While Houston's offense has been slumping badly, the pitching has been fairly solid. There have been plenty of implosions (see: Cosart, Jarred's last start). However, for the most part, Houston's starters have kept them in the game and the bullpen hasn't been terrible. Again, the bullpen without Chad Qualls, who is about as far away from this award as is humanly possible.
At any rate, let's run down the candidates and pick a winner.
Pitching WAR feels problematic, like it doesn't totally work. I know it does, but I don't trust it as much as, say, WAR for position players. That being said, I'm still super impressed that one Collin McHugh start can generate 0.5 WAR just by itself.
McHugh was so, so good last night. That's what everyone has been talking about. He had 12 strikeouts and no walks in 6 2/3 innings while only needing 89 pitches. The last Astros pitcher to strike out 10 or more in his debut with the team was Frank DiPino, who struck out 10 while walking none in 1982. DiPino went on to pitch 12 years in the majors, but the only six games he started were for the '82 Astros.
McHugh also threw the 50th game in franchise history where a player struck out at least 10 with no walks. The last player to do it was Bud Norris in 2012, when he struck out 12 in six innings against St. Louis.
Suffice it to say that Collin McHugh had a sterling debut with his team. It was nearly enough to get him top billing this week and should keep him in the rotation for at least one more turn. If he keeps pitching this well, who does he replace?
Last time we ran this award, I should have given some love to Matt Albers for his relief pitching. So, consider lauding Fields this time making up for that. I can't see ever giving the big award to a reliever, because the inning totals are just so different. But, we should be able to laud them somehow.
Fields struck out 35 percent of the batters he faced last week. He did not give up a run in 4 1/3 innings while posting an FIP of 1.41, an xFIP of 2.95, a true ERA of -0.80 and a SIERA of 1.91. His fastball averaged 93.1 mph while his curve and his change both were in the 70s.
Oh, and Fields only walked one batter and picked up a save. On the season, Fields has two saves and 11 strikeouts in nine innings. It's early, but given his progression from last season, it appears Fields is one of the few Rule 5 picks to make good and turn into a decent major leaguer.
Two relievers on the list? I must have gone mad. Despite being a reliever, Bass still had the fourth-most innings on the team over the last week. He did so without giving up a run and posting a 2.85 FIP and a 3.79 xFIP. The reason for that? Bass didn't have the strikeouts. He did post a 62 percent ground ball rate and only walked five percent of the batters he faced. That's the way you can be effective despite not missing many bats.
CRPerry has not taken over this award. He, along with Tim, has been one of Keuchel's biggest supporters since last season. All that time we talked about how Keuchel underperformed his peripheral stats? It appears he's catching up to it in the 2014 season.
What's more, Keuchel is upping his strikeout rate. The lefty had 13 in 12 innings in the past week and now has a 24 percent strikeout rate on the season. That is not sustainable, since he's never broken 20 percent at any minor league level in his career.
But, he also has dropped his walk rate to six percent and continues to generate ground balls with his two-seam fastball. Even if he doesn't miss enough bats going forward, he will benefit greatly from all those shifts and the infield defense being brought by Matt Dominguez and Jonathan Villar right now.
In short, Keuchel is doing very well. He's a deserving recipient to this award and should win a few more of these before the season is out.