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Dallas Keuchel is a top 5 starting pitcher

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The Astros are in the wild card hunt and one of the reasons is due to the ace pitching from Dallas Keuchel.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I have been on the Dallas Keuchel bandwagon since the middle of the 2014 season, and have called him a fantasy ace in a few of the Roto Roundups this season. Back in the June 5th Roundup, I wrote about Keuchel, stating that he was a top 12 starting pitcher. In that article, I argued that Rotographs' Mike Podhorzer had ranked Keuchel too low in his American League starting pitcher rankings, specifically ranking him below Indian's starter Carlos Carrasco. Don't get me wrong, I like Carrasco, as he is a big strikeout pitcher, and has finally reached his potential, but I think we saw the very best from him last season.

In a follow up conversation on Twitter, FanGraph's Chad Young and I went back and forth between who is the better starter, Keuchel or Carrasco. He likes Carrasco due to the strikeout totals, and I argued that the difference isn't that large as Keuchel pitches more innings than Carrasco, so his 7 strikeouts per nine doesn't look so bad when he is pitching 40 more innings than Carrasco.

But since that conversation on Twitter, Keuchel has become a monster on the mound. Not only is he still inducing ground balls at an elite rate, but he is striking out more batters now. Here is a look at his monthly strikeouts per nine and strikeout rate, courtesy of FanGraphs:

Month

IP

ERA

TBF

H

ER

BB

SO

K%

K/9

Mar/Apr

37

0.73

135

16

3

11

22

16.30

5.35

May

44.2

2.62

176

37

13

10

38

21.59

7.74

Jun

42.2

2.53

169

35

12

10

42

24.85

8.96

Jul

20

2.70

78

18

6

3

25

32.05

11.25

As you can see Keuchel is becoming a dominant starting pitcher, not only in the American League, but in all of baseball. After yesterday's dominating performance vs the Rangers, a start where he tossed 7 shutout innings, giving up just two hits, no walks and striking out 13 batters, he is now 12-4 with a 2.12 ERA, 2.64 FIP, 2.57 xFIP, a 0.97 WHIP and a 127-34 strikeout to walk rate in 144.1 innings.He has given up two runs or fewer, and pitched seven innings or more, in 13 of his 20 starts this season.

He currently ranks first in the American League in wins, innings pitched, ERA, WHIP,  and ranks FIFTH in strikeouts. In fact, he is on pace to strike out 219 batters this season. His 2.12 ERA ranks fourth in MLB behind only Zack Greinke, Max Scherzer and A.J. Burnett, and his 3.9 fWAR ranks fifth among all qualified pitchers behind only Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber.  His 127 strikeouts rank ninth in baseball and is only one strikeout behind Carrasco. The list of pitchers who have fewer strikeouts than Keuchel include a bunch of aces:

Cole Hamels, Phillies

Madison Bumgarner, Giants

Felix Hernandez, Mariners

Zack Greinke, Dodgers

Johnny Cueto, Reds

Gerrit Cole, Pirates

Yeah, he has put himself in the conversation for the American League Cy Young award this season, and I see Keuchel and White Sox ace Chris Sale as the favorites to win the award.

In fact, I think he is in my top 5 starting pitchers for the rest of the season and for 2016. That might be bold, but his performance is legit, and he is actually improving upon his 2014 breakout. Here is how I would rank my top 5 starting pitchers right now:

1. Zack Greinke, Dodgers

2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

3. Max Scherzer, Nationals

4. Chris Sale, White Sox

5. Dallas Keuchel, Astros

The following starters would be in my top 12 in some combination:

Sonny Gray, Athletics

Gerrit Cole, Pirates

Jose Fernandez, Marlins

Jacob deGrom, Mets

David Price, Tigers

Corey Kluber, Indians

Cole Hamels, Phil-lies

Madison Bumgarner, Giants

Felix Hernandez, Mariners

By the end of the season, Fernandez and deGrom could enter the conversation for top 5 starters in baseball, but they are comfortably in the mix for top 10.

Thoughts? Let's discuss in the comments section below.