The Astros completed the first pass through their starting five rotation players with Charlie Morton, the World Series game seven hero, going six shutout inning against Baltimore. That wasn't a huge shock. The Orioles have yet to score a single run against an opposing starter in 2018. Still, when you consider the next two Astros starters they face are Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, the concern in the Baltimore clubhouse must be reaching DEFCON 1 about now.
Which really just underscores how ridiculously good this rotation is. Morton, who went 14-7 last season with a 3.62 ERA is their fifth starter. Guys who were important parts of their rotation last year are either gone or in the bullpen like Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh. Those guys would likely start for many MLB teams.
And here's some trivia for you. Which Astros pitcher threw the most innings last season? Don't know? Well, it was Mike Fiers with 153 innings. Remember him?
In the first five games of the season, the Astros starters have allowed a total of six runs. Six. Three of them came off Keuchel, who had a mediocre, but not terrible, start against the Rangers in the Astros' only loss. Two came from Lance McCullers, Jr. McCullers still shredded the Rangers with ten strikeouts. He was followed by Gerrit Cole on Sunday, the newcomer who may have had the best outing of the bunch with one run and two hits allowed in seven innings with 11 strikeouts. Verlander and Morton, of course, allowed zip in six innings apiece.
Let's put that all together, shall we?
Staff Hits Allowed: 20
Total Strikeouts: 36
Total Walks: 9
Quality Starts: 5
Combined ERA: 1.78
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We are only through three games, but those are insane numbers. No one should expect them to keep up that level for any length of time, but it is reasonable to think they will be very, very good throughout the season. Perhaps even more important, they have legitimate depth with McHugh and Peacock. Both have looked solid in each of their two relief appearances.
This rotation also has at least a pair of potential innings hogs in Verlander and Cole. Verlander has failed to reach 200 innings just once in 12 seasons and Cole has done it twice in four full seasons in the majors. If Keuchel can stay healthy, he certainly has the potential to reach that number as well.
And this is a versatile crew with low-ball, groundout pitchers in Morton and Keuchel mixed in with hard throwing guys like Verlander and Cole. Then there is McCullers, who few argue has some of the filthiest stuff in baseball if he can stay healthy.
It may be early, but the rest of baseball should be on notice that this is a deep and talented rotation. There will be no gimmies one through five against the 'Stros, which makes dealing with this team's high powered offense all the more difficult. Good luck.