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.

Mariners claim Kaleb Cowart off waivers from Angels

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The Mariners announced that the club claimed Kaleb Cowart off waivers from the Angels. Interestingly, the Mariners list Cowart as both an outfielder and a right-handed pitcher. Cowart has never pitched professionally, but the Mariners will try him as a two-way player next season, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports. Cowart was a highly regarded pitcher in high school.

Cowart, 26, has played all over the field, spending most of his time at third base and second base, but also logging a handful of innings at first base, shortstop, and left field.  He hasn’t hit much at all, owning a career .177/.241/.293 triple-slash line across 380 plate appearances in the big leagues. It makes sense to try another angle.

Shohei Ohtani, of course, is helping to popularize the rebirth of the two-way player. In his first year in the majors after having played in Japan for five years, Ohtani won the AL Rookie of the Year Award by posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances along with a 3.31 ERA over 10 starts. Don’t expect Cowart to hit those lofty numbers, but additional versatility could prolong his life in the majors.