Just about everyone surrounding the Houston Astros got some good news yesterday thanks to a simple 16 second Twitter video of Dallas Keuchel throwing.
Greatest gift this holiday season to me? .... the gift of a pain free 1st throwing session. ✅. Throwing routine has officially started! pic.twitter.com/JKuSwvjR7t— Dallas Keuchel (@kidkeuchy) December 27, 2016
Keuchel last pitched for Houston on August 27, looking as if he was beginning to turn the corner in a forgettable 2016 season with seven innings of two-run ball against Tampa Bay which brought his August ERA to 3.10. However, Keuchel was scratched from his next start with shoulder inflammation and never returned to Houston's desperate chase for the second AL Wild Card spot.
According to Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle in early October, Keuchel needed to "gain clearance from team doctors to begin his offseason program." It appears he's done just that.
After winning the AL Cy Young in 2015, Keuchel saw his ERA jump from 2.48 in 2015 to 4.55 in 2016. His FIP increase wasn't as drastic (2.91 to 3.87), but his strikeout and groundball rates dipped while his walk rate increased significantly.
The Astros, which have said they are in the market for top tier starting pitching, have yet to make much of a move in that regard. Signing free agent Charlie Morton to a contract is the only starting pitching move Houston has made. If Houston decides to stand pat, Keuchel's health (and performance) will become all the more important with the question marks that surround the Astros rotation, including Lance McCullers's elbow and the ability of Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers to bounce back from disappointing seasons.
"It's tough to maintain that Cy Young level year after year, and you do see in certain pitchers a little bit of dip the year after they win it because there's so much that goes into winning that type of award," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told the Chronicle. "But I have full confidence and expectation that Dallas will be back to his top form next year."