Every sport has its one non-negotiable necessity that a championship level team must have. In the NFL, it's an elite level quarterback. In the NBA, it's one All-NBA star level player (or three). In Major League Baseball, it's a hammer at the top of the pitching rotation. On Wednesday, it was validated that the Astros have their "one non-negotiable necessity" for their sport, as Dallas Keuchel won the American League Cy Young Award in a vote that wasn't really all that close.
Keuchel received 22 first-place votes for 186 points from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, enough to beat Toronto's David Price going away. Price finished second, garnering eight first-place votes and 143 points. Oakland's Sonny Gray finished in third place.
If it's possible to win a subjective award by going wire to wire, Dallas Keuchel did just that, winning American League Pitcher of the Month honors in April and never looking back. He finished the season as the only 20-game winner in the American League, going 20-8 and helping the Astros reach the postseason for the first time since 2005. Dealing out an array of nasty sinkers and sliders, Keuchel led all American League pitchers in innings (232.0), WAR (7.2) and WHIP (1.02). He also had a 2.48 ERA and 216 strikeouts.
Perhaps the most amazing part of Keuchel's 2015 performance was his record at home, especially considering the dimensions of Minute Maid Park, which aren't exactly pitcher friendly. Keuchel went 15-0 with a 1.46 ERA in 18 starts at Minute Maid Park. (Somewhere, the late Jose Lima is raising a glass to Keuchel's home field performance. For those who don't remember, Minute Maid Park's band box dimensions basically ended Lima's Astros career in 2000.)
Keuchel received hearty congratulations on social media from teammates and other prominent Houston sports figures (ok, J.J. Watt)...
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Keuchel was front row at Wednesday night's Astros game and received the biggest ovation of the night when introduced to the crowd. Now, it's up to the Astros to make him a fixture of this team going forward. Keuchel is arbitration eligible this offseason, which means he's getting paid one way or another, either on a one year deal until next offseason, or on a long-term deal to make him one of the faces of this Astros team for the next six or seven years.
The latter is likely more preferable to Astros fans, who've embraced Keuchel as a folk hero of sorts. Keuchel is the third Cy Young winner in club history, joining Mike Scott (1986) and Roger Clemens (2004).
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