Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel came into this season as a 26-year-old with a lifetime 9-18 record and 5.20 ERA in 239 innings. He also had a 4.69 ERA in 134 innings at Triple-A. There was really no reason to believe he possessed any sort of upside beyond being a back-of-the-rotation starter on a really bad team.
And yet right now he’s 5-2 with a 2.92 ERA and 55/12 K/BB ratio in 62 innings for the Astros, who’re 6-3 when he starts and 11-25 when anyone else takes the mound. Last night he took a shutout into the ninth inning versus the Angels and came up one out short of a complete game.
There’s nothing different about Keuchel’s raw stuff this season–his average fastball is still under 90 miles per hour. But for whatever reason that pitch has gone from being something hitters tee off on to an actual weapon and his changeup has also gotten significantly better results.
Compared to his first two seasons in the majors Keuchel’s strikeouts are up 31 percent, his walks are down 47 percent, and he’s allowed just four homers in 242 plate appearances. I’m not sure how long this can last, but it’s been fun to watch and it’s kept the Astros from really being a mess this season.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.