Red Sox: Where starting rotation ranks among AL playoff teams

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 1: Chris Sale /
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ARLINGTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 27: Justin Verlander (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 27: Justin Verlander (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Houston Astros

Playoff Rotation: Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Brad Peacock, Charlie Morton

Astros starters were third in the league with a 4.03 ERA, .243 batting average against, 9.31 K/9 and 15.2 fWAR. Their 3.81 xFIP was second.

Houston’s production undersells the current state of their rotation, which received a drastic boost with the August waiver trade for Justin Verlander. The former Detroit Tigers ace was 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 11.38 K/9 in five starts since the Astros acquired him.

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Verlander gives the Astros a dominant co-ace to pair with Keuchel. The 2015 Cy Young winner bounced back from a down 2016 campaign to post a 2.90 ERA. Keuchel isn’t a dominant strikeout pitcher and his 2.66 K/BB ratio is middle of the pack but he’s still very effective.

Houston has the opposite problem that Boston has – they have too much pitching depth. Granted, that’s a good problem to have but they still need to decide between Peacock, Morton, Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh to fill two rotation spots.

McHugh was limited by injury to only 12 starts so he’s a more likely candidate to end up in the bullpen. McCullers was knocked around for five runs in his last start in Boston, giving the edge to Peacock and Morton.

Peacock (3.00 ERA) and Morton (3.62 ERA) both had solid seasons. They throw hard, each producing a strikeout rate of over 10 K/9. The one concern with each of them is the walks, as each produced a walk rate north of 3.0 BB/9. Peacock’s 3.90 BB/9 is particularly concerning and as impressive as the rest of his numbers are they are also slightly obscured by 13 relief appearances. He could be on a short leash, but at least Houston should have at least one starting caliber pitcher on standby in the event of a quick hook.