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Dallas Keuchel isn’t your average big deal free agent starter

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With a low K-rate and a fastball that has trouble sitting above 90 mph, he doesn’t fit the bill.

League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Three Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In what felt like more years than it actually was, Dallas Keuchel looked like he would be headlining this fantastic 2018-19 free agent class, as in his AL Cy Young-winning season, he looked to be one of the premier starters in all of baseball for the remaining time on his contract with the Astros.

To a much lesser extent, all of this still rings true. Keuchel is still one of the better starting pitchers available this offseason. Though while not completely dominant, he still is coming off of three straight very solid seasons.

Keuchel’s free agency should surely be one with intrigue. Being a relatively healthy arm with consistent above-average performance, adding in the fact that there are endless fits of contending teams needing rotation help, he should command a big deal.

MLB Trade Rumors, pinned his predicted contract at four years, $82 million (20.5 AAV). Quite the get for a starting pitcher at 31 years of age, Keuchel doesn’t really fit the bill of big deal starter.

  1. He isn’t necessarily young.
  2. In the age of strikeouts, he’s more of a “pitch to contact” arm.
  3. And in the simultaneous age of velocity, his fastball sits below 90 mph.

If Keuchel does indeed end up making around $20 million AAV (give or take a few), he’ll be joining a group of 14 starting pitchers that exceed that annual value. Finding the median K-rate from the past three seasons among that group, Keuchel’s rate of 19.6 percent sits way below the median rate of 23.7 percent. Only Jordan Zimmermann’s collapse saved Keuchel from the lowest mark.

The median average fastball velocity for this group is 92.3 MPH. Being a heavy sinker guy, Keuchel’s average fastball velocity has sat at 88.9 MPH. Among the 15, that is the lowest mark... by a lot.

While this is all hypothetical to the case that Keuchel will exceed $20 million AAV in his contract, his shortcomings still remain certain. He posted a below-average SIERA of 4.15 this year. Among the 57 qualified starters this season, he had the ninth lowest K-BB%. Only four pitchers put up a lower K-rate than him. The three lower than him had respective ERAs of 4.19, 4.36, and 6.16.

10 lowest K% in 2018

Name Team K%
Name Team K%
Mike Leake Mariners 15.2
Lucas Giolito White Sox 16.1
Ivan Nova Pirates 16.7
Dallas Keuchel Astros 17.5
James Shields White Sox 17.7
Trevor Williams Pirates 18
Miles Mikolas Cardinals 18.1
Jose Urena Marlins 18.3
Reynaldo Lopez White Sox 18.9
Jake Arrieta Phillies 19.1
Among qualified starters FanGraphs

Speaking to some of Keuchel’s strong suits for a second, it is true that he is one of the more durable starters in all of baseball (though that usually eventually runs out). Since 2014, only 19 pitchers have started more games than Keuchel.

In those appearances, Keuchel has shown that what he lacks in avoiding in contact can be made up in run prevention, a thing that he has consistently excelled at. All the work of an elite ground ball-rate and superb control.

Since 2014

Whoever signs Dallas Keuchel (Nationals, Yankees, Phillies, Angels, etc) will be looking for an arm that instantly helps stabilize a rotation ready for contention. As for groundbreaking impact, that doesn’t seem like a safe bet. And if he indeed signs long-term, there should be fear as to what a soft-throwing 35-year-old making big money looks like.