The Houston Astros’ record currently sits at 71-40. The Astros are 15 games clear of the next team, the wheeling and dealing Seattle Mariners, in the AL West. Houston leads the entire American League by 8 1/2 games.
FanGraphs currently projects the Astros to have a 100 percent chance of winning the AL West and a 28.9 percent chance of making the AL Championship Series.
Houston has one of the frontrunners for the 2017 AL MVP Award with Jose Altuve, who is coming off a month of July where he batted .485. The team has a Cy Young Candidate when healthy with Dallas Keuchel, who is 4-1 with a 1.59 ERA in home starts in 2017.
The Astros have the No.1 team wRC+ (129) and No. 3 xFIP (3.73) in all of the baseball.
With all of these impressive facts, Do the Houston Astros really need Justin Verlander?
Why is Verlander available after the deadline?
Verlander, the Tigers’ 34-year-old ace, rejoined the national conversation this past week after he cleared revocable waivers. Verlander is now clear to be traded to any team without limitation. There was a clear reason that Verlander has cleared waivers, the Tigers owe him $56 million for his age 35- and 36-year-old seasons. Not only will Verlander cost an arm and a leg, but he’s not been pitching at a high level either.
Verlander is 7-7 with a 4.20 ERA and a 4.70 xFIP in 23 starts in 2017. He currently has his third-lowest K/9 (8.93) and his highest BB/9 (3.94) in his 13-year major league career. He also currently has a career high in hard contact percentage (36%).
What is the Astros current starting pitching situation?
In a perfect world, the Astros starting rotation would look like this: Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Mike Fiers. Morton or Fiers would be pushed to the bullpen for the playoffs.
Notice the names that are on that list? Brad Peacock, Joe Musgrove, and Francis Martes. The Houston Astros are eight starting pitchers deep at the moment. Now do any of these pitchers have the same level of experience in the playoffs as Verlander? No. But they have been equality effect for the most part. None of the Astros current rotation is pitching over their head: Keuchel (3.13 xFIP), Fiers (4.43), Morton (3.72), McHugh (4.85 in three starts), Peacock (3.85), and McCullers (3.06).
So why Astros fans worried about the rotation?
Health, plain and simple. The projected starting rotation on opening day, Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh, Morton, and Musgrove, have all spent time on the disabled List. The two biggest cogs Keuchel and McCullers have been on the list twice already in 2017.
The injuries have messed up the flow of the bullpen and overtaxed Will Harris, Chris Devenski, and Brad Peacock — putting experienced rookies Joe Musgrove and Francis Martes in high leverage situations in the bullpen. At the moment, the Astros bullpen has gone from a strong point to a powder keg overnight with the overuse.
Could the addition of Verlander help settle the bullpen down to make sure Peacock returns to his role and move another veteran arm into the bullpen like Fiers or Morton?
Is Verlander enough of ‘name’ to satisfy the critics?
Does the fact the Astros only added Francisco Liriano means the Astros aren’t? And can the addition of Verlander give the Astros the injection the team needs? Is it enough to make Dallas Keuchel happy?
There is little argument that the Astros only place for addition is in the rotation after Liriano’s addition and the Zach Britton deal falling apart.
I think the answer comes down to how you felt about the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers trade in 2015. Would be happy if the Astros pushed their chips for Verlander if meant giving up a few top 10 prospects and major cash.
Does Justin Verlander make sense for the Astros?
Maybe, if you feel like the Astros need to show the team they're going for it. Because right now, the Astros have enough to make the playoffs and more.