They say pitching and defense wins championships. For the Houston Astros, their pitching happens to be a category where they have been absolutely lights out this year.
Houston Astros Rotation Could Lead Them Back to World Series
The Astros pitching staff currently hold the best team ERA in the big leagues at 2.93. The next closest to them is the Chicago Cubs, who have a 3.18 team ERA. With the acquisition of Gerrit Cole in the off-season, the Astros became that much better on the mound. They have so many electric arms in their rotation, and there’s a solid chance it could lead them all the way back to a World Series in October. Justin Verlander and Cole are leading this pitching staff with sheer dominance this year.
Verlander is 35-years old, yet he’s pitching like he’s 25 again. The Astros ace has a major league-best 1.45 ERA in 93 innings pitched this year. He’s also struck out an impressive 113 hitters and is holding opposing lineups to a dismal .157 average. Here is the interesting part. Verlander has an average fastball velocity of 94.8 mph this season, almost two miles per hour higher than the big league average. He throws his fastball 60 percent of the time, and it stands to reason. He’s able to ramp it up to the high 90’s on a consistent basis each time he takes the mound, all at the age of 35.
His electric arm has come back after a few years where he struggled with fastball velocity while he was still with Detroit. The impressive thing about Verlander’s success is that he is using two pitches for a combined 84 percent of the time, the slider and the fastball. As I mentioned above, he is throwing the fastball 60 percent of the time. He then throws a hard slider 24 percent of the time. The curveball, which is another outstanding offering that Verlander features, is only being thrown 13.5 percent of the time. He still has a devastating changeup and a cutter. Verlander has been dominant this season with two pitches basically, the slider and four-seam fastball. Pretty impressive.
Cole came over to the Astros from Pittsburgh in the off-season, and he has been absolutely outstanding as Houston’s number two in the rotation. Cole has put up some big-time numbers this season thus far. The 27-year old is 7 and 1 with a 2.16 ERA this year, striking out a baffling 124 batters in just 87.2 innings pitched. Cole currently leads the AL in strikeouts. Cole is averaging 96.2 mph on his fastball, one of the highest among big league starters. He regularly pumps it up to triple digits every start. Add in a deceptive delivery, and he is very difficult to square up. Cole relies mainly on his fastball, slider, and curveball. This is exactly why Houston acquired Cole in the off-season; to become one of their aces and dominate. That’s what he’s been doing and it’s very fun to watch.
Can’t forget the other three
Verlander and Cole have been one of the best 1-2 punches in the big leagues, but you can’t forget about Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, and Dallas Keuchel.
Mccullers brings one deadly pitch that makes him so effective; the knuckle curve. It’s a breathtaking pitch that comes in in the mid 80’s, making it even more difficult to hit. Everything that Mccullers throws moves. a sinking fastball in the low to mid 90’s, and a circle change. He is very crafty and brings his own type of style to the Astros rotation. The 24-year old has posted a 7-3 record with a 3.94 ERA this year so far.
Morton brings an electric fastball and some quality off-speed stuff to the Houston rotation. The 34-year old has had an electric fastball at an average of 96 mph this year. He has several off-speed pitches he can throw for strikes, especially the curveball. Morton also has a spectacular record this year at 7-1 with a 2.82 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 76.2 innings pitched.
Lastly, Dallas Keuchel. The former AL Cy Young award winner has had a rough year with a 4.45 ERA and 3-8 record, but he still brings a craftiness to the Astros pitching staff. He relies more on location because he doesn’t have a big-time fastball, but he certainly knows how to pitch. Hopefully, Keuchel can start to turn things around before we hit the All-Star break.
The Houston Astros rotation could lead them back to a title
This rotation has been absolutely outstanding this year. They have held opposing lineups to a .212 average. They have so many electric arms that they can rely on day in and day out to get the job done and pitch deep into games. Add in their deadly lineup who have absolutely raked the ball this year at the plate, and you have a very complete team. If they keep it up, don’t be surprised to see the Houston Astros contending for another World Series title in the postseason later this year.
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