Astros Season Rewind: The Case of Collin McHugh
Last season proved challenging for one of the Astros top starting pitchers.
After a 19-win season in 2015, Astros’ Collin McHugh showed signs of that form but was inconsistent in his 2016 campaign. These struggles were even more noticeable with the remainder of the rotation having their issues themselves.
By the Numbers
It ‘s hard to say whether McHugh met expectations for 2016 because his 2015 season was full of great performances. Statistically, it was a down year, which McHugh went 13-10 with a 4.34 ERA. However, the right-hander found ways to help his team push for a playoff berth. We saw flashes of brilliance from him, and it bodes well heading into 2017. MLB.com correspondent Richard Justice referred to McHugh as “Mr. September”, stating his 10-0 record in September appearances for the Astros:
Mr. September? Collin McHugh is 10-0, 3.08 ERA in a dozen September starts for @Astros. He has a 2.96 ERA in last 5 starts.
— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) September 21, 2016
Last year, McHugh pitched a gem against the Royals in Game 1 of the ALDS. The right-hander gutted out a win and found a way to give his team a chance to win that series. McHugh has proven that even though he may not have his best stuff, he can work through games and give the Astros a chance to win.
This mental approach is what separates good pitchers from great pitchers. McHugh is a great pitcher and can produce quality starts. He does not let the bad breaks, and the bad games hinder his drive to keep pounding the strike zone.
McHugh throws a fastball, curveball, and cutters. He uses his curveball as a primary weapon against hitters. His pitch selection should maximize the effect of his curve ball. When his curveball is peaking, he is a formidable opponent.
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The downside of a curve ball-dominant pitcher is there are no other off-speed pitches to coincide with the breaking ball. At times, we will see a change-up, but it has not been as prolific as his other pitches. The change-up is a great compliment to his pitch selection. With further development, the change-up may prove serviceable and add deception to his fastball and cutters.
The change-up would have similar arm movement and delivery to his fastball and cutters. This would protect those pitches, and force hitters to defend against another off-speed pitch. Personally, I would love to see him develop this pitch and find a feel for it heading into the 2017 campaign. I see the change-up as an effective pitch that opens a variety of options when throwing to hitters. For a pitcher like McHugh, deception is key to maximize his productivity on the mound. A change-up provides a deceptive option that can produce outs, without requiring a significant mechanical change.
What to Expect
I believe in Collin McHugh. With the development of his change-up, we will see a 15-game winning pitcher. He provides experience to a rotation that will need someone with a true competitive mindset and a reliable arm in the postseason.
I expect McHugh to rebound from a less than stellar season, and with a projected salary of $4.6 million, be a true bargain for the Astros.
**Statistics and date retrieved from MLB.com, Baseball Reference, and Brooks Baseball**