or sick from the very start of the Summer Camp restart. Justin Verlander pitched 6 innings and then went on the IL for what appears to be the long term. Josh James started two games and control issues caused him to spit the bit on a rotation spot. Things looked grim.
Fast forward to August 18 and the 12-10 Astros are on a 5 game winning streak and have been kept afloat by the efforts of Greinke, McCullers and unexpected help from a very inexperienced set of starting pitchers.
- Framber Valdez. Headed into 2020, Valdez had the most experience of any of the youngsters mentioned here as he had pitched in 34 games the previous two seasons with 13 as a starter. He had shown good stuff at times, but his lack of control (5.7 walks per 9 IP) had placed a big asterisk next to his name. After some struggles in an initial start against the Dodgers, he has been terrific in a very long relief appearance and two starts, giving up only 2 earned runs in his last 19.1 innings of work. Overall Valdez is 1-2 with a 1.90 ERA and a 1.099 WHIP. And those walks? He is so far only walking 2.3 hitters / 9 innings on the season.
- Cristian Javier. Javier was the Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2019. But the fact that he only had pitched 11 innings at the AAA level made him a likely late-season call-up in 2020. Well as it turns out the late-season call up ended up being after Summer Camp as his performance in camp earned him a spot in the bullpen, which ended up being Verlander’s spot in the rotation the second time through. He had one ugly start against the A’s (5 runs in 3 innings), but outside of that, he has been oh, so solid giving up only 2 runs in 18.2 innings in his other 4 appearances. To date, Javier is 2-1 with a 2.91 ERA and a Verlander-esque 0.831 WHIP.
- Brandon Bielak. Bielak pitched solidly in his call-up to AAA in 2020 (8-4, 4.45 ERA) in a season when high scoring was the norm at the AAA level. He was not on the original opening day roster but was added to the roster early and after a couple wins out of the bullpen was added to the rotation in Josh James spot in early August. He’s given up 3 earned runs in those starts covering 16 innings and looks like he wants to put a stranglehold on a starting spot moving forward. Bielak is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and a 1.125 WHIP in 2020.
Where would this team be without the efforts of these three gentlemen?
Who are the most sustainable of this bunch?
Who do you look forward the most to watching going forward?