One of the main goals of the Astros this offseason was to acquire a top of the line starting pitcher.
Before we hear how the Astros failed to step up and acquire Chris Sale or anybody else during the Winter Meetings, I want to state one small detail.
THE OFFSEASON ISN’T OVER YET. MOVES CAN STILL HAPPEN.
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While the Winter Meetings can generate big deals, not all deals are done in some hotel lobby bar or conference room. Sometimes the major deals are made after teams marinate on them for a while. Only time will tell.
Now, that rant is over. Which means I can move on to another topic.
When you look at last year’s pitching staff, it was definitely underwhelming. Keuchel did not live up to his incredible 2015 season (2.48 ERA/2.91 FIP) when he won the AL Cy Young. McCullers kept experiencing arm issues. McHugh, outside an impressive September, had a difficult 2016 season. Fiers had good games and bad games. Just inconsistency. And of course Musgrove is still new to the major league scene.
However, even with their issues and inconsistency, the Astros rotation was not all that bad. In fact, the team’s rotation earlier this year only allowed 4.33 RA/G. That was better than the league average of 4.48 RA/G. The only two non-playoff teams with a better RA/G than Houston was the Miami Marlins and New York Yankees.
Another interesting statistic was the quality starts. Despite all of their issues, the rotation still finished 48% of their starts being quality. That is slightly above the league average of 47%. Sure, it is not that great. But consider that the Astros finished on the positive side of the league average. That is still something to build on next year.
Look, I am not saying that the Astros have this great rotation. Not saying that at all. Clearly there is a need for improvement, especially at the front.
However, there is a chance of improvement internally. And with this kind of offense that general manager Jeff Luhnow has put together this offseason, the rotation doesn’t need to be perfect every game.
I’m not going to lie, it sometimes felt like they needed to be last season. Believe it or not, but the Astros offense provided just 4.4 run support per game for their starting pitchers. That is a hair less than the league average of 4.5 run support per game. Only the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets had worse run support per game that actually made the playoffs. But look at their starting rotations. Arguably two of the best in the game last year.
This rotation has talent. Good talent. And the 2016 season may have been a blip on the radar. But if the Astros receive slightly better results from their starters in conjunction with an improved lineup, then this team has the capability to win.