September storylines to follow: Astros pitchers

Hopefully, you caught the recent Bat Flips and Nerds podcast. The one with the famous four rambling on about subjects as diverse as Bob Carolgees, Heart of Midlothian defenders and Durham Uni’s student newspaper. If you haven’t already listened, you can download it here.

Anyway, the guys (Darius excluded) seemed a little dejected about September baseball, with all but one of the division races tied up. But there is still lots to grab your attention, even if your team is eliminated.

One of the intriguing storylines concerns Astros starters.

Justin Verlander, the current favourite for this season’s AL Cy Young award, has an incredible 0.77 WHIP over his 29 starts. He leads the league with 17 wins and a 2.56 ERA.

One of the statistical quirks I’m keeping my eye on is whether the 36-year-old can claim the Cy Young award while also having given up the most home runs. Currently, he is in third place, just three homers behind Tigers’ Matthew Boyd.

Soon-to-be free agent Gerrit Cole, as mentioned on the pod by Darius, is currently setting the record for the highest strikeout rate. Cole’s 13.58 SO/9 is a smidgen ahead of Randy Johnson’s 2001 campaign when the Big Unit posted a ridiculous 13.41 SO/9.

You may recall an article in which the Yankees were described as “tight” for refusing to invest in any of the available starting pitchers. They sat idly by as the Mets picked up Marcus Stroman, the Tigers clung onto Matt Boyd, the Reds secured the services of Trevor Bauer, and the Astros solidified their star-studded rotation by taking on Zack Greinke and his $32 million per year contract.

If Greinke plays a significant part in the Astros retaining the World Series; part two of the article will almost write itself.

However, it is the fourth Astros’ starter who intrigues me the most. Wade Miley has made 28 starts covering 156 innings with an impressive 3.06 ERA. He has proved that his 16 starts and 2.56 ERA with the Brewers last season was not a mirage.

The crafty lefty isn’t overpowering hitters with velocity; instead, he’s just not letting them make decent contact. He is sitting fourth with the fewest barrelled balls allowed.

It was always likely to be difficult for the Astros to replace free agent Charlie Morton, but Miley has filled the void admirably. No other team has such an elite talent as their third, or now fourth, starter.

At the time of writing, the leading AL pitchers were …

2.56 ERA Justin Verlander (HOU)
2.81 ERA Gerrit Cole (HOU)
3.06 ERA Wade Miley (HOU)
3.06 ERA Charlie Morton (TB)
3.09 ERA Zack Greinke (HOU)

Even the least-observant speed-reader will notice that four of the five are Astros’ pitchers. With 23 starts for the Diamondbacks, Greinke doesn’t really count, but that still leaves Houston with the top three starters. All we need is for Miley to claim third position outright from Morton.

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Bear in mind that I started writing this article on Thursday 5 September. Nothing prepared me for when I checked the box scores on Friday morning to see …

Astros 11-9 Mariners

So let’s get this right. Miley failed to retire a single batter, yet walked one and gave up five earned runs.

His ERA has skyrocketed from 3.06 to 3.35, which although still impressively in the top-10, drops him below Mike Minor, Shane Bieber and Lucas Giolito.

The dream of Astros pitchers dominating the top three positions of the ERA table has all but died.

As if to add insult and a slap in the face to injury, the next webpage in my morning routine of baseball catchup is my fantasy league. The European Franchise is in the semi-final. It was a tough decision for us to start Miley and sit Trevor Bauer.

In the matchup preview, CBS Sports gave us the slight edge over James Paxton. As it transpired, Paxton scored 35 points for our opponents, while Miley’s implosion cost us negative 11 points.

Maybe that’s Yankees’ karma for you.

We will have other September storylines for you to follow over the next few days, so make sure you keep up-to-date with the Bat Flips crew at @BatFlips_Nerds

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