What Has Happened to Houston’s Star?

By: Scott Ostrowsky

It was October 2nd, 2015, Dallas Keuchel had just capped off his Cy Young award winning regular season with the Houston Astros. All was going great for the 27 year old lefty. Keuchel also helped secure an Astros playoff spot for the first time since 2005. Unfortunately, after beating the New York Yankees in the Wild Card playoff game, they would lose to the eventual 2015 World Series winners, the Kansas City Royals, in the American League Division Series.

In his Cy Young season, the “Kid” would rack up an AL best 20 wins and also led all AL pitchers in innings (232.0), WAR (7.2) and WHIP (1.02). Keuchel also would record a 2.48 ERA and 216 strikeouts.

The most surprising aspect of his 2015 campaign was his unbelievable record at home. Keuchel went 15-0 and had a 1.46 ERA in Minute Maid Park, which, if any of you paid attention at home, is a hitter friendly ballpark. Pretty remarkable if you ask me. His season stats so far in 2016? Not as promising.

Dallas Keuchel is quietly pitching his way through this season with a 5.35 ERA with a 4-9 record. The 9 losses has already surpassed his 8 from the previous season and it’s not even the All-Star break yet. He has already given up 113 hits which is already 72 away from tying last years stat. He needs 20 more walks to equal his total from last year and has already given up 13 home runs, last year that number was 17. his WHIP has also received a plummet and is at  discerning 1.426 from last years 1.017. It’s about to be the end of June and the left handed pitcher has not even passed the 100 strikeout mark (89).

So what happened this season? Why is Keuchel pitching his way to one of the worst turnaround seasons in MLB history?

Well, for one, his fastball velocity is down from lat year. In 2015, his average fastball velocity was in the low 90’s but now it is ranging below that into the high 80’s. that is not what you want out of your #1 starter in the rotation. With the reduced velocity comes even more challenges. Right handed hitters are teeing off against Keuchel. Last year, right handed hitters hit .227 against him with a .606 OPS. This year on the other hand, they are hitting a whopping  .315 against him with an .847 OPS. Typically, a lefty facing a righty is already at a disadvantage but proving that he can shut down the other side of the plate in one year and completely losing it in the next is a huge problem.

I have watched him pitch this year and I haven’t been impressed. Obviously his statistics are bad but his demeanor and the way he carries himself on the mound are not the way he used to last year, in the best year of his career. Last year was different. He had swagger, anger, and a goal in mind, he knew he was the best and he knew he was better than the hitter. Now, his head is down most of the time, everything is getting to his head, and he is getting rattled a lot easier.

Yogi Berra said it best, “Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical”. Simply, it’s all in your head “kid”, clear your mind and just pitch.

Although Dallas Keuchel hasn’t been a fantastic starter his whole career, he can still get it back on track and get back to his winning ways. For this season it might be too late, but, there could be a future Cy Young award in the works for him.

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