A day late, but we finally dole out our monthly award to the best pitchers in April. As always, these are based completely on my subjective opinion. Though I like advanced statistics, there's no one stat I use to determine these. I try to take all the factors and make a decision.
And, I'm probably wrong. Haha, remember that time I put Josh Fields in an honorable mention section? What a rube.
Two starts does not a month make. But, when two starts give you more WAR than any other starter on the team? Yeah, you get mentioned here.
How good as McHugh been in two starts? Well, he's struck out nearly everyone and walked nearly no one. He's got a microscopic .161 batting average on balls in play and has a left 89 percent of his runners on base. Both of those numbers are going to regress hard.
But, for now, McHugh has been very good. His four-seam fastball worked well in two starts and his slider has played up nicely. He'll get another test Sunday when he faces the Mariners again. The fact that he earned a third start, though, is pretty impressive.
Though he missed two starts at the end of the month, Houston's big free agent acquisition was pretty good in his first four. Well, his results were good, if his peripherals indicate a fall headed his way. What's more worrisome are the indications that his arm injury may be more severe than he's let on. He's still on pace to start again at some point on the next road trip, but a four mph drop in his two-seam velocity from 2012 to now?
Another injured member of the honorable mention crowd. While he only threw 10 innings, it's important to note he's been exactly what the Astros probably hoped for when they signed him. He's got decent strikeout rates, he's walking batters at about the same pace as always and he's generating ground balls over 50 percent of the time. His strikeout rate is higher than it was in 2013, but right in line with the two previous seasons. His walk rate is also about one percent lower than last season, but a slight uptick in there won't hurt his value much.
As long as he comes back healthy, he's been a pretty good investment in the first month of his Houston tenure.
Pitcher of the Month
He's never going to blow people away. Keuchel doesn't have overpowering stuff. He won't rack up strikeouts left and right (this season excepted). He just gets the job done nicely.
This season, he's got a decent ERA and is at career bests for strikeout and walk rates. His 3.45 ERA is even a little bit worse than it should be, given his peripherals. He's completely justifying Chris' support as being the staff ace right now.
If there are red flags, they exist in Keuchel's left on base percentage, which is nearly 10 percent higher than he's been able to sustain at any point in his major or minor league career. He's also seen a sharp drop in his line drive rate, down seven percent from 2013 and three percent from 2012. But, are those negated by his higher-than-average .333 BABiP?
None of that changes his results, though. He was the Astros' most consistent starter in April and deserves some recognition for that. Kudos to Keuchel.