2014, like the past five seasons, has been a disappointment for the most part for the Houston Astros. Even with their victory Sunday afternoon over the Seattle Mariners, they still sit with a record of 19-32, last place in not only the AL West, but in MLB as a whole. There have not been many bright spots for the team as only one batter, Jose Altuve, hits over .300 on the season. But there is still hope for the team in the form of starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel.
Keuchel was a seventh-round pick of the Astros in 2009 but had not shown much in 2012 or 2013, pitching to an ERA of 5.27 and 5.15 respectively. In 2013, the Astros even moved him to the bullpen because of his struggles, and he did nothing to quell the questions people had of him, allowing opponents to hit .326 with an OPS of .906 in 92 at-bats.
Keuchel looked well on his way to being another player who would not make in the majors, but something clicked for him in 2014, as he has the lowest ERA of any starter on the team with 2.55 after Sunday’s performance.
He has been dominant his last three starts, tossing two complete games, one of which was a shutout against the high-powered Texas Rangers offense and today against the Mariners when he surrendered one unearned run. The start in between he came within one out of another complete game shutout before surrendering two runs against the Los Angeles Angels in 8.2 innings.
A reason for the improved success for Keuchel has been his ability to keep the ball in the park. Last season he struggled with giving up home runs, surrendering 20 in 153.2 innings, and in 2012 he served up 14 long balls in only 85.1 innings; thus far this season he has surrendered only four in 70.2 innings.
Keuchel has also improved his strikeout rate, something that has helped him avoid too many disastrous performances. His K/9 and K/BB this season have improved immensely, sitting at 8.03 and 4.58 respectively, much improved on the 4.01 and 0.97 in 2012 and 7.20 and 2.37 in 2013.
Keuchel is looking like an ace as the Astros have not had in a very long time. Each time he takes the mound, he gives them a chance to pick up the victory. Keuchel has a record of 6-2 on the season, with the Astros going 7-3 in which games he starts, accounting for more than a third of the team’s wins.
It may be another long season in Houston for Astros fans, but they will have something to look forward to each time Keuchel takes the mound. He looks like the real deal and will be one of the driving forces in the Astros turning things around.