Thomas B. Shea-USA Today Sports

The Houston Astros Rotation is off to a Fast Start

Do the Houston Astros really need to add a piece to their starting rotation at the trade deadline?

Being the best team in baseball is no easy feat, as it stands the Houston Astros sit atop major league baseball boasting a 22-11 record. Staying atop of the league and barreling into the World Series takes consistent work. A team has to be consistently improving. 

Let’s start with the eye test, Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers have looked great, Charlie Morton has looked solid for a number three and the combination of Joe Musgrove/Mike Fiers have looked shaky to say the least. This begs the question do the Astros need to look into adding another arm in their rotation?

I decided to look at all of the starting rotations throughout baseball that were either in first place in their division , or within immediate striking distance of the team that is in first; This left me with the following teams; Astros, Angels, Yankees, Orioles, Indians, Twins, Nationals, Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Rockies, and Dodgers.

Once I decided on those teams to look at I wanted to look at specific statistics to see how the Astros stacked up. I chose the following statistics to look at to compare: Innings Pitched, ERA, HR/9, K/9, FIP, WHIP, and batting average against.

Team

IP

ERA

HR/9

K/9

FIP

WHIP

AVG

Astros

196.2

3.71

1.56

8.47

4.46

1.23

.239

Angels

193.2

4.23

1.49

8.32

4.50

1.30

.247

Yankees

185

4.14

1.36

8.42

4.10

1.22

.241

Orioles

175.1

4.06

1.23

6.78

4.64

1.34

.242

Indians

188.1

4.68

1.24

9.46

3.71

1.27

.251

Twins

160

3.88

1.29

6.58

4.71

1.31

.243

Nationals

203.2

3.62

1.15

8.40

3.94

1.20

.226

Cubs

177.1

4.62

1.27

8.78

4.05

1.44

.271

Cardinals

189.2

3.42

.90

8.30

3.51

1.25

.247

Reds

163.1

5.29

1.65

7.55

5.25

1.44

.252

Rockies

192.1

4.49

1.22

6.41

4.58

1.33

.248

Dodgers

184.2

3.36

1.27

9.41

3.71

1.17

.229

 

In case you do not want to break it down here is how the Astros starting rotation matches up against the current contenders throughout baseball:

IP: 1st in AL, 2nd in MLB
ERA: 1st in the AL, 5th in MLB
HR/9:  6th in AL, 10th in MLB
K/9: 2nd in AL 4th in MLB
FIP: 3rd in AL, 7th in MLB
WHIP: 2nd in AL, 4th in MLB
AVG: 1st in AL, 4th in MLB

Overall the rotation is in an extremely good spot. The one glaring spot here is that HR/9 stat, sixth out of six in the American League, of course if you take Mike Fiers terrible 4.15 HR/9 out, the Astros jump to 1st in the AL and 2nd in MLB at 1.12 HR/9, but that is neither here nor there.

Let’s take a look at the individual numbers for each Astros starter thus far:

Player

IP

ERA

HR/9

K/9

FIP

WHIP

AVG

Keuchel

52.2

1.88

1.03

7.01

3.73

0.85

.178

McCullers

42.1

3.40

1.06

10.63

3.25

1.18

.234

Morton

39.2

3.63

0.68

9.98

3.14

1.36

.255

Musgrove

31.2

5.40

1.71

6.82

5.00

1.42

.273

Fiers

30.1

5.64

4.15

7.71

8.58

1.55

.279

 

It is easy to look at these individual stats and see how some of the comparisons against other teams can be skewed for and against the Astros; Morton’s HR/9, Morton and McCullers’ K/9, Keuchel’s AVG, Fiers’ HR/9 and FIP etc.

Again, Keuchel and McCullers look great, we would love to see their lines continue if not improve. For a number three pitcher, Charlie Morton has been an extremely pleasant surprise. If Musgrove and Fiers were one starter, their stats might be a little easier to swallow.

Two ways to boost the rotation.

#1 –The return of Colin McHugh.

Even in what some said was a down year in 2016 McHugh (if he can return healthy) would be a sight for sore eyes in the Astros rotation. His return would bump either Fiers or Musgrove out of the rotation. His 2016 numbers read as follows:

Player

IP

ERA

HR/9

K/0

FIP

WHIP

AVG

McHugh (2016)

184.2

4.34

1.22

8.63

3.95

1.41

.280

 

Based on his 2016 numbers, if McHugh would be an immediate upgrade in every category over Fiers and Musgrove (I am not going to hold the one percentage point against him n AVG). But this is only if he returns healthy and can still pitch.  Let’s not hold our breath on McHugh returning, but one can hope.

#2 – They do not need to trade for an Ace.

Keuchel, McCullers, and Morton are just fine at the top of the rotation. Those big sexy names are going to come at a major expense, and I for one do not want to deplete the minor league system right now.

Instead, I will offer you two pitchers that I think could be potential grabs for the Astros before the trade deadline at a lower cost than the Chris Archers and Jose Quintanas of baseball.  (Keep in mind I am looking for a mid three-four starter here not just these specific players, but players of their type)

A)    Royals’ pitcher Jason Vargas. Vargas is having a solid year; he is 34 years old and is in the last year of his contract. The Royals may be looking into off loading some older talent in an effort to gain prospects. As it stands they are in last place in the AL Central  at 12-20

B)    Braves’ pitcher Jaime Garcia. Garcia is 30 years old and like Vargas, in the last year of his contract on a Braves team that is currently in last place in the NL East at 11-19. The Braves may be looking to offload him for a few mid level prospects.

Player

IP

ERA

HR/9

K/9

FIP

WHIP

AVG

Vargas

37.2

1.19

0.24

8.36

2.14

0.98

.216

Garcia

29.1

3.99

1.23

5.22

5.06

1.33

.232

 

As stated above, I think if a move is to be made, these are the type of pitchers the Astros would be looking at. I doubt anyone would complain if McHugh was able to come back and one of these two arms (or a similar pitcher) was acquired.

Looking ahead, the Astros would probably be just fine if they do not make a move to enhance the rotation. Despite some sloppy starts they are getting lots of solid performance out of the bullpen and lineup that is picking the starters up when they struggle. But if we did not argue and discuss potential trades all season long, what would be the point.


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