Looking back at positives, bright spots and glimmers of hope

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Since the Astros have played 94 games, it’s hardly the halfway point of the season. And, when they return to play on Friday, it’s not exactly accurate to call it the start of the “second half”.

Whether it’s the first half, the second half or just the rest of the season, there’s a lot of water under the bridge as the Astros reflect on a 33-61 start to 2013. And, while the dam hasn’t burst with personalities, .220 batting averages and the reconstruction plan, there are a few places that have sprung leaks. Most people can point to dozens of negatives since games started on, ahem, that April Fool’s Day eve. But through all the darkness, there are some bright spots, some glimmers of hope.

Here are a few after the first 94 games.

  • The draft was solid. The first three picks were successful college pitchers and several members of this draft class will crack the Astros Top 20 prospect list soon.
  • Jarred Cosart. George Springer. Asher Wojciechowski. ‘Nuf said.
  • The coming of age of Jordan Lyles. He’s still only 22, you know.
  • The success of Jose Veras. Ain’t no one among us who predicted he would be 18-for-21 in saves.
  • Jeff Luhnow and Bo Porter giving players a chance to prove themselves: Brett Wallace, Jimmy Paredes, Brandon Barnes, J.D. Martinez, Chris Carter, Matt Dominguez and others are getting long looks and plenty of opportunity to show their stuff.
  • The George Postolos/Reid Ryan changing of the guard began the mending of fences with fans.
  • The Jose Altuve signing provided some stability and silenced naysayers — at least temporarily — who believe that Jim Crane isn’t financially committed to the long-term viability of the organization.

Remember any bright spots? Which was the brightest in the first 94 games?

Yes, there were some dark days and you don’t need me to cite those for you. But which one was the darkest, most glaring disappointment?

And, a few observations:

  • Biggest surprise of the “first half”: Jose Veras.
  • Biggest disappointment: Lucas Harrell. Really thought he was the epitome of consistency after 2012 and that he would be among the least of concerns for Porter.
  • Highlight of “second half”: Cosart, Springer, Singleton will catch the attention of fans.
  • Second half MVP: Your guess is as a good — or better — than mine.
  • Best September callup: The Astros seal the Comcast deal.
  • Next player Astros lock up: Castro (believe it or not, he reaches arbitration this winter).

23 comments on “Looking back at positives, bright spots and glimmers of hope

  1. I thought the litmus test for the future and money would be signing Castro. He has the same agent (I think) as Altuve. So lets hope it gets done by this winter. Surprise/Disappointment: I thought Astros would be 10-20 games improved over 2012. They may make it yet, but not so far. If Luhnow can move some “non future” guys – I am excited about seeing what new kids can do. Finally, the Comcast deal ranks in there with William Hung (American Idol) – still don’t understand it.


  2. The brightest spot was definitely the Cosart start. It helped me remember what good baseball is.

    The darkest, a toss up between Dierker being let go and discontinuing the wives gala. It felt like Crane was doing everything possible to alienate Houston fans.

    I’m looking forward to September call ups. This team has become stagnant.
    I just hope Porter doesn’t mess with their heads. ( Yes, I’m back to Porter bashing)

    What I would most like to happen, a TV deal.


  3. Multitude of thoughts:
    – Anyone looking for the answers to the All Star trivia questions – go back to that column – Chip has posted them inside the posting.
    – I liked some of the “redemption” stories so far this year:
    – Lyles – there were people giving up on him (giving up on a 22 year old) based on his inconsistent to poor performance – folks you have to let kids grow up.
    – Wallace – I know the jury is not totally in on him – but after his 1 for 24 with 17 Ks followed by a demotion start to the season – he could have crashed and burned. He went down to AAA, hit very well and has looked like a different guy since he was brought back up. Even if he never makes it big here – he has certainly shown good things this time around to raise his trade value if nothing else.
    – Bud Norris – after a poor 2012 – he has been overall (with a few exceptions) very strong this year. (Note – he still has an inexplicable split between home and away – has to be in his head).
    – Veras – Early on he looked like a potential disaster, but he has settled in and done a solid job.
    – Cosart – One of the best debuts in Astros history.

    – Not happy that more players have not stepped up
    – Not happy that Chris Carter is so one dimensional – though he is starting to hit the ball the other way lately.
    – Not happy that so many of these guys (Dominguez, JDM, Pena, Carter) are so slow on the basepaths. If Dominguez hits a ground ball with someone on base it is a DP unless they throw it away.
    – Not happy with Porter’s lineup choices many times (though then I take deep breaths and say – who can you put in the top spot when no one has a good OBP).
    – Not happy when Porter pulls the plug a little soon on guys. The bullpen in general, is not as good as the rotation – give ’em a chance to get out of an inning.

    I have a feeling that the CSN situation will not be resolved until games the fans want to see (e.g. Houston Rocket games) are being missed. The carriers have no reason to bend right now – but I think they will by November, December.


    • Yes, Dan, I’m tired of a roster with limited skills…..we’ve got a batch of one or one and a half tool guys. Dominguez plays D and will give you an RBI, but does noting else well. Carter hits the long ball but does nothing else well. Martinez really does nothing well. Pena plays D but does nothing else well at this point. Same with all of our shortstops. They do nothing well. Wallace, God bless him but he still can’t hit lefties, 1 for 19 in that category, and will never run or play defense well. And please, no long term deal for Castro, unless the club thinks they can win with a starting catcher who can’t catch and who has a lifetime .438 OPS against those darn lefthanders.

      Let me move on to a potential five tool guy in Springer. Get him up here! And Cosart and Wojoski and maybe even Martinez from Corpus. What else are you going to do with an almost 27 year old with a 10 and 2 record, a 2.03 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP and just 19 walks in 97 plus innings? What have we got to lose? Give the guy a shot before he’s too old to climb the hill!


    • Dan, actually Norris remains my biggest single disappointment. Would the Yankees take a chance on a guy with a 2.27 home ERA, who also owns a 5.91 road ERA? No, because they need a guy that can go into Fenway and throw a big game in the clutch. I don’t think he’s got the level of toughness it takes to win anywhere.


      • I am torn on this one – he looked good on the road in June – 6 innings, 0 runs, 7 innings 3 runs, 6 innings 2 earned runs and then he had that stinker in St. Louis to start off July on the road.
        At times he is just nails – but I agree he has too many major hiccoughs for a “veteran”.


  4. – The brightest spot was Rick Ankiel taking Derek Lowe deep.
    – The biggest surprise was losing both White and Ely to TJ so early in the season. I don’t think we fully appreciate how much that changed Luhnow/Porter’s plans for the year.
    – Biggest disappointment – How about 0-9 against Oakland. If the A’s make the playoffs they need to give the Astros a playoff share.
    – Highlight – Cosart watch
    – MVP – Miguel Cabrera. Oh, of the Astros? Brett Wallace – he’s playing for his career at this point


  5. I’ve been in the middle of a MAJOR house remodel, and haven’t had the energy
    to comment. But the biggest surprise for me is Veras. I remember when he was with the Brewers, and he got tagged a LOT. When Luhnow gave him the closer role, I thought it was nuts! Castro has been a nice surprise too, but………he’s GOT to get
    better blocking balls. In that area, he rates pretty poor. Since I rarely get to SEE this
    team, Cosart will be my best July call up, HOWEVER……I’d like to see Springer, and a few others called up RIGHT NOW. Ronnie Cedeno……….WHO in the heck thought this guy could hit, or defend??? Package Norris, Wallace, Wright, and get
    a nice return. I’d ask for the BEST catching prospect that team has, and a sure
    footed *solid* short stop I watched the HR derby last night, and thought…..I will
    *NEVER* cheer for the American League….spit, spit, spit. Becky


  6. daveb –
    One positive about Castro – so far in 2013 his OPS against lefties is .685 (for comparison – Altive’s overall OPS is .655) – so he is doing a better job. His defense? I have no defense for his defense.


    • Yep, I hope it’s a trend. A .204 average but out of his 11 hits off lefties, 3 doubles, 3 homers. I just can’t see beyond his work behind the plate though.


    • One more thing Dan. Not to pile on, but Altuve plays everyday, against the best righties and lefties in the game. Castro sits against most lefties so that Corporan can get his starts..


  7. For what it’s worth daveb – all catchers sit out some (why not sit him out against leftys?).
    Kind of funny – though Joe Mauer has played in more games than Jason this season – Castro has caught a lot more games 67-59..


    • Mauer’s stats this year are superior when he does not catch. It will be interesting to see what the final result will be there. My opinion is they are paying too much to stick him at 1B or DH the majority of the time. The Astros need to keep that in mind before giving Castro a big extension or raise (not that Castro and Mauer would be comparable in terms of salary).


  8. Bright spots? Well, Cosart’s call up (and hopeful return) was great. What Springer is doing is great. What Correa is doing is great (though A-ball is a LONG way from Houston).

    You mention Veras, but he’s been a dark spot for me. He can’t seem to earn a save without raising my blood pressure. Castro’s defense is bad. It’s not just the passed balls, it’s the effect his bad defense has on the pitching staff.

    But honestly, this team is going to end the season with the worst record in baseball. And maybe that’s a bright spot. We could use another good draft.


  9. Hard to find bright spots beyond the flash of Cosart and the improvement of Lyles. I think the Lowrie trade has had more impact than folks might perceive. Our shortstops have been abysmal on both sides of the ball. One of the biggest disappointments this year has been the lack of any significant contribution from any veteran position player. Lowrie played solid defense and was also a solid offensive contributor. Everyone raps him for poor durability but the injury he suffered last season would have disabled Cal Ripken or Lou Gehrig. He never broke down like Maxwell and Schaeffer simply by running on the field. When Lowrie and Castro went on the DL the 5 win July/August tailspin resulted. If Norris gets traded I hope we get a decent shortstop or a multitool outfielder in return. Perhaps the Ryans could work out a Norris for Jurickson Profar deal but I doubt the Rangers are that desperate.


  10. I’ve seen fewer than nine innings of Astro baseball this year. So, the bright spot in the first half is that I’ve lost three inches on my waist. I spend the time working out that I’d normally spend watching Astro hitters slog back to the dugout.

    I do however follow the minor league teams more closely. George Springer’s rise through the minors is ahead of schedule and, in addition to Cossart, Wojo, and Folty are a lot closer (and better) than we thought this time last year. It won’t be long before we have a good, young, home grown staff.

    I am disappointed that Grossman didn’t make a better impression when he came up. I thought he’d be a god bridge to some of the OFs in the lower minors. Perhaps he will yet.


  11. Castro presents a unique question. He is Arb 1 this winter. I think last year most Arb 1 catchers received $2-5 M. To buy out his Arb years will cost a lot more than Altuve. So he becomes much more expensive in 2014. So if Astros do a similar contract, they have to feel good about Castro for at least 3 more years.


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