What has gotten into Dallas Keuchel?

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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.

Yankees to hire Josh Bard as their new bench coach

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Aaron Boone has no experience as a coach or a manager at any level. As such, some have speculated that he’d hire a more seasoned hand as his bench coach as he begins his first season as Yankees manager. Someone like, say, Eric Wedge, who was a candidate for the job Boone got and who once managed Boone in Cleveland.

Nope. According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, he’s going with Josh Bard.

Bard, 39, was a teammate of Boone’s with the Indians in 2005. He’s not without coaching experience, having spent the last two seasons as the Dodgers’ bullpen coach, but he’s not that Gene Lamont/Don Zimmer-type we often see in the bench coach role.

Which is fine because different managers want different things from their bench coach. Some are strategy guys, helping with in-game decision making. Others are relationship guys who help managers understand all of the dynamics of the clubhouse while they’re worrying more about lineups and stuff. Others are trust guys, who can serve as the manager’s sounding board, among other things. Some are combinations of all of these things. As Feinsand notes in his story, Boone said at his introductory press conference that he’s looking for this:

“I want smart sitting next to me. I want confidence sitting next to me. I want a guy who can walk out into that room and as I talk about relationships I expect to have with my players, I expect that even to be more so with my coaching staff. Whether that is a guy with all kinds of experience or little experience. I am not concerned about that.”