Dallas Keuchel Signs With Atlanta

A look at the potential impact of Dallas Keuchel

Yesterday, the Braves made some headlines by signing Dallas Keuchel. The former Cy Young winner will be receiving a 1 year deal worth about 13 million after prorating. For a 31 year old with a career 3.66 ERA and a 3.72 FIP, that seems to be a pretty good deal. Now before jumping up and down for joy, it’s important to bear a few things in mind. While Keuchel most certainly represents an upgrade, that does little to show what sort of impact should be expected.

Looking at Keuchel through an unbiased lens, it’s not hard to see what makes the former Astro a bit controversial. He doesn’t possess elite velocity, normally topping out max at around 93 mph. He’s not a high strikeout guy, with only 1 season over 8 k/9. A command over stuff type of pitcher, Keuchel is the type of signing that would usually elicit very little fanfare. He’s a good groundball pitcher who doesn’t walk many and usually keeps the ball in the yard, but there’s one major exception: the 2015 AL Cy Young.

In 2015, Keuchel was absolutely one of the best pitchers in baseball. He started 33 games, winning 20 of them. He gave up homers at a minuscule 0.66 per 9/IP. Pair a BB/9 under 2 with a career best 8.38 K/9 and a staggering 61.7% GB rate and it’s easy to see why he won the Cy Young. That 2015 season ended up being worth 5.6 fWAR, by far the best season he’s put up in his career. Unfortunately, that isn’t the Dallas Keuchel the Braves just acquired.

Remove the 2015 season from his resume and what Keuchel is becomes more clear. He’s a 2.5-3.5 war type of pitcher which, while certainly not elite, profiles as a very nice 3-4 in any rotation. He’s a guy who, like Julio Teheran, lives off of getting batters to swing at pitches outside the zone. The problem with that, however, is that hitters are becoming more and more willing to spit on pitches close to the edges and force pitchers to come into the zone. This makes Keuchel’s slider less effective, as evidenced in his pitch value metrics. This isn’t to say that Keuchel can’t be an effective pitcher. As a matter of fact, Keuchel had a small resurgence last season, even with higher contact rates and a plummeting GB%.

So what should you expect from Dallas? In past years I’ve compared Keuchel to Teheran as similar pitchers, but I don’t think that comparison truly applies. Now that I really think about it, Keuchel’s game is more reminiscent of Mike Soroka. Now that’s not to say he’s as good as Soroka, but their styles are very similar on the mound. Both make their living generating a high quantity of ground balls, but Soroka still has 96 in his back pocket to blow by you. Despite not having that type of velocity to fall back on, Keuchel should play an integral role in this rotation. He throws strikes, he’s consistent, and he’s not Kevin Gausman.

So what is the end result with Keuchel this season? At worst Atlanta gets a significant upgrade over Gausman for the back end of the rotation. A guy who may not have Gausman’s pure stuff, but far outstrips his ability to pitch. Best case? Jumping from the AL to the NL gives Keuchel a look at hitters more unfamiliar with him, allowing his sinker and slider to play up, and propel him back to the Cy Young type of performance he showed in 2015. Any way you slice it, Keuchel will provide serious depth to an already strong rotation. And at only 1 year and 13 million, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know what a good deal this could turn out to be.

54 thoughts on “Dallas Keuchel Signs With Atlanta”

  1. Nice piece, Dylan.

    I’m on record this offseason as saying Keuchel was never worth multiple years and $50M+ – his career stats are so eerily similar to Teheran’s (both have career 109 ERA+), he’s 3 yrs older than Teheran, and blocking a multitude of talented arms with a guy who’s not a sure-fire #1 TOR ace (i.e Scherzer, Sale, deGrom) just didn’t make sense.

    But with 2 months of the season down, Gausman a total trainwreck, Folty only now starting to round into form, and super young arms bearing the brunt of the SP workload, getting to add Keuchel for nothing but money is a great move IMO. $13M is a lot for 20 starts, but no matter – the Braves had it to spend.

    I like the comp to Soroka better than Julio – DK & JT might have similar overall career stats, but they are definitely NOT the same pitcher. The Braves currently have 2 of the top 6 pitchers in MLB by GB% (Soroka & Fried) and adding the guy with the 4th highest GB% since the start of 2016 is only gonna make it better. I’ll say this though – fans should be ready for the occasional fielding blip or BABIP-fueled hit parade that will make Keuchel imperfect. We’ve already seen it happen with Fried.

    Welp, I’ve gone on too long in the comment section lol. The Braves sit at $128M for 2019 payroll with the addition of Keuchel. MLB average is $135M so I would think/hope they still have room for acquisitions to fill the holes on the roster.

    Cheers!

  2. not to mention last year’s 3.3 fwar season was pretty luck based. O-swing% was one of, if not the, lowest of his career. Still a far better option than Gaus and if he’s your eventual 4th? that’s a hell of a rotation

  3. Gausman to the IL with plantar fasciitis. Minter recalled.

    Blevins and Winkler are still here for now. Free Grant Dayton!

  4. I’m sure that slip on the mound last night was either the cause or the result of the plantar fasciitis. Could explain a lot. If your foot hurts when you land, your follow through is not going to be very good.

    It kinda disturbs me how down all of you are on Gausman. This is not unusual for his 1st half performances. He is known for elite performance in the second half, kinda like Ender.

    Gausman is not going to the bullpen; ain’t gonna happen. The IL was always more likely than the bullpen. He has no options. This way he can do rehab in AAA. He will come back in July and his performance at that time and up to July 31st will determine whether he’s traded or kept in the rotation.

    Gausman ERA

    2018 1st half/2nd half = 4.33 / 3.28
    2017 1st half/2nd half = 5.85 / 3.41
    2016 1st half/2nd half = 4.15 / 3.10
    2015 1st half/2nd half = 5.00 / 4.01 (1st half in the pen)

    He will come back strong after the IL stint.

    The real question will be if Newk really gets a chance to start or not. I’m not sure if we might be better off with Folty in the pen until he can produce the type of numbers Newk did while he was in the pen. I guess Folty gets to try again tonight and Newk on Saturday. I’d say whoever does worse goes to the pen.

    It’d be interesting to have three lefties in the rotation. Keuchel/Soroka/Fried/Teheran/Newk could be a decent rotation. Folty and Gaus will be available in the 2nd half to ease the innings load. Plus someone will inevitably be traded for high end bullpen help. Seems like Gaus and Ender stand out on that front.

    Good to see Minter back up. Blevins will go when Keuchel is activated. I’d like to see a little more Dayton… maybe swap for Winkler?

    Bullpen = Folty/Touki/Tomlin/Swarzak/Minter/Dayton/Webb/Jackson

    Add a lefty closer like Will Smith and send Touki back to AAA to start and the bullpen will be fabulous. Use that trade to clear a 40-man slot and you could add a Rowen or dePaula when rosters expand. That might be a good time to bring Gausman back up too if he doesn’t show well in his rehab (he could have a “setback”).

  5. Granting that Gausman and Inciarte have traditionally had better second half performances, those results, especially Ender’s, can still not be described as “elite” by any stretch of the imagination.

  6. @9 Ender is an elite defender and average hitter. He is an annual 3 WAR player and he is not a 3 WAR player for his first half performances. To cover for poor hitting in the first half, Ender has had to be elite in the second half.

  7. Folty’s 1st does not portend to end well. He is grooving FB after FB to Bell.

    And there you go, Bell 2-run single….

    Looking at Gameday, he is throwing all of his FBs in hitters’ “hot” zones. Control but not command…..

  8. Despite Roger’s sermon in which he danced on my toes re Gausman, I am tired of Faulty. His stuff is undeniably good, but outside spurts and starts his production ain’t much. I hate watching him pitch.

  9. Both Gasman and Faulty to the pen, while Newk and Keuchel start. Touki to AAA to start, Blevins released; two of Minter/ Dayton / Persons up for relief.

  10. 3 WAR is still not elite. And since defense doesn’t slump like offense does your intimation in suggesting Inciarte has elite performance in the second half is based upon his history of better offensive performance in the second half. And yet, Ender has still only once even put up a 100 OPS+ for a season. Ender has often had elite level defense while usually finishing with below league average offense even after his second half ‘elite’ surge. And this year his defense has slipped too while his offense is utterly atrocious. He’s never been on the whole an elite player. If he is on a team and he is considered an elite player on that team then it’s not a playoff team. Ender has been a good player and teammate from all accounts. But he is not ever going to carry a team which is what elite players do.

  11. Ender has lost a good bit of speed this year. He probably isn’t a 3 win player anymore sadly.

  12. Riley needs a rest and adjustments; at the very least he carried the team while Acuna, Donaldson and Markakis struggled.

  13. Four home run barrage and Foltynewicz walks the weak-hitting pitcher to lead off the next inning.

  14. Why take Touki out?? Aw man, the kid was pitching fabulously. With no one on base, why not let him pitch to Bell?

  15. I said a couple of weeks ago that Riley looked vulnerable to the slider. It appears other teams have started to figure that out.

  16. Remember when Snitker missed a game recently for being sick or something? He didn’t look like he was feeling very well when the camera panned to the dugout just now. Hope he’s okay.

  17. @44–I hate to say it, but Riley’s flailing at sliders the past week or so is Frenchy-esque.

  18. AA is hard at work signing our draft picks. The man holds his cards close. We hear nothing until the deals are done.

  19. @46
    Even when occasionally getting a good pitch to hit, he’s fouling them off.
    He needs a break to get his house in order.

    This rain delay worries me, as in how it might affect Luke Jackson after he warmed up.

    And Shewmake signed for slot? Disappointing.

  20. @49 Indeed.

    I’ll admit I had my doubts about Riley because of his high K rate in the minors. My thought was an increase in level would mean an increase in K’s, and yikes! I’m not strikeout adverse at all. There is a point, though.

    That said, he proved me wrong. I’m not ready to jump on the “bench him” bandwagon. Pitchers just have had some time to adjust to him now. Let’s see if he can respond in kind? If a month from now, he’s not hitting, and he’s looking a lot like Frenchy, then maybe you have that conversation?

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