MLB

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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MLB Thoughts Thus Far: NL

By: Scott Ostrowsky
NL East: Let me start with the worst and work my way up. The Braves have absolutely no shot. The fans know it, everyone does. Look out for them once their farm system blossoms. The Phillies looked decent to start the year but have quickly fallen back to their usual ways…4th/5th place and giving division foes a hard time. The Marlins are making me believe again that “almost” miracles are possible. With Jose Fernandez looking like his former healthy self, he brings life to the clubhouse. Imagine if Giancarlo Stanton could wake up this year and start contributing to the surprising production that Miami lineup brings. The Mets have fallen under the same curse they had last year. They can’t hit. Somehow, through the pitching of Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, they are still have a small foot in the door in that division. If they can trade for hitting like they did last year, they will win the division again. I couldn’t NOT pick the Mets this year to win the East after they went to the World Series but I’m definitely not shocked the Nationals are in 1st. They are healthy, they can hit, they can pitch, they have a guy on their team by the name of Bryce Harper. This is a whole new team and a better one at that. If they just stick to their guns and stay consistent and Harper’s average improves, this team will be dangerous.

NL Central: Two things people shouldn’t be surprised about in the NL Central: The Cubs are dominating, the Reds are suffering. The Cubs are not a surprise. They can hit, pitch, and they are young! They have a surprisingly great combo of youth and talent. Easy favorites to go to the World Series. When Anthony Rizzo (26) is your “veteran” and leader in the clubhouse, then you’re in good hands. The Pirates are where I thought they’d be. I don’t think they’d keep their winning ways from last year even now with how great the Cubs are doing to start the year so they may miss out on the Wild Card this year since there is too much talent to go around in the NL. The Cardinals on the other hand, have shocked me this year. Untimely hitting and inconsistent pitching have them just a couple games above .500 and 10.5 games back. This team can definitely turn their season around but I don’t know if a Wild Card spot is the cards for them since the National League has an insane amount of talent throughout. There are currently three teams, that aren’t in first place, that have better records or close to their record (Mets, Marlins, Dodgers). “What about the Reds and Brewers?” Yeah what about them? No talent. No big names putting up big numbers. No surprises here.

NL West: The preseason favorites, the San Francisco Giants, are putting a smile on my face because they were an easy pick to win that division that actually as an ongoing fight for 2nd place. The Giants have pitching besides Bumgarner for the first time in, well, two years, when they won the World Series. The off-season acquisition of SP Jeff Samardzija was crucial if they wanted to keep themselves around in ballgames this season. Young studs are stepping big on defense and hitting making the Giants an easy favorite to challenge the Cubs in the NL. Besides Kershaw, how much is there REALLY in that Dodger rotation? Puig has stepped up more this year than he did last year but still hasn’t really been at his best and Joc Pederson is still an average hitter and is slowly showing signs of his rookie year. At best this LA team is fighting for a Wild Card spot but the end of the year. Colorado and Arizona are very similar teams this year if you really look at them. They’re pitching has improved and the hitting is still inconsistent but still potentially really good. They still technically have a chance but at best, both of these teams are long shots to steal a Wild Card spot in the closing weeks of the season. Finally, the Padres. Again not much to say about the caboose of the division. They can be a spoiler to another team at best.

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MLB Thoughts Thus Far: AL

By: Scott Ostrowsky

AL East: The New York Yankees and the Rays sitting at the bottom of the division is not that surprising to me thus far considering the massive rebuilding the Rays are doing, not a lot of veterans that have made a huge name for themselves on the roster but trying to build a team around SP Chris Archer in the future will be an interesting sight to watch in the next 5 years. The Yankees are in a similar situation, except the Yankees have veterans worth looking up to (Rodriguez, Beltran, Sabathia, Teixeira, McCann, Ellsbury) but have also had their share of injuries, thus, shining the spotlight on some younger guys to step up. Unfortunately, all ages throughout that organization are injury prone so development of young guys has the possibility of being delayed. The Orioles have been due to lead this division for a while now…So have the Red Sox. Both teams boast a great mixture of veterans of wide capabilities and young guys who can bring health and security to their lineups day in and day out. I think that the Red Sox will eventually secure a division championship this year but Baltimore is still a viable option. Not a lot to say about the Blue Jays. In a word, their season has been miserable. That’s using the term lightly. Big names are not producing the “big” numbers at the plate that are needed to carry their mixture of inconsistency on the mound.

AL Central: The White Sox are quickly falling in the lead in the Central division, and slowly losing the respect they gained around the league early. The combination of Sale and Jose Quintana at the top of the rotation was deadly enough to keep their fair hitting lineup running like a well oiled machine. It was speculated before the season that they would be a dark horse. They were for a time, but now? It’s quite shocking. The Cleveland Indians have always been a favorite of mine mostly because Corey Kluber and his Cy Young arsenal of pitches are a huge part of that organization. He may have won a Cy Young Award but I still feel like he goes unnoticed, and that simply isn’t fair to him or his team. Of course it takes a team to be where they’re at right now but having a stud on the mound like that every five days to start a winning streak or end a losing streak is always good. Kansas City has “royally” disappointed me this season. Boasting back to back AL Titles and a World Series win last year should mean they should still run away with the division. Not so fast. Losing Johnny Cueto in the off-season and Mike Moustakas at 3rd for the year with an injury has clearly affected their lineup. We’ve all seen how they can quickly flip a switch with their game play so I’m not worried about their season. They are a Wild Card bid at worst. Take a deep breath KC. The Tigers may very well be a late dark horse if everything goes their way but it’s likely, that won’t be the case. They are within reach of the division right now but I don’t think they are consistent enough right now to really contend. Not the same thing for the Twins. Weak and spotty hitting and pitching won’t be enough to sustain this feeble baseball team in this cutthroat of a division. It’s not put lightly, but how can it be?

AL West: Well, I didn’t predict the winner of the division to be the Rangers, but, I did predict them to eventually win the World Series this year, so them being in first doesn’t make my pre-season prediction look that bad. What does make it bad is the fact that I picked the ever so vulnerable Astros to win it and they are absolutely killing me. Streaky hitting won’t cut it for them this year. It’s disappointing because that young lineup that made the surge to the postseason last year was “rebuilding”, making this year the year they would break out, so expectations were through the roof. My thoughts are that the high expectations got to the minds of the young team and they are choking. A .500 record isn’t too bad this early but Dallas Keuchel starting every five days isn’t enough for this team to go to the postseason in 2016. The Mariners were a surprise to start the year, much like the White Sox, they have fallen off lately, but don’t be fooled! King Felix finally has a team he can rely on to score some runs and back him up in those one run games that he has lost countless amounts of times in his career. If they make the postseason this year, division title in hand or not, Seattle is my dark horse. The A’s and Angels are still viable candidates but if they haven’t shown signs of life thus far, it may start to be the beginning of the end for these California teams. Unless a second half surge of life brings them to life again, much like their division foes, the Rangers, did last year.

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