Early in the season, and I mean EARLY, the whispers started about the impact pitching coach Brent Strom may have on this team. It started when Jarred Cosart debuted unprecedented control and more repeatable mechanics. It's continued as the Houston starting rotation has locked in, throwing at least 6 innings for the ninth straight game.
A big chunk of this is certainly on the pitchers themselves. Dallas Keuchel is maturing, much like Wandy Rodriguez did later in his career. Scott Feldman is a leader of the pitching staff. Cosart is harnessing his stuff. Brad Peacock is doing Peacock-ian things.
But, Strom's impact can be felt, from pitch selection to preparation. It's showing up in each start. If the bullpen will ever get healthy, this pitching staff could become an unexpected strength of this team. As it is, the starting pitching has been very good. It made writing this piece this week much, much less painful.
Look, I know my points about the use of WAR in tiny samples got sidetracked. I know WAR for relievers is problematic. But, if you want one shining example of why people are so excited about Tony Sipp, there's a great representation.
In the past week, he's thrown 2 1/3 innings and been worth 0.2 WAR. That's nearly a tenth of a win for every inning he's thrown. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.
Lots of candidates here who were good but not great. But, Cosart stands out for putting up a decent start without his usual peripherals. He only got 42 percent ground balls and only struck out 11 percent of the batters he faced.
However, he still pitched effectively enough to get the Astros a win in Baltimore. Collin McHugh and Scott Feldman could also have gone here, especially with the performance Feldman put up. But, I like the idea that Cosart is turning into a rich man's Derek Lowe. Regression be damned!
I sort of told this story on the podcast and am turning it into a Keuchel-centric column for the day job, but as much crap as I've given Tim about Keuchel, I still think he's been good for more than just this season. I nearly voted for him last year as Houston's PItcher of the Year and thought he had a case for our Pitcher of the Year in the season preview.
I didn't understand at all how Oberholtzer won the award from the Houston Chapter to the BBWAA. Maybe superficially, Obiehockey's numbers were better, but looking deeper, Keuchel was more effective over a longer amount of time. It was a hard choice for me. My vote went to Bud Norris, but it easily could have gone to Keuchel.
This season, he's upped his game, striking out 14 in his last two starts to earn this award. That included Tuesday's effort against the Rangers, where he struck out seven and threw the first complete-game shutout of the season for the Astros.