Who should be the Astros No. 3 starter in the playoffs?

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 02: Lance McCullers Jr. #43 of the Houston Astros pitches against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 02, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Who should be the Astros No. 3 starter in the playoffs?

Scrolling through Twitter, I noticed an Astros take that caught my eye. My good friend John Granato tweeted out: “Urquidy as the third starter is not even arguable.”

My first thought was a call back to Star Wars. “Only a Sith speaks in absolutes.” Of course, that comment itself is an absolute, which means the Jedi were just as bad as the Sith. But I digress.

Two absolutes: Justin Verlander is No. 1 and Framber Valdez is No. 2. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. It’s not quite the 2019 1-2 punch of Verlander/Cole, but it matches up with anyone in the American League. (The Mets in the NL with Scherzer/DeGrom might disagree.

The case for Urquidy

Jose Urquidy has quietly put together a terrific season. He is 13-5 with a 3.51 ERA. He has 117 strikeouts to just 32 walks and a whip of 1.12. He was great against the Angels on Sunday, pitching seven innings, allowing just four hits and a walk and striking out eight. Per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, Urquidy entered Sunday’s game with a 7-2 record and 2.67 ERA in his last 12 starts. He clearly continued that trend. Those are No. 2 or 3 numbers on almost any team. But not arguable? Let’s take a look at the other options.

The case for Javier

Is there another starter in baseball on a great team that gets less attention than Cristian Javier? He has been used out of the bullpen as well. Despite the relief appearances, he leads the team in strikeouts (157), Ks per 9 innings at 11.7, and is second in whip only to Verlander (1.02). He is only 8-9, but his run support has been less than stellar. HIs 3.07 ERA is No. 2 starter stuff. (And before you say Verlander is hurt and that’s why Javier has more strikeouts – Javier has pitched 29 2/3rd fewer innings. He is third in WAR among starters behind only Verlander and Valdez. You can make a really good case for him. However…

The case for McCullers

It is so easy to forget just what a Jedi Master Lance McCullers is on the hill when he is healthy. In a small sample size this season, he is 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA, 8.3 Ks per nine innings and a 1.52 WHIP, which is a little high. But he is still recovering, and still has ace stuff. His career ERA is 3.52 with a 1.26 WHIP. And we all know how clutch he has been in the playoffs. If healthy, he is a dynamic third starter when we get to the playoffs.

And isn’t what this is about? Who gets the ball in Game 3 of a playoff series?

It’s a great problem to have, that the Astros have five legitimate starters they can trot out in a playoff series.

The only absolute here? The Astros starting staff is terrific, and they have three great options come playoff time.

And that’s a good thing. Absolutely.

Who is your guy? Comment below

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