Astros are living in the land of Never Before

The whole off-season for Houston Astros fans has add an odd, dream-like feel to it.  After the superior 2017 World Championship season, there have been three plus months that have felt like a sea level denizen being thrust into a life in the mountains. The thin air up here has made us all feel wonderful, but a little bit off.

And our team, the best team we have ever cheered and died for has had a full off-season that has culminated in another training camp. And the camp is the spring time home of the Land of Never Before….

Never before have the Astros finished a post season by winning its last game.

Never before have the Astros entered an off-season with such a tiny laundry list of needs.

Never before have the Astros entered a season with the best team in the majors.

Never before have the Astros had the best hitting team in the majors paired with the best rotation in the majors.

Never before could this front office look around at an abundance of still available free agents and say, “Nah, we are good. We have a royal flush in our hand. Don’t need to draw any more cards.”

Never before have the Astros had an MVP like Jose Altuve, who may have to fight off teammates like Carlos Correa and George Springer and Justin Verlander to hold on to that honor.

Never before have the Astros had the opportunity to repeat.

But all is possible in 2018.


Ranking the Astros 1-25 heading into spring training

It is never easy to rank any team from 1 to 25. How do you value every day players vs. starting pitchers vs. relief pitchers? How do you value leadership and dugout presence vs. on the field performance (think Brian McCann)? How do you anticipate how players will react to a different role they may be asked to do during the season ala Brad Peacock moving from the bullpen to the rotation and back? Here is the definitive ranking of the team (until you do your own in the comments section).

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Astros 2018: 10 not-so-burning spring training questions

For the last 56 springs the Astros have headed to various venues in Florida with burning questions about what it would take to be World Champions. OK, a little truth in advertising. For many of those seasons the burning questions were about how to eventually be World Champions and perhaps not be a laughing-stock for the upcoming season. But that is over. While the Astros do have questions to answer, the big question “Can they win a World Championship?” has been answered.

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Astros’ 2018: You choose, which is more likely…

Today’s assignment is to look at some scenarios and choose which one is more likely to happen for certain Astros and the team as a whole during the 2018 season.

1) Are the Astros more likely to….

a) Repeat as World Series champions.

b) Miss the playoffs entirely

No team has repeated as champion since the Yankees won three times 1998 through 2000. On the other hand in the 16 seasons since that feat, nine World Series champs have failed to make the playoffs the following season, including the 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, 2005 White Sox, 2006 Cards, 2010,’12,’14 Giants, 2013 Red Sox, and the 2015 Royals. But then again has a champion ever gone this unscathed into the next season, only losing a few small pieces and strengthening themselves at the same time?

2) Who is more likely to play 150+ games….

a) George Springer

b) Carlos Correa

In 2014, his rookie year Springer went down with 64 games to go. He missed 60 games in 2015, played all 162 in 2016 and missed 22 in 2017. In 2014, Correa played 62 games at Lancaster before breaking his leg. In 2015 he played more than 150 games between the minors and his major league call up. In 2016 he played 153 games, but in 2017 he only played 109 games in and around his thumb injury. Maybe they both make 150 games. maybe neither do.

3) Is Dallas Keuchel more likely to….

a) Be traded during the season

b) Play out the season and leave in free agency.

c) Play out the season and re-sign with the Astros

Dallas will make $13.2 million this season in his last arbitration year. He will turn 31 next New Years Day. He has one of three sports candidates for the Antichrist as his agent in Scott Boras (the other two are Nick Saban and Bill Belichick). He won the Cy Young award in 2015 and had an impressive 14-5 record and 2.90 ERA in 2017. His number of games started the last 3 seasons has slipped from 33 to 26 to 23 games. When it comes to signing him going forward, one is reminded of the Dirty Harry quote – “…you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky’?”

4) Who is more likely to win more games…..

a) Justin Verlander

b) Charlie Morton

c) Gerrit Cole

d) Dallas Keuchel

Verlander won 15 games last season between Detroit and Houston and last won more than 17 games in 2011. Morton’s 14 wins last season is four more than he had won in nine previous seasons. Keuchel had 14 wins last season in only 23 starts and is only two seasons removed from 20 wins in 2015. Cole won 12 games last season and is two seasons removed from 19 win season. Or if you want to vote for Lance McCullers (who has won 19 total career games, never more than 7), Collin McHugh (who won 13 in 2016 and 19 in 2015) or Brad Peacock (who won 13 of his 24 career wins in 2017) – have at it.

5) Who is more likely to hit 25 or more home runs…

a) Yuli Gurriel, who hit 18 in 2017

b) Alex Bregman, who hit 19 in 2017

c) Marwin Gonzalez, who hit 23 in 2017

Marwin hit 10 more HRs in 2017 than he did in 2016 in about 30 less ABs. Bregman hit 11 of his 19 HRs in the second half of the season and then went off for four more in 18 playoff games. Gurriel hit 12 of his homers in the second half of the season and then popped a couple more in the playoffs. Who is improving, who hit over their heads?

Astros’ 2018: Chew on these questions

There is very little going on with the Astros these days as they float towards Spring Training with most holes filled. So, let’s create a little excitement or at least give our fine readers some questions to ponder to fill this dead time.

Who will be the Astros ace?

This is not as easy as just saying “Justin Verlander” and moving onward. It is true that during the last season of the month and through most of the playoffs JV was the Astros ace. But if you look at the most likely pitchers to be in the rotation and their 2017 stats, it is not a slam dunk.

Justin Verlander 15-8 3.36 206 1.175 9.6
Dallas Keuchel 14-5 2.90 145.2 1.119 7.7
Charlie Morton 14-7 3.62 146.2 1.193 10.0
Gerrit Cole 12-12 4.26 203 1.251 8.7
Lance McCullers 7-4 4.25 118.2 1.298 10
Brad Peacock 13-2 3.00 132 1.189 11.0
Collin McHugh 5-2 3.55 63.1 1.295 8.8

We could easily argue that both Dallas Keuchel and Brad Peacock were more effective pitchers in less innings than JV.

It should be noted that Verlander was 10-8 with Detroit a team that was a putrid 64-98, so he easily outpitched his support there.

  • Will JV pick up where he left off, which was a 5-0 record and a 1.06 ERA for the Astros in the regular season?
  • Will Keuchel be affected by a possible mid-season trade hanging over his head? Will he stay healthy?
  • Will Charlie Morton take his clutch pitching in the playoffs – winning game 7 of the ALCS and the WS and turn into the ace?
  • Will Lance McCullers stay healthy and go back to his 2015 and 2016 effectiveness?
  • Will Gerrit Cole get back to the Cy Young competitor he was in 2015?
  • Will Peacock and McHugh step in for whoever falters or gets injured?

Who will be the Astros MVP?

Jose Altuve who led the Astros with a .346 batting average, .410 OBP and .957 OPS was the 2017 MVP for the team as he stayed healthy enough to play in 153 games. His 112 runs scored, 24 HRs and 81 RBIs were very good, but leave an opening for the following:

  • If you factor Carlos Correa up to 153 games from his 109 games played he would have had 115 runs, 34 HRs, and 117 RBIs while still batting well over .300.
  • If you factor George Springer up to 153 games from his 140 played he would have had 122 runs, 37 HRs and 93 RBIs.
  • If you factor Marwin Gonzalez up to 153 games from his 134 played he would have had 77 runs, 26 HRs, and 103 RBIs.
  • If Alex Bregman had performed the whole season as he did in the 71 games after the All Star break, he would have put up 105 runs, 24 HRs, and 96 RBIs.

The best guess here is that Carlos Correa puts a whole season together and takes over the crown of Astro MVP. But there should be a lot of guys grabbing for that crown.

Who will be the biggest addition to the Astros?

  • Will it be Gerrit Cole, who could be anywhere from the 2nd best to 5th best starter?
  • Will it be Joe Smith, who brings his side arm slinging to the bullpen?
  • Will it be Hector Rondon, who has closed for the Cubs previously?
  • Will it be a full season of DH at bats by Evan Gattis?
  • Will it be a full season from a Derek Fisher?
  • Will it be someone not yet signed to help out at DH or LF?

Lots of questions above – what do you think?