In a year highlighted by pitchers like Justin Verlander, Dylan Cease and Alek Manoah, Framber Valdez's consistency was just as impressive. The Houston Astros lefty went from winning the All-Star Game to winning the World Series in a career season.
Valdez set the Major League Baseball record with 25 consecutive quality starts during the regular season. Beginning on April 25, the lefty didn't allow more than three runs in a start until Sept. 24.
Consistency and availability carried the 29-year-old hurler's fifth season to an American League-leading 201.1 innings and a 2.82 ERA. Striking out a career-high 194 batters — seventh in the AL — to 67 walks, Valdez proved he wasn't just a ground-ball pitchers, posting three outings of double-digit punch outs.
Amidst his quality start streak in July, Valdez was on full display in the Summer Classic. Picking up an inning of work from manager Dusty Baker for the American League, he tossed a perfect frame on 11 pitches, putting himself in line for the win.
With the victory under his belt, Valdez became the first Astros pitcher to ever be winning hurler in an All-Star Game. Those winning ways turned over three months later into October for the Fall Classic.
Valdez made one start in the American League Division Series against the Seattle Mariners, yielding two runs on four hits and three walks to his six strikeouts. The lefty then started Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, where his dominance continued.
With 7.0 innings of two-run baseball, Valdez didn't surrender an earned run on the four hits allowed. He carved through nine batters via the strikeout, handing Houston a two-win advantage in the series.
Against the Philadelphia Phillies, the lefty took the mound in Game 2 and Game 6, paving the way to 12.1 innings of work with 18-combined strikeouts. He yielded just two runs to cross on six hits and five walks.
Valdez is arbitration eligible for the first time this winter. With his age-30 season approaching and given his trajectory of success, it may behoove the Astros to look for a contract extension to avoid arbitration in the coming months.
Finishing off his best regular season in his career, Valdez was voted fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting, finishing 20th in AL MVP voting.
Final Grade: A+
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