There are a lot of great beards in baseball these days. It’s a trend that I, someone who once had a glorious beard before paramedicine said it had to go away, fully support. Dallas Keuchel has a 65-grade beard, which would instantly make him the best-bearded player on the post-Arrieta Chicago Cubs.
Position: Starting Pitcher
2018 Stats: 3.74 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 3.72 FIP, 3.87 DRA, 86 DRA-, 3.4 WARP
How He Fits: We’ve discussed the beard already, I mean, if you need more than that, I guess I’ll go into more detail. I just don’t see why you’d need more than the beard.
Keuchel is remarkably consistent. Outside of his American League Cy Young-winning season of 2015, his peripherals have been relatively the same every year. He’s settled into being a solid number-three starter in a rotation. He’s not going to strike out a lot of batters, but Keuchel doesn’t walk many either. With his numbers being around the same year in and year out, Keuchel manages to consistently keep his teams in ballgames.
The only stat of Keuchel’s that has really fluctuated is his WHIP, and even then it’s simply fluctuated between above league average to right around league average. His main issue has been that he is prone to giving up contact. However, that’s a factor in a primary reason why he will be a great addition to any team who is looking for starting pitching depth: his resiliency. Keuchel gets himself out of trouble pretty regularly. The Oklahoma native gets a fair number of ground balls and leaves men on base at a decent clip.
Depending on other moves that the Cubs make, he is the type of pitcher who would fit well with the defense the Cubs usually field. The contact will still occur, but I don’t expect much of a jump in either direction from a change in parks because the defense behind him should still be well above average. On the 2019 Cubs, Keuchel wouldn’t find himself at the three spot either, but as a more comfortable fourth or fifth starter.
Why It Won’t Work: To put it simply, the Cubs do not have room for Keuchel. The only possible way he fits with the team is if they decide to get radical and convert to a six-man rotation, or if they trade another starter. They’re not doing that, however, and that leaves Keuchel without a spot in a rotation that currently has four men I’d definitely place ahead of him and one he’d be even with or possibly a shade behind. There’s just no place on the 2019 Cubs roster for Keuchel.
There are other reasons to avoid Keuchel, namely his health and declining numbers. The aforementioned 2015 season represents the last season he was healthy all year long. He’s suffered a few different injuries—injuries that may be tied to his decreased velocity. Keuchel regularly sits 90-91 mph these days, with the separation between his four-seam/sinker and changeup shrinking every year.
His stats are consistent, but the problem is that in reality, they have stayed consistent because they are slowly trending in the wrong direction. All of his numbers are slightly more bloated than the year before. It’s a testament to his skill as a pitcher that he has been able to keep his numbers as low as he has, but there’s definitely trends that should give any interested team pause.
Alternatives: The Cubs already finished filling out their rotation by picking up the option on Cole Hamels. They have some depth options to fill in for injuries in the form of Duane Underwood and Adbert Alzolay at the Triple-A level. They won’t be going the free agent route for the starting rotation, but on the off chance they went crazy and dipped their toes in that water, Nathan Eovaldi is a much better option than Keuchel at this point in his career. That’s without going too in depth about the money he will want and how, long-term, Keuchel will probably not be the type of “investment” that teams are looking for these days.
Lead photo courtesy USA Today Sports