In 2015, Astros starter Dallas Keuchel won the American League Cy Young Award after posting a stellar 2.48 ERA and 1.017 WHIP in 33 starts. He also struck out 216 batters in a league-high 232 innings. In the playoffs he led the Astros to a win over the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game, tossing six shutout innings.
Heading into 2016 it was expected that Keuchel would once again anchor the Astros’ staff. Unfortunately, it was a bad campaign for the sinkerballer. He had a shoulder injury and, even when he was pitching, he suffered command problems. He finished the season with a 9-12 record and a 4.55 ERA. His hits and walks allowed were up and his strikeouts were down. The sinker wasn’t sinking and his groundball percentage was down. Even when the ball was hit on the ground, it found holes, with his BABIP going from an excellent .269 in 2015 to .304 last year.
Heading into this season, the biggest question the Astros had was whether their rotation would be good enough to help the team get back to the playoffs. If Keuchel could be an ace again, the club would be in good shape. If not, [cliche movie quote about problems/Houston deleted]. Well, the club is in good shape again.
Keuchel has gone exactly seven innings in each of his first four starts. He allowed zero runs in his first start of the year and one each in the next three, including last night’s win over the Angels. He’s 3-0 with 22 strikeouts and only six walks in 28 innings and a 0.96 ERA. He has been inducing grounders at a 70% clip and opposing hitters have a mere .194 average on balls in play.
In other words, Keuchel is Keuchel again. And because of that it’s no accident that the Astros are tied for the most wins in baseball.