After months of shy glimpses and flirtatious looks, the Houston Astros finally gathered up their courage and asked Justin Verlander out.
The move was much needed for a team that started the season so brilliantly but have slowly faded through the dog days of summer. Their lead in the AL West has shrunk by five games since the All-Star break, they are playing sub .500 ball since they got back on the field after the break.
Adding a former MVP is always nice, but just what exactly does Verlander bring to Houston?
Verlander chews up innings. He’s already put away 172 this season, and when he hits 32+ starts he is always going over 200. While he will only make a handful of starts for the rest of the regular season, his is an arm that doesn’t need bullpen help to see out a game.
With Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers averaging 5.2 innings a start, having another pitcher who can regularly work into the seventh inning is a huge boost for the Astros and will allow more rest for the bullpen.
Freeing Brad Peacock
It’s been a strange season for the 29-year-old righty. He’s made 16 starts this season, his most since 2014, due to the various injuries that have afflicted the rotation.
His time in the rotation has been fairly productive, especially if you are still fixated by records. He’s 7-2 as a starter, with a 3.44 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Sounds pretty good! However, Peacock is rarely pitching beyond the fifth inning, and while he is posting nice numbers as a starter, his work as a reliever is really where he shines. A 1.77 ERA and 1.03 WHIP this season show just how impressive he is working out of the bullpen.
Verlander will allow Peacock to go back to the bullpen and be part of a trio with Ken Giles and Chris Devenski that can follow the examples of Kansas City and Cleveland to postseason success.
The Detroit Tigers may not have won a World Series during Verlander’s 13 years, but he made five trips to the postseason, making 16 starts including three in the Fall Classic itself. That level of big game experience is invaluable to a team as young and ambitious as the Astros are.
Dallas Keuchel is still Houston’s best pitcher, but his only postseason experience is three games in 2015. Having someone on board like Verlander who can be an example to all is going to be vital as they try to win their first World Series.
Can Verlander get them over the line?
For as useful a piece of the puzzle as Verlander is in 2017, he’s not the all-conquering MVP from 2011. His season numbers don’t make for great reading, however he has been in-form of late.
As you can see, his performances since the All-Star break have been remarkably strong. That includes throwing six shutout innings against the Astros on July 30, as well as going to Colorado and stifling the Rockies in his final start as a Tiger.
If that’s the pitcher the Astros have traded for then their World Series odds will improve markedly. However, it’s never easy for a pitcher to change teams. The relationship with a new catcher can take a while to forge, moving cities can create problems that cause a loss of focus.
The Verlander from the first half is not a pitcher that is going to help you much when it comes to a seven-game series against the Red Sox, Indians, or Dodgers, but the Verlander from recent weeks is someone that can take a team to the ultimate glory.
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