Why Can’t Dallas Keuchel Get it Going?

Jean-Jacques Taylor, in a recent ESPN.com article, discusses how Dallas Keuchel has become “just a guy.” This description is both anatomically and metaphorically correct.

Keuchel has not just been pedestrian; he has, in fact, been pitiful. With a 5.54 ERA through 13 starts, he hasn’t been a bright spot in both Houston Astros and fantasy rotations.

What has happened to Keuchel since his stellar Cy Young season of last year?

One possible explanation is a loss of velocity. According to PITCHf/x, Keuchel’s four-seam fastball, his most used pitch, has seen a 1.3-MPH decrease in average velocity. This could be a sign of some wear on his arm, especially considering his 2015 season was his highest usage season in terms of innings pitched. The average batting average against his four-seam this season is .360, compared to .221 last season. If Keuchel’s most used pitch is allowing a .360 average, then this might be a primary culprit in his lackluster performance.

A secondary explanation could perhaps be a bit of bad luck. While Keuchel’s ERA is a 5.44, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) comes in at a 4.00. FIP seeks to show how a pitcher is performing absent of his teammates’ fielding efforts. A 1.44 differential in ERA and FIP is large, and while a 4.00 FIP isn’t great, especially for a former Cy Young winner, it shows that Keuchel has been outperforming his high ERA.

Keuchel hasn’t been having a good season. You know it, I know it, and he knows it. We were bound to see a regression from his 2015 numbers, but no one pictured something like this pitching catastrophe. Keuchel is only 28 years old and still only 13 starts into the season, so he has plenty of time to improve. We can only hope he doesn’t join this list of previous Cy Young winners who go on to less than illustrious careers.

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