You could consider this a post about the now and the future, depending on your perspective. If you’re still in a dogfight this late into the season, well bully for you. If you’re in planning mode for next year’s draft or who you’re going to keep, well big warm hugs and “you’re a participant” ribbon to you. As a father, I’ve discovered that there’s no losers anymore, only degrees of totally not winning. I digress.
I was trolling the glorious Fangraphs leaderboards, desperate to find someone to start this week in a Yahoo-style innings blowup and I was quite surprised to find a Houston Astro that emerged among the top 25. The top 25 of anything, for that matter. But lo, Dallas Keuchel shone brightly like an All-Star representative from a team undeserving of All-Star representation.
Keuchel’s numbers on the season aren’t good, and as you well know, wins are tough to come by in an Astro uniform this season. He’s currently at a 4.99 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, with an 18% K rate and 7.5% walk rate. In 21 games started, he’s won six. However, over his last 30 innings, Keuchel has had some success. His strikeout rate increased to 22.5% and while his ERA is still an unimpressive 4.50, his FIP over that span is 2.65.
Dallas Keuchel isn’t likely to win you any fantasy leagues. In fact, Dallas Keuchel could very well start the season in AAA next year as likely as he starts out as the team #3 starter. A lot can happen with guys who have a similar profile. Because even if you haven’t seen Keuchel pitch, believe me, you’ve seen him pitch.
He’s John Danks, Paul Maholm, Joe Saunders, Chris Capuano. He’s Jason Vargas, Mark Buehrle, Travis Wood. Soft tossing lefties who have had stretches of really great results and stretches of being downright awful. But I guess that’s kind of the point here. These other guys are rather known commodities and well, you might not have known who Dallas Keuchel was going into 2013. You might not have known who Dallas Keuchel was until you read this. Which probably means A) he’s widely available to stream today and B) he’s super cheap for you to hang on to next year.
It’s kind of difficult to establish a ceiling for Keuchel. He had about 130 uninspiring innings at AAA, but that is of course the Pacific Coast league which can make guys like Bucky Jacobsen look like Babe Ruth. But Keuchel is getting it done right now, as long as getting it done doesn’t include wins. He’s maintaining an acceptable ERA and K rate all while suffering through a .343 BABIP, a 69.5% strand rate, and a 16.7% HR/FB rate. I hate to say you could do worse as an endorsement, but, well… yeah.
Scott Kazmir has been written about quite a bit here at the mighty green and black. But as soon as folks started to get excited about him in June, he threw up kind of a stinker in August. And yet, here we are again excited about Scott Kazmir in September. And September has been pretty incredible.
So far this month, Kazmir has put up a 35% K rate, 1.18 WHIP, and 2.86 ERA — but a 1.13 FIP. He’s walked just two batters over 22 innings pitched — and he’s been this good despite an unusually high .411 BABIP. Assuming Cleveland stays in the mix for a playoff spot — and as of my current typing, that appears to be the case — Kazmir should get another start, and it’s likely to come against Minnesota. And with all due respect to Brandon Warne, Minnesota’s offense isn’t very good. So if you’re looking for a spot start this week, somehow Kazmir is owned in just 24% of Yahoo leagues, which pretty much reflects that 85% of managers have just moved on to the sport with uprights and tighter pants.
But looking forward, it seems awfully likely that you didn’t pay much for Kazmir and the way he’s pitched this season, you should give some serious consideration to reserving his services for 2014. It’s unknown where he’ll pitch since he’s a free agent headed into the off season, and that obviously has implications for what we’d expect in terms of performance. But I’m a big fan of high strikeout pitchers, and I’m even a bigger fan of high strikeout pitchers who are dirt cheap. There were only 12 other pitchers with a better K/9 rate than Scott Kazmir and they include the likes of Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, A.J. Burnett, Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg, Felix Hernandez, and Chris Sale.