The wait has been overbearing… The anticipation in the air… palpable. ¬†I almost typoed Palpatine. ¬†Which is what you loyal starting pitcher-aficionados probably think of me!
We had a start pushed back. ¬†We had me an unbelieving heathen. ¬†Then Memorial Day! ¬†Plus my near-descent into the inability to get out of bed when I watched Yordano Ventura‘s start the other day – saw him torched, velo fall, and taken out early. ¬†Now we get “valgus extension overload” which sounds like some sort of Eastern European sex move…
But alas! ¬†We’ve finally gotten here. ¬†A Pitcher Profile wholly dedicated to Dallas Keuchel, as he continues to rock-m sock-m robot opposing hitters. ¬†Did I just make that a verb? ¬†Yup! ¬†Add yet another complete game to his docket (very nearly three in a row), and he’s easily become the flashiest, out-of-nowhere add to legions of fantasy squads. ¬†But is he a guy to cut at the first sign of danger? ¬†To try and sell high? ¬†Let’s take a looksy at his start this past Sunday where he went the distance against the Mariners:
First Inning:¬†Keuchel’s first pitch is a fastball for a strike taken to James Jones. ¬†Apparently he hates being newly acquired by the Raiders so much, he decided to try some MLB! ¬†Slider is outside, again outside, then a two-seamer at 89 on the hands gets a pretty sharp grounder right to first, one down. ¬†Stefen Romero¬†fouls off a fastball, another is outside, then a loopy, 78 MPH slider that hung a tad in the top of the zone gets a very weak grounder to second, two down. ¬†Keuchel zips in a fastball, and Robinson Cano for some reason shows bunt then pulls back, but it was in there 0-1. Fastball low, really establishing that pitch, then his best on the day is a four-seamer at 91 on the knees, 1-2.
Keuchel bounces a slider low, then another 91 MPH heater on the outside edge gets Cano to chop it weakly right back to him, for an easy groundout to the pitcher. ¬†Typical Keuchel – three groundball outs to start the game.
Second Inning:¬†A perfect fastball pours in the zone to Justin Smoak, he then bounces a slider – hasn’t found the feel on that one yet – then another two-seamer is right in there, 1-2.
Man, that two-seamer has some great movement on it. ¬†Four-seam at 90 MPH is low by a mere inch, slider bends in on the hands and gets tapped foul, then a fastball perfectly on the inside corner gets a K looking, one down. ¬†Four-seamer in there to Kyle Seager, perfect slider is taken right on the knees on the outside corner, two-seamer on the hands is nipped foul, fastball is just off the plate – 1-2. ¬†Then a perfect slider, almost identical to the 0-1 pitch, gets Seager way out in front, second K.
Up is Mike Zunino, who takes the first-pitch two-seamer and lines it to left for a single. ¬†That one didn’t have the sink and was up in the zone, so a mistake there. ¬†Two-seamer is in there to Michael Saunders, four-seam is outside, then a slider that hung a tad at 78 and stays in the zone gets laced to right for a solidly hit single, and it’s runners on first and second. ¬†Two mistake pitches there, and the Mariners took advantage of both. ¬†So Keuchel has to bear down, and gets a cutter in there to Cole Gillespie, then it looked like he hit the same exact spot with the slider but doesn’t get the call, 1-1. ¬†A big swing-and-miss on the two-seamer makes it 1-2, a change-up dips low, another slider trying to backdoor him barely is off the black, full count. ¬†So the 3-2 pitch is a slider, it hung a bit and was out of the zone, but Gillespie taps it down the third base line – Keuchel has to make a quick play, but is way off with the throw to first, Zunino is able to score on the pitcher’s error, and Saunders gets to third, Gillespie to second, and it’s 1-0 Astros. ¬†Gotta love that errors on the pitcher still make them unearned runs! ¬†Keuchel needing to mitigate the damage, and the first-pitch two-seamer is tapped weakly to second by Brad Miller, and Keuchel is quickly out of the inning only allowing the one unearned run.
Third Inning:¬†Back to the top of the order, and a fastball is in there to Jones, two-seamer dips low, then a slider gets tapped very weakly back to him for another weak groundout. ¬†A hanging first-pitch slider to Romero is hit pretty hard to center, but Dexter Fowler is there a few feet in front of the track for an easy out, two down on three pitches. ¬†And the first pitch to Cano is a fastball outside, but Cano still muscles it hard for a line drive, but Marwin Gonzalez leaps and snares it for the final out. ¬†Wow, five¬†pitches – three outs.
Fourth Inning:¬†At 39 pitches, Keuchel is all the sudden looking great with the pitch count after that speedy third, and misses low with the cutter, then in there with the two-seam, then slider low, 2-1 on Smoak. ¬†Four-seam is low, then a hanging slider that stays low is reached for and flares out to left, one down. ¬†Wow, that was a mistake and Smoak really had to reach for it… Smoak looking awful on that swing there, especially on a 3-1 pitch. ¬†First-pitch slider to Seager is cut through and missed, then a fastball gets banged right to Altuve for an easy groundout, two down. ¬†Keuchel starts Zunino with a change-up and he misses, then surprisingly goes to it again, and Zunino misses again, 0-2. ¬†Good confidence with that pitch there, haven’t seen but one or two until now. ¬†And he goes to it again and Zunino grounds it extremely weakly to third to end the inning.
Fifth Inning:¬†Still down 1-0, Keuchel starts Saunders with the slider and it’s flown out weakly to left, one down. ¬†Man, Keuchel since that long 2nd is absolutely cruising. ¬†A two-seamer is just outside to Gillespie, then is right on the black with the same pitch, a 78 MPH slider dips barely low, then another two-seamer gets a hack and miss, 2-2. ¬†Then another slider goes into the dirt, but Gillespie tries for it and misses, and the K is completed to first, two down. ¬†So 3 Ks for Keuchel, and he’s in there to Miller with the four-seam, slider low, four-seam outside, then two-seamer eats up Miller – sounded like it broke his bat – and it’s flared right to Keuchel who makes the easy catch right to him. ¬†Another quickie.
Sixth Inning:¬†Now protecting a 2-1 lead after a George Springer HR (man, how good has he been lately!?), and Keuchel is outside to Jones, then a really good looking slider at 79 barely misses outside, 2-0. ¬†Haven’t seen many, if any, 2-0 counts. ¬†Two-seam is in there, then Jones bunts one foul, and another slider in the dirt gets Jones to swing through it, and another K is completed to first for Keuchel’s 4th. ¬†First-pitch change-up to Romero is outside, then a really really nasty one on the outside lower black gets Romero unable to check his swing, 1-1.
Another change-up is outside, then a fastball is grounded weakly to second, two down. ¬†How many weak groundouts have there been?! ¬†Sheesh. ¬†Cano takes a four-seam outside, Keuchel bends a slider in there, fastball tapped foul, slider in the dirt is taken, then another slider that probably was in the zone gets a foul tip into the mitt for Keuchel’s 5th K.
Seventh Inning:¬†Another 2-run homer gives Keuchel a 4-1 lead, and his 73rd pitch is a two-seamer in there, high with the slider, fastball low, cutter inside, and the 3-1 is lined by Smoak hard to first, but it’s right to Marc Krauss for the first out. ¬†That one was really lucky because a shift was on and Smoak was the only one in the vicinity, and it happened to find his glove on a rocket. ¬†First-pitch two-seamer is on the black to Seager, a good slider is barely outside, then a fastball is grounded toward the right side gap, and it’s past Jose Altuve for a single. ¬†That one wasn’t hit too hard and found a hole, so Keuchel’s good luck on the first out goes to bad luck on that hit. ¬†A change-up is fouled by Zunino, another change barely low, then an 88 MPH two-seamer is chopped weakly to second and Altuve makes the unassisted double play. ¬†Cruise control!
Eighth Inning:¬†At 84 pitches, things are smitten for Keuchel who is in there with the two-seam to Saunders, barely outside, again just off the paint, then another two-seamer tapped foul, 2-2. ¬†After four fastballs, the slider sweeps across the zone and Saunders swings through it, 6th K. ¬†Change-up is in there to Gillespie, cutter doesn’t quite cut enough on the outside corner for a ball, then a nasty, and I mean nasty change-up gets a swing-and-miss, 1-2. ¬†Slider in the dirt is taken, fastball low, full count. ¬†Keuchel goes to the change-up – has a lot of confidence with that pitch – and it’s nubbed very weakly to first and tossed to Keuchel covering for the second out. ¬†Miller takes a slider outside, slashes a two-seamer foul, then a slider is then very weakly nudged to third, and the easy play is made to end the inning.
Ninth Inning:¬†So going for the complete at 98 pitches, a two-seamer is on the corner to Jones 0-1, slider is low, then a cutter on the outside corner is rocketed to the mound… And this might be the luckiest out I’ve seen all year – it ricochets off Keuchel’s foot, and somehow deflects perfectly to Jesus Guzman now at first,¬†who has to take one step on first for the out. ¬†The best way to sum up that play is the final putt from Happy Gilmore. ¬†Anyway, fastball just outside to Romero, again outside, then hits the outside corner with it, 2-1. ¬†Keuchel goes to the change-up, and it’s hit really hard to Matt Dominguez – but he’s able to knock the ball down and make the play by a step, two down. ¬†Both of those hit hard. ¬†Then a cutter to Cano is the furthest¬†hit ball of the night, it rides out to dead center, but Fowler on the edge of the track makes the easy catch and it’s complete-a-mundo!
Final Line: ¬†W ¬†9 IP ¬†106¬†Pitches (66 Strikes) ¬†0 ER ¬†4 Hits ¬†0 Walks ¬†6 K ¬†Gamescore: 83¬† ¬†Gamescore+: 81.2
Final Analysis:¬†Well, Keuchel is kinda awesome. ¬†Sure the Mariners batting order is pretty soft, but I saw some of the weakest groundballs I’ve seen from a team in one game all year. ¬†With all the weak contact, I would’ve assumed a high Gamescore+, but since my stat is more fantasy-minded and he didn’t get many Ks, he scored slightly lower.
Keuchel’s arsenal is entirely built around the two-seamer, which acts more like a sinker than a traditional two-seam. ¬†Usually 88-89, it has some fantastic sink to it – a tight, late sink. ¬†For every 3 two-seamers, he goes to a four-seam to keep hitters honest and ramps that one up to 91. ¬†He also mixes in his cutter at 85-86, but we didn’t see too many of those in this start (he has used them 9.2% of the time on the year). ¬†Then the slider took him a bit to find the feel for, but it was working from the 3rd inning on with some big 10-4 horizontal break. ¬†Devastating to lefties. ¬†And finally the change-up usually at 79 had a great sink and “pull the string” movement on it as well. ¬†It’s certainly not the best arsenal to rack up Ks, but all have sink to keep the groundballs a-flowing.
To that groundball rate… It’s at an unreal 66.5% right now. ¬†The outfielders might as well have a picnic. ¬†That’s good for best in the Majors right now. ¬†And not just best, but second is Tim Hudson at 60.7%! ¬†Not only is that an awesome asset for a pitcher, but having a gold glove caliber Dominguez at third and very good SS and 2B play from Gonzalez and Altuve is going to make him tough to rack up hits against. ¬†All the other metrics make his 2.55 ERA look entirely for real – he’s got a slightly below-average .275 BABIP, but man, he got some ridiculously weakly hit¬†grounders through this start.
Since he’s newer to the must-own fantasy pitcher-ranks, and doesn’t really have the K appeal (he’s at 7.77 K/9 right now – I think right around 7 is where he’ll end up), I don’t think he’s a guy you can really sell high. ¬†You probably just scooped him up within the past few weeks as is. ¬†So ride the Keuchel wave! ¬†The control looks great and if the sink is working on the two-seam, he should mow through hitters. ¬†I do have a concern that if he ever loses the bottom of the zone and is missing that sink he’ll get shelled. ¬†He doesn’t have the stuff to pull through that. ¬†Think Martin Perez early in the year – his sinking stuff right at 90 MPH was chewing through people then he started elevating stuff. ¬†Of course he was also hurt – maybe not the best comparison – but their arsenals are comparable. ¬†Keuchel’s next start is hosting the Orioles, I’m a little scared but he’s too hot to bench right now, then after that it’s cakewalks at the Twins then home Diamondbacks. ¬†He might be a perfect guy to trade for if he hits a little bump against Baltimore – you can just throw out a bench bat or your last SP¬†as an offer and might get it done.
JB’s Updated Top 100 SP
(rankings based on 12-team Roto – green for risers, red for fallers)
Dropped Out:¬†Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox¬†(DL/awful),¬†James Paxton, Seattle Mariners¬†(had some really high hopes, but suffered a setback in rehab),¬†Alfredo Simon, Cincinnati Reds¬†(I think he moves to the bullpen soon with Latos coming back),¬†Alex Wood, Atlanta Braves¬†(don’t think he starts anytime soon),¬†Zach McAllister, Cleveland Indians¬†(DL/sucking),¬†Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs¬†(oops! ¬†But did look better yesterday)
- Wow – so I know I had a question about tiers, which I never have been a big fan of labeling, but the dropoff from Cobb/Cole, to three fringy vets that have issues, then it’s gnarly.
- Slight shuffling of the top 3, who I think are fantasy SP¬†1.A, 1.B, and 1.C. ¬†Tough to not have Wainwright there at #1 right now though… And Darvish keeps having these neck issues, so I had to slide him to 3.
- As in the open, Ventura has this¬†“valgus extension overload”, and the Royals GM said he has to learn to throw softer early and build it up within each start. ¬†I’m no GM, and I’m the biggest Ventura supporter for the longest you could find, but¬†I think they should give him a few starts in AAA to work on this new strategy. ¬†I don’t know if that’s been floated out there, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. ¬†Sad.
- Clay Buchholz! ¬†8 walks in 3 innings! ¬†That equals a sub-100 pitcher. ¬†I think I did the math right… Plus DL to top it off.
- Phil Hughes has walked 6 the entire year. ¬†Less than Buchholz in his last 3 innings! ¬†Crazy. ¬†I still don’t think he’s very good, but he’s hot right now and worth a decent ranking for ROS given his new cutter and control.
- How bad has Verlander been? ¬†Yikes.
- I’m not worried about my boy Porcello. ¬†He looked fantastic through three (I watched that start against Texas), then things snowballed. ¬†A few lucky hits, the wind was carrying for the Donnie Murphy homer that looked like a popup… Not dropping him for one bad game. ¬†Crossing my fingers Oakland doesn’t rock him today – tough matchup with a lot of switch hitters and lefties available.
- Pick up Andrew Heaney in all leagues. ¬†As soon as he’s called up, I’ll probably put him above Bauer.
- I know it might look a little weird moving Cobb up so much off a bad start, but the Toronto Blue Jays are unreal right now. ¬†Maybe a mini-buy low window. ¬†Next start is at Miami, so you gotta strike fast.
- I’ve never been a Lance Lynn guy, but hard to argue the results in the milieu of the pitchers out of the top 30. ¬†Sure the Ks are down, but maybe he’s figured out how to pitch to contact a bit better.
- Tyler Skaggs hasn’t been the most flashy over his past four, but how about a 23:4 K:BB in those!? ¬†Ks coming around, obviously love that ratio, I’m starting to buy more and more in.
- Finally moving Fister up a bit – go ahead – tell me I caved, but still not going to where he is consensus-wise. ¬†He owned the Pirates last year (his last good start), so let’s see how it goes the next few weeks.
How’d I do with the much anticipated Keuchel profile?! ¬†I hope everyone enjoyed it, and please share feedback on rankings below!