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2022 Diamondbacks Reviews, #59: Dallas Keuchel

And the last shall be first...

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Vote breakdown


  • Rating: 1.35
  • 2022 stats: 4 GS, 0-2, 9.64 ERA, 18.2 IP, 27 H, 22 R, 20 ER, 4 HR, 7 BB, 18 SO
  • Date of birth: January 1, 1988 (34 years old)
  • 2022 salary: Major-league minimum
  • 2023 status: Free agent, and won’t be here, that’s for sure.

2022 in review

It’s worth starting by comparing Dallas Keuchel’s 1.35 rating with the scores for the other players to come bottom of our rankings, which we’ve been doing for the past six seasons. Here are the last-placed finishers for each season - a SnakePit Hall of Shame, if you will.

  • 2017: Yasmany Tomas, 2.73
  • 2018: Shelby Miller, 2.01
  • 2019: Zack Godley, 2.58*
  • 2020: Jake Lamb, 1.80*
  • 2021: Anthony Swarzak, 1.67
  • 2022: Dallas Keuchel, 1.35

The asterisks are because I inexplicably forgot to list Tomas in 2019, and he was ineligible for the 2020 poll, when he didn’t appear at the major-league level. But earning $15.5 million and $17 million in those seasons respectively, means he would probably have had a shot at setting a bar even Keuchel couldn’t fail to reach. As is, Keuchel is not just the worst player of the season, he’s the worst of the past six years. Indeed, there’s a case to be made he is the worst pitcher in franchise history, with an ERA+ of just 42. That’s the lowest figure of anyone with 75+ batters faced in their D-backs’ career. The only other below fifty is Luis Frias, who has faced 106 batters with an ERA+ of 45.

It’s all the most startling, when you consider Keuchel has a Cy Young on his mantelpiece, was a top five finisher there as recently as 2020, won a World Series ring in 2017 (starting two games in the Fall Classic), and has been paid almost $100 million for his skills on the mound. That included $18 million from the Chicago White Sox for this season, where he started in the rotation. In his second start, Dallas was charged with ten runs in one inning of work, the first AL starter since 2016 to do that. He was gone by the end of May, DFA’d from the White Sox after a 7.88 ERA over eight starts. “It had gotten to the point where we had a greater level of confidence in the alternatives going forward,” said GM Rick Hahn.

Speculation was rife as to who might take a chance at getting Keuchel back on track, with the Cubs and Mets among the other landing places discussed. However, in the end it was the D-backs who prevailed, signing the pitcher to a minor-league contract on June 6, with opt-out dates for Dallas, if he hadn’t been added to the major-league roster. There was one main reason why this potentially made sense: it reunited Keuchel with pitching coach Brent Strom, who had been with him on the Astros in his Cy Young winning days. Dallas made two starts in the Arizona Complex League, and after the second, where he struck out 13 over seven innings, he was added to the D-backs rotation, making his debut on June 26.

On the plus side, he struck out seven over 4.1 innings. However, the six hits and three walks allowed, led to four earned runs. That was still better than his sophomore start, where Keuchel was charged with seven runs, six earned, over five innings on six hits and three walks, with three strikeouts. But that was in Clown Field, so perhaps he gets a pass? He then faced the Rockies again, at Chase, and actually delivered a quality start: three earned runs over seven innings, and didn’t walk anybody. Maybe Keuchel had turned the corn... Ah, never mind. For his fourth and final start was a disaster. More home-runs allowed (3) than innings pitched (2.1), giving up eight runs, all but one earned, on eight hits and a walk.

The Diamondbacks had seen enough, and concluded that whatever Keuchel’s problems might be, they couldn't be fixed by Strom. Like Chicago, they concluded there were better alternatives, and Dallas was DFA'd on my 20th anniversary, July 20th. Thanks for the gift, Mike Hazen. Keuchel’s 2022 wasn't quite over yet, as he made two starts for Texas before Sep 4, when they became the third team to cut bait with him, in little more than three months. His final ERA for the year was 9.20 across 14 starts, and his overall value of -2.6 bWAR was the worst of any player, position or pitcher, in the major leagues this year, just edging out another former Diamondback, Patrick Corbin (-2.5).

Yet, the odd thing is, by some measures Keuchel was unlucky. His FIP (Fielding Independent ERA) with Arizona was more than four and a half runs better, at 5.10. That's not much worse than the figures of fellow starters Madison Bumgarner (4.85) and Zach Davies (4.83). His strikeout rate was almost a batter per inning (18 in 18.2 IP), and he was hurt by a batting average on balls in play of .383, a hundred points worse than the team average. However, his stats for the year ranked near the bottom in just about every category, as shown below. Being in the bottom quartile for both too many barrels and not enough whiffs, is a poor combination for success. See the video clips above for samples of the results in Arizona.

2023 outlook

This will be brief (and, incidentally, do not expect over a thousand words for every entry in this series either!). For it seems likely that Keuchel’s career, which had some impressive peaks, is probably over. You can understand the appeal of getting a Cy Young level pitcher like Keuchel on the cheap. But both the D-backs and the Rangers decided it wasn’t even worth paying league minimum, while the White Sox decided they were better off giving Keuchel about $12 million not to pitch for them. Teams don’t make this sort of decision lightly. It’s possible someone may decide to take a flier on Keuchel for spring on a minor-league deal.

Just as long as it’s not the D-backs. The old saying about “Fool me once...” comes to mind in regard to signing Keuchel.