Looks at the mechanics of two of the Astros' surprise successes, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh.
The Astros have unearthed a couple of legitimate All-Star candidates in their rotation this season, and though neither pitcher fits the “high-ceiling prospect mold” that has become characteristic of the franchise, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh have quickly ascended from afterthoughts to valuable assets for the organization. Is their performance merely a blip on the radar, with regression looming to take each of them down a peg, or are there legitimate reasons to get excited about either of these two pitchers? Let's dig in.
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The Astros lefty is off to a strong start, but can he sustain it?
Last week, I took the opportunity that the Fantasy Freestyle affords us to look at one of the hotter pitching names in the early going: Nathan Eovaldi. This week I thought it prudent to take a similar look at another starter that is burning up the waiver wires and getting a lot of love from the internetting baseball community (in fact he was just profiled by Mike Petriello yesterday). We look at Dallas Keuchel on the heels of the latest sterling performance in a string of many. His eight and two-thirds inning performance left him one out shy of a second consecutive complete game. He lowered his ERA from 3.06 to 2.92 and he induced 18 ground balls, a season-high, snapping a streak of three straight games where he induced 15 ground balls.
Keuchel’s emergence as a high quality rotation option is as surprising as he’s been dominant. As a minor leaguer he never once cracked a 20 percent strikeout rate. Last year he checked in at 18 percent and this year he’s upped his game to just under 23 percent. He’s paired that impressive knack for improvement with a diminishing walk rate, going from 10.3 percent in 2012 to 7.6 percent last year to five percent thus far in 2014. Where he really sets himself apart though, is in his batted ball profile. Keuchel is generating ground balls at a 67.7 percent clip. For frame of reference Justin Masterson, as elite a ground ball starting pitcher as there is topped out at just under 60 percent in 2010, and even then his fly ball rate was five percentage points higher than Keuchel’s is now.
The Astros southpaw's transition from a walk machine with no strikeouts into a strike machine with no walks.
As much as it might look like we have, we’ve never seen anything like this in the short career of the Astros’ best pitcher to date, Dallas Keuchel.
His career began in June 2012 with terrific results—one run allowed in five innings in the Ballpark at Arlington, a complete game six days later with one run allowed. At the All-Star break he had a 2.45 ERA on his way into a start against Arizona. Something wasn’t right, though.
A return to the Twin Cities seems to have done Kubel a world of good, and injuries to Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia have converted Kubel from a platoon player into a full-timer. The fun isn’t going to last forever, but as long as Kubel is swinging a hot bat he is fine as a mixed league play in the outfield. Your best bet is to try to make sure that the Twins are facing a right-handed heavy group of pitchers before setting your line-up for the week; losing Kubel two or more times a week or having Ron Gardenhire stick Kubel in there against a lefty isn’t the best use of a roster spot in mixed.
Paul breaks down several starters whose numbers away from home make them useful stream options in fantasy.
Last week in this space, we looked at some starters who have shown a penchant for doing their best work while in front of their hometown crowd. They aren’t widely rostered in 10- and 12-team leagues, giving you an opportunity to take advantage of those home starts while avoiding the road starts, assuming your league rules allow such frequent transactions. Unsurprisingly, they all play in comfortable environs, but they don’t consistently perform on the road, keeping them from being thoroughly sought-after assets.
Today’s group is the same, but opposite. They play in tougher home ballparks which cause inconsistent work while at home, but their skills shine through on the road, though the composite numbers hide that fact in many instances, creating a buying opportunity. Let’s start in the most obvious of these venues.