After the first 45 games of the 2016 season, the Houston Astros were in last place in the American League West with a 17-28 record. The Astros’ play eventually picked up and they finished the year with a winning record (84-78) — only good enough for a third place finish in the AL West, forcing them to miss the postseason for the 10th time in 11 years. Astros’ Cy Young caliber pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, was unable to bounce back from his disastrous start. The start of the 2017 season has been a completely different story for both the Astros and Keuchel.

In Keuchel’s first nine starts this season, he is 7-0 with a 1.84 earned run average, a 0.86 walks plus hits per inning pitched and 54 strikeouts through 63 2/3 innings pitched. Through the first nine starts of last season, Keuchel’s stat-line was completely opposite at 2-5 with a 5.43 ERA, a 1.58 WHIP and 47 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings.

The Astros currently have the best record in all of baseball (29-12) and Keuchel’s return to Cy Young form has a lot to do with the teams’ success. From last season to this season, he has lowered his walks per nine innings pitched rate from 2.57 to 1.98 and lowered his home run rate from 1.07 to 0.85. Even opponents batting average on balls in play from last season to this year against Keuchel has had a significant drop from .304 to .215.

Houston’s offensive production is believed to be the strength of team, but the pitching staff has been comparable thus far. While Houston ranks in the top-10 in runs scored, home runs and batting average, their pitching staff ranks second in team ERA and first in batting average against.

When Keuchel won the AL Cy Young award back in 2015, the Astros finished second in the AL West with 86 wins. He won 20 games with an ERA just under 2.50, mainly due to the run production the offense provided. Currently, Houston is on pace to win over 100 games this season. Even if Keuchel’s sub-2.00 ERA rises, another 20-win season and Cy Young Award are both absolutely possible.

Harrison Howard covers the San Francisco Giants and Fantasy Baseball as a Staff Writer for OPSN. Follow him on Twitter @harryhoward54.