This Week In Astros Pitching

HOUSTON, TX - JUNE 28: Dallas Keuchel #60 of the Houston Astros throws against the San Diego Padres at Minute Maid Park on June 28, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The Astros continued their eight game losing streak last night, so you would be accurate if you were to guess that their last seven days on the mound were less than stellar. Astros starters were actually on a little bit of a hot streak last week, and that carried over into the first part of this week as well, but ended when the Astros rolled into PNC park. The bullpen didn't fare all that much better than the starter's did over the past week either. With that being said let's start with the starter's and take a look at how the Astros staff performed this past week.

Starting Pitching

Dallas Keuchel

The Astros soft tossing lefty had one good start and one bad start this week. He ended up pitching a combined 11.2 innings, and allowed five earned runs while giving up eleven hits, walking eight, and striking out five. His ERA of 3.86 outperformed his FIP of 5.39 during that period. Keuchel was known more as a finesse pitcher in the minors posting a career walk rate of 1.9 walks allowed per nine innings. In his first four starts with the Astros he has seen that walk rate rise to 4.56 walks allowed per nine innings. He had trouble finding the strikezone in his two starts this week and posting a BB/9 rate of 6.17 which was almost double that of his K/9 rate of 3.86. That's something that he's going to have to fix if he wants to experience any type of sustained success in the majors.

Keuchel's stuff has been a little bit better than anticipated, and he's done a good job of mixing up his pitches so far this season. According to Fangraphs Keuchel has thrown his fastball 61.7% of the time, a cutter 4.7% of the time, a curveball 15.9% of the time, and his changeup 17.6% of the time. His fastball has averaged 88 MPH this season, and his best pitch so far has been his changeup which has averaged about 14 MPH slower than his fastball at 74.3.

Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy made one start this past week and it was a good one. He went seven innings allowing three earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out three. He did a good job at keeping the ball on the ground this week with 73.90% of the outs he recorded coming on the ground. Wandy's WAR total of 1.4 for the 2012 season has almost matched his 2011 mark of 1.4, but his strikeout rate has fallen drastically. From 2008 to 2011 Wandy posted a K/9 rate of 8.58 (08), 8.45 (09), 8.22 (10), and 7.82 (11). This year that rate has fallen to 5.76, though it seems to have not bothered him to much as he has still been successful.

Looking at Wandy's pitch types he has thrown about the same amount of fastballs at 55%, and the pitch averaging about the same speed as it did in past seasons at 89.1 MPH. The biggest difference is that he is throwing his curveball a little less and his changeup a little more. That curveball, which had been his strikeout pitch in the past, has not been as effective for him at all this year. This season Wandy has had the most success with his fastball.

J.A. Happ

Happ had another quality start this week going six innings and allowing three earned runs on five hits and four walks while recording six strikeouts. Even though his ERA is still a little high at 4.81 (4.34 FIP), he has been the Astros most consistent pitcher this season behind Wandy. His strikeouts are up this season (9.94 K/9 rate compared to 7.71 last year), and his walks are down (3.63 BB/9 rate compared to 4.78 last year). With him it's always been about control so hopefully he can keep that walk rate trending down. He's not doing a whole lot different compared to last year as he's still throwing his fastball about 65% of the time and still averaging about 90 MPH which is the same as last season. He's using his slider at about the same rate while throwing his curveball a little more and his changeup a little less.

Bud Norris

Bud returned from injury this week and had one okay start and one great start last night against the Pirates though the end result was a disappointment. Still it's nice to see Bud returning from his stint on the DL strong, and hopefully he can put his injuries behind him and get back to being the pitcher he was towards the start of May. Bud has increased his strikeout rate from 8.52 K/0 last season to 9.34 this season, while his walk rate has stayed about the same. If you take away what looks to be a few injury plagues starts in June then Bud has been solid this season. Hopefully he can maintain his health for the rest of the season and we can see where he ends up.

Lucas Harrell

Lately Harrell has been racking up the strikeouts, and in his only start this week he recorded nine of them in five innings. The only problem was that he also gave up nine hits and five earned runs as well. He tired quickly as the high amount of strikeouts raised his pitch count and kept him from pitching deep into the game. Still Harrell has had a decent run of success lately, and looks to be the innings eater that the Astros staff needs as his 102.2 innings pitched is second on the team behind Wandy Rodriguez. He has also posted a WAR of 1.2 so far which has been a pleasant surprise for a guy who didn't look like he had a spot on the club during the early weeks of spring training. In short, Harrell has come a long way. His stuff is solid, and the key to his success so far this year is the ability to control it better. Harrell's career minor league BB/9 rate stands at 4.3, and he's been able to reduce that to 3.1 this season which has been his biggest area of improvement.

Jordan Lyles

The youngster continues to show flashes of the pitcher Astros fans hope he can be followed by meltdowns where he can't keep the crooked numbers from popping up on the scoreboard. This week he was solid through four innings before crumbling in the fifth and was unable to record an out. His velocity has increased from an average of 89.8 MPH last season to 91.3 MPH this season, but that increase in velocity has also been accompanied by an increase in his walk rate. He's throwing his curveball a lot more this year while throwing his cutter and his changeup less. His cutter has been his most successful pitch so far.

Relief Pitching

I ran the starter's a little long this week so I will try to keep the bullpen details short and to the point. While the overall results this week were not all that great there were a few guys that had good weeks.

The Good

Fernando Abad had a good week and accumulated a total of five innings pitched while only allowing one earned run, walking one, and striking out five. After a rough start to the season Abad has lowered his ERA to 2.95 on the season. In almost the same amount of innings pitched last year, Abad has lowered his walk rate from 4.12 BB/9 last year to 1.96 this year.

Rhiner Cruz also had a good week and went three innings while allowing one earned run, walking two and striking out two. After starting out the season hot and pitching in high leverage situations Rhiner went through a rough patch for most of May and June. The story with him has always been control so I guess we can be happy with the fact that his 4.44 BB/9 rate is lower than his minor league totals of 5.55.

The Bad

I hate to say everyone else, but every other relief pitcher that saw action this week struggled. The trio of Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, and Fernando Rodriguez all allowed two earned runs in under three innings pitched. Rodriguez and Lyon were both able to pick up a hold, but Lyon also had a blown save. Wesley Wright had a hold as well, but also picked up a loss. He made three appearances this week totaling one inning pitched and allowing one earned run. That brings us to our closer Brett Myers who picked up a blown save and a loss in one of his two outings this week. The good news is that he rebounded after a few rough outings to have a good clean inning last night.

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