The league adjusted to the 2015 Cy Young winner in a big way (4.80 ERA, 2.8 K/BB first half) and while he started to adjust back in the second half (3.94 ERA, 3.6 K/BB), he then lost the final month of the season to a shoulder injury. The major change was that the opposition started swinging less often at Dallas Keuchel's pitches out of the zone, which forced him back into the zone in hitter-friendly or even counts. Additionally, his OPS-against on plate appearances ending out of the zone skyrocketed from a league-best .339 in 2015 to .530 last year -- or slightly better than the .579 average (min. 150 IP). Each one of his pitches performed worse, too, but especially his "hard" stuff. The fastball and cutter combined for an .837 OPS, up from .669 in 2015. He was cleared to resume throwing this offseason and should enter camp healthy. Keuchel is definitely far from his 2015 peak, but he's better than his 2016 bottom line. Don't pay for more than high-3.00s ERA.
Keuchel allowed three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out four over 4.2 innings in Tuesday's game against the Marlins, Brian McTaggart of the Astros' official site reports. Compared to Keuchel's other spring outings, Tuesday's was a bit of a slog for the left-hander. He needed 90 pitches and had a few stressful innings. Working with runners on and putting the body through a little stress can be a good thing sometimes, however. Despite Tuesday's results, Keuchel has had a good spring, and he'll be taking the ball Opening Day in Houston against Seattle on April 3rd.
The Astros have named Keuchel as their Opening Day starter, Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle reports. The southpaw has held up well since returning from rehab on the rotator cuff issues in his left shoulder. The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner could wind up a profitable fantasy pick this season, though even with Keuchel's recent healthy stretch, pitchers with shoulder injuries carry extra risk.
Keuchel allowed two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out three over five innings in Wednesday's game against Minnesota, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. Other than a lengthy third inning, Keuchel pitched well during his third Grapefruit League start. Overall, the left-hander was pleased that he was able to escape hitter's counts and induce weak contact in the form of nine groundball outs. All signs point to Keuchel taking the ball Opening Day at home against Seattle on April 3.
Keuchel threw four scoreless innings Friday against the Braves in his second spring start, Jodie Wagner of the Houston Chronicle reports. "It was a continuation from my last start out, and the stamina was there. I probably could have thrown another inning or two, so that's a good sign," said the left-hander. Keuchel, who pitched three scoreless innings in his Grapefruit League debut against the Nationals last Sunday, allowed three measly singles and didn't walk a batter while striking out two. He got up to 42 pitches, 29 for strikes, and said his fastball command wasn't where he wanted, but it was a positive sign for the hurler who missed the final five weeks of the 2016 season due to shoulder inflammation. He'll make two more spring starts with the goal of hitting six or seven innings in his final one.
Keuchel allowed one hit and struck out one over three scoreless innings Sunday against Washington, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. This was his first game action since last August when he was shut down due to an inflamed left shoulder. Houston manager A.J. Hinch said Keuchel's command wasn't as good as it could have been, but the left-hander was efficient against a Nationals lineup that looked very much like the one they'll use during the regular season. Keucheul retired the first six batters before Stephen Drew's dribbler beat an infield shift to lead off the third. If Hinch wants Keuchel to pitch Opening Day, the bearded 29-year-old will get three more starts to build up innings.