World Series Champion Dallas Keuchel: How to Play Great Defense

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by: David Driver

Dallas Keuchel was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and got a lot of instruction in baseball from his father, who stressed that his son work on his fastball at a young age.

“I threw the fastball and changeup coming up. I didn’t throw a breaking ball until high school,” said Keuchel, standing in the Houston clubhouse during spring training in 2017.

“My dad stressed that a fastball and changeup were good enough,” the left-hander told Junior Baseball. “That lets you grow and develop.”

Keuchel was drafted in the seventh round in 2009 by Houston and he made his Major League debut in 2012 with the Astros.

In 2015 he had a fabulous year as he was 20-8 with an ERA of 2.48 in 33 starts, with three shutouts, as he was selected to the All-Star game and won the Cy Young Award in the American League.

But the 6-foot-3 pitcher was not so effective in 2016, as he was the previous season.

Keuchel also missed the last several weeks of the season as he was shut down with a tender shoulder.

“It took forever to warm up last year. It took forever to get going,” he said early in 2017. “It shows how much a year can make it. I didn’t want to sit out September (of 2016) but another month of off-season really helped me out. You are never too big to say something is wrong” physically.

“Dallas looked sharp, felt good," Houston manager A.J. Hinch told reporters in 2017. "There's not much more we could ask from him at this stage of spring training. It's a positive sign that he's talking about pitch execution and not about how he feels or what he's trying to overcome. He's officially transitioning into getting ready for the season."
He was 3-8 with an ERA of 5.27 in 17 starts in his first season in the majors in 2012.

The lefty showed a little improvement the next year as he was 6-10 with an ERA of 5.15 in 31 games, with 22 starts.
The next year, 2014, he was 12-9 with an ERA of 2.93 in 29 starts and he led the league with five complete games. Keuchel had a league-high two shutouts with making 33 starts with Houston in 2015.

He said spring training is a time to work on several things.

“That is the thing in spring training: strike throwers have trouble getting their pitch count up there. It is up and down and the amount time in between” innings, he said.

He gave the following tips to Junior Baseball readers on using your defense and having command of your fastball.

DK’s 5 Top Tips

1. A young pitcher should not feel like they need to strike out every batter. They should let the defense behind them help get out as well. “Our defense is really good. We are going to play some pretty quality defense. I trust those guys back there. They have my back. Sometimes I make the game easier for them and get quick outs so they can come in and hit the ball,” he said.
2. As a young pitcher groundball outs can be your friend – and also save wear and tear on the arm. “Any time I get behind in the count and induce groundballs that is good,” he said.
3. Working on the ability to control your fastball is very important. “Just be consistent on fastball command. That never really stops in spring training. The more fastballs I can throw the better, the better the results usually are. That is normally a good sign,” he said.
4. The fastball is the key to success for pitchers of any age. “It is still important now and I am 29 years old,” he said. “The guys that have consistent success year in and year out have fastball command. It is the best pitching baseball. No matter what people say, it is.”
5. A pitcher can get in trouble if you always have to rely on off-speed pitches. “If you are constantly getting 2-1 counts they are going to hit you hard. Hitters can sit on an off-speed pitch if you can’t command your fastball. They will hit your hard,” he said.

DK Fun Facts

  • He was born Jan. 1, 1988 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
  • He played quarterback and was a pitcher at Bishop Kelley High in Oklahoma and graduated in 2006 after he was a two-time pitcher of the year.
  • Keuchel attended the University of Arkansas was drafted in the seventh round in 2009 by the Astros.
  • The lefty pitched the Razorbacks to the College World Series in 2009, and was college teammates with future big leaguer Drew Smyly.
  • He made his MLB debut on June 17, 2012 for the Astros.
  • Keuchel won the Gold Glove Award from 2014-16, was the American League Cy Young Award winner in 2015 and started the All-Star game for the American League in 2015.
  • He was also added to the Houston 40-man roster on June 17, 2012.
  • The southpaw helped guide the Astros to the franchise's first World Series title in 2017.