Houston Astros: Assessing the 2018 Start for Dallas Keuchel

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Minute Maid Park on April 4, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 04: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Minute Maid Park on April 4, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

So far in 2018, Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel has not looked like the Cy Young winner from just 3 years ago. What could possibly be the reason for this?

Dallas Keuchel has given something special to this Houston Astros team. He is a southpaw that induces a lot of ground outs and strikeouts, among the best in the entire league. Plenty of teams would kill for a starting pitcher like him.

However, 2018 has not been very kind to him. In his first outing against the Texas Rangers, Keuchel ended up suffering a loss. He is the only starter in the rotation to have one up to this point.

Just the other day against the Baltimore Orioles, he took a no decision. Thankfully, it ended up not being a loss thank to another shut down outing by Brad Peacock. But Keuchelangelo, as he is famously called for his painting of the strike zone corners, seemed to struggle with his command.

With all of this in mind, it has to make us fans wonder what can be causing it. For all intents and purposes, I’ve surmised two theories. I kindly ask that fans put away the torches and pitchforks, as these are merely reflections that I’m sure many of you out there have had yourselves.

So, here it goes:

ARLINGTON, TX – MARCH 29: Justin Verlander
ARLINGTON, TX – MARCH 29: Justin Verlander /

1. Stand Back?!

Justin Verlander was electric on Opening Day for the Astros. Picking up right where he left off from the playoffs, he went six strong innings and gave up no runs and just a few hits. The seasoned veteran was, without a doubt, destined to be at the top of the order.

So was shifting Keuchel to the number 2 spot a move that may have adversely affected his overall confidence? That is really hard to say. The man who names himself Kid Keuchy on Twitter has never really seemed to have a real problem in that area.

Additionally, he was one of the first to tell reporters about how the Houston Astros were very different from the previous champion Chicago Cubs of 2016. While gutsy, it still proves that Dallas Keuchel is not really one to be timid in any area of the game. That’s true for both the professional AND the personal.

2. Dressed to Impress

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Keuchel, along with Marwin Gonzalez and Evan Gattis, will be among the first 3 players on the current roster scheduled to hit free agency next winter. Last offseason, I wrote a piece about the impact Scott Boras would have in negotiations. Since Keuchel and Gonzalez are now clients of his, this will make for an interesting off season next time around.

Knowing all that, could the southpaw be trying to overwork himself just a bit? That’s also hard to say. After all, if he can eventually have a year remotely close to what he did in 2015, whatever team, hopefully the Astros, that sign him will want to give him those big bucks. If the reverse happens, he can be looking at his value depreciating.

To get a full understanding of the shaky start for Dallas Keuchel, we will need to examine how he looked in his first two starts last year compared to now:

2017 (First two starts): ERA – 0.64, WHIP – 0.50, 3 BB, 4 hits, 8K

2018 (First two starts): ERA – 3.27, WHIP – 1.55, 5 BB, 12 hits, 7K

To me, this looks like a Jekyll and Hyde situation. Clearly, a tale of two different types of Dallas Keuchel. Unfortunately, it is also a far departure from his 2015 Cy Young season. There is no real way to tell what the exact cause of this is.

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In Conclusion

It’s early. We all know that. Two starts is way to small of a sample size to predict what Dallas Keuchel will do all throughout 2018. Still so many more games left to be played. Not to mention, the Houston Astros making every effort to get that repeat title.

Nevertheless, concern still remains for the team’s best left handed pitcher. No doubt, these will begin to subside as Keuchel settles into a seasonal groove soon enough. Whatever happens this season for the Houston Astros, Keuchelangelo will be a HUGE part of it!