Astros: A healthy Dallas Keuchel could be the difference in 2017

The Astros need a bounce back season from Dallas Keuchel, who revealed that he was hurt all year last year.

Last year, the Houston Astros ace, Dallas Keuchel, struggled to follow up his 2015 season. Many of the experts did not predict that Keuchel would repeat his Cy Young winning season. However, no one expected a drop off like we saw last year. The way he pitched in 2016 was like he was a different person.

The 2015 version of Keuchel was one of the most dominating pitchers in recent Houston history. It looked like Keuchel was not right all season, and maybe he was injured. It was recently revealed that Keuchel was dealing with a shoulder injury all season. Could it have occurred in spring training, but he apparently tried to pitch through the discomfort?

Via CBS Sports, Keuchel revealed that the shoulder was an issue all year in 2016. The Stros were counting on Keuchel to lead the pitching staff, so he could have hurt the team by trying to pitch through the discomfort. Chad Qualls was another example of this as he tried to pitch through his injury, but it cost his team some wins.

The injury led to…

Keuchel would probably not make any excuses, but he did lose some zip on most of his pitches in 2016. According to Fangraphs, Keuchel lost an mph off his fastball, dropping down to 88.6 mph. His slider and cutter both went down more than an mph from their 2015 average, but his changeup stayed pat. Keuchel has never been known as a power pitcher, but losing that zip on his pitches can affect the movement.

Shoulder issues could also lead to control issues. Many times last year, fans thought that the umpires were not giving him the close calls. Painting the corners and getting the hitters to swing at pitcher’s pitches are Keuchel’s specialty. Without the extra movement on the pitches, Keuchel’s walks and hits went up while his strikeouts decreased. In other words, Keuchel became a mere mortal after his superhero showing in 2015.

All go for 2017?

Through that same CBS Sports update, Keuchel feels that the issues are behind him and that he should be healthy once again. In fact, Keuchel was able to have his first pain-free throwing session yesterday. Keuchel felt like it was time for him to begin his offseason throwing routine has begun. Keuchel has been contemplating in participating in the World Baseball Classic should he be healthy.

With the Astros missing out on Chris Sale as well as Chris Archer and Jose Quintana looking unlikely, the front office is counting on Keuchel. With the bolstered offense, the Astros could use solid pitching performance from the bearded one. The added offense is nice, but you need strong pitching to go deep in the playoffs.

When Hinch came on Talking Stros recently, he mentioned that they would have traded for a starter at the trade deadline had they known about Lance McCullers and Keuchel’s injuries. Hinch also mentioned that Keuchel needs to recover mentally and physically. Should the team stand pat with the rotation, they are banking on a bounce back from Keuchel. If not, look for the Astros to trade for Quintana at the trade deadline.

***Stats from Fangraphs***

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