Astros’ rotation continues to get younger — and more promising

First Bud Norris was traded, Then, Lucas Harrell was banished to the bullpen. Now, the team’s elder statesman (Erik Bedard) will spend the rest of the season pitching in relief. The pitchers who have started half the team’s games (65) in 2013, are no longer part of the rotation.

What does that leave? Exactly what many future-looking fans have been begging for the past few years. The kids.

Now, if the Astros continue as expected with their six-man rotation through the end of the season, David Martinez appears set to become the (ahem) old man in the rotation at 26 at some point this week.

As surprised as Bedard was — and many of us — at Bo Porter‘s decision to move the 34-year-old lefty to the bullpen, it may be a smart move. What has been the main challenge for this team? Which area of the roster has undergone more change this year? Obviously, it’s the bullpen.

Indeed, if Bedard can provide 2-3 innings 2-3 times a week, it could help stop some of the bleeding from a wound that has only become more extensive and bigger in recent weeks. And, if it adds a starter to the rotation who can go deeper into games, it also aids in the cause.

Either way, Jeff Luhnow and Porter are not looking to September. They are setting themselves up for February and spring training, 2014 and beyond.  With the aforementioned six potential starters joined by a handful of possibly major-league ready pitchers from the upper echelon of the system, or even a mid-level free agent signing, the Astros can focus most of their off-season budget — and concerns — on revamping, rebuilding and reconstructing the bullpen.

If even half of this six-man rotation sticks, at least one of the other prospects makes the leap in 2014 (Wojciechowski, Buchanan et al) and the Astros tighten up the bullpen, 2014 could… Well, I’ll let you finish that sentence.

To be certain, you or anyone can laugh or mock a third consecutive 100-loss season, but the Astros are setting up a scary good rotation.

Meanwhile, here are some numbers to start your week.

  • .500: The Astros’ record in their last 12 games.
  • 2: Magic number for elimination from AL West race.
  • 5: Magic number for elimination from wild card race.
  • 6: Lead over Miami in race for #1 pick.
  • 12: Robbie Grossman‘s latest hit streak.
  • 14-19: Record to improve on 2011-2012 (57-105).
  • 20-13: Record to avoid 100-loss season.
  • 25.7: Average age of the Astros’ roster (youngest in baseball).
  • 35-5: Astros, when leading after 8 innings.

42 comments on “Astros’ rotation continues to get younger — and more promising

  1. I have no problem with them sending Bedard to the pen – I know he would rather be a SP – well tough. He’s been pretty consistent for them, but he never goes deep into games – has not made it through 7 IP since June.
    I am more amped to see the youngsters get shots down the stretch.

    In my mind I would say that the Astros have ridden their SPs to their recent 6-6 record. The SPs have been good in their 6 wins (ERA less than 3) but the bats have been picking up here lately – they were averaging 5 runs a game in those 12 and 7 runs in the wins. They have been more fun to watch lately because of the additional offense and the young starters. The bullpen and defense (as you pointed out) have not been so great.

    Grossman has certainly earned a long look heading into 2014 – since coming back up he has a BA of .350 and an OPS or .900.
    Not sure if their leaky bullpen will allow them to hit either the 14-19 or the 20-13 marks you noted above.

    Oh and one more thing – FREE GEORGE SPRINGER!!


  2. Hey, do you remember this time last year when we were speculating on whether Roger Clemens would be in the mix to win a rotation spot during Spring Training?

    I’m in agreement with the posts from the weekend regarding Bedard. If our starters stay healthy we have more bodies than spots in the rotation next year. Let’s see what some of the young guys can do for the duration of this year.

    Dan P – let’s keep Springer out of the rotation. Elmore has shown enough to be considered for the next spot appearance by a position player.

    Did anyone watch the game yesterday? I was following along online in the ninth and was irritated when they pinch ran for Castro. Why, you ask? Well, I understood the logic that you want to get that tying run across by any means necessary, but is Marwin really that much faster than Castro? Also, in the event it got down to Clark’s spot you lose the ability to pinch hit. Looking back, I think Porter probably made the right move.


    • daveb –
      Absolutely do not understand your Springer comment (unless you are tongue in cheek) since Elmore is currently with the team and Springer is not – I would just like to see a September call-up – don’t care who wins a minor league playoff series.

      I was frustrated when they ran for Castro with Marwin – you might as well pinch run with Dominguez or the ghost of Tony Eusebio.


  3. With the SP already here, later this week, it will be interesting to see who gets the call up nod. And Devin_, I use to enjoy your posts, but this last one was out of bounds.


    • O.K. I need to learn that writing is cold. I was joking about Devin_. I meant the article itself – not him. I am never serious about life, and certainly not about the Astros. I love them and baseball, but it is a game. Would have closed the post with a happy face, but could not figure out how to put it there. Sorry for the confusion.


  4. Enjoyed seeing Castro gun down a runner and then leads off the next inning with an opposite field HR. He set the club record for catchers with that blast.
    I did not like the ump calling Barnes out at the plate when he was obviously safe. I know umps will blow close calls – just don’t see how they miss some of these obvious calls.


  5. Becky – I know you got the joke – but I added the smiley face for Astro45 (see his reply above).
    The ball was really flying last night. When Castro hit his – I thought it was a line drive single to left center – kept flying. Wallace almost had two, Carter had two, Dominguez’s swat was majestic – it was fun to watch – at least on the offensive end. I think earlier in the year if they gave away this much of a lead (5 run lead) they would have collapsed. Instead they came back and won it – which made me feel good.


  6. Dan P—-I like the lineup Porter has been sticking with the last few days, don’t you?
    Moving Matty D to the 5th. spot has been paying off! Villar getting picked off 1st. is
    NOT a good way to start the inning. That kid had better start working on his throwing
    skills, because he’s a liability at short, if he keeps pulling the 1st. baseman off the bad….like he ALMOST did to Wallace twice last night. Where is Adam Everett??


  7. Becky – as far as Villar goes”
    Speed – you can’t teach it – and he has it in spades
    The way he handles the bat – one of the best bunters I’ve seen since Craig Reynolds was here.
    Walks – Better than 10% which is a decent rate. Has a better On-base pct than all starters but Castro and Hoes
    Age – Only 22

    Fielding – scattergun on the arm – Wallace saved him an error yesterday with an unbelievable stretch play.
    Base running – not always making the best judgments and getting caught stealing too often (which is a problem for the whole team).
    Baseball Savvy – but he is only 22

    He is not the answer at SS – but he could end up at 2B or more likely as a utility middle infielder/pinch hitter / pinch runner.

    I think I like him more than you do.


    • Dan, unlike Becky & I, you can see him on a daily basis and observe things that we can only hear.
      I saw him play in person twice and I love watching him run. His defense is horrible though. I would love to see improvement over the winter because I believe he’s the best we have for next year.
      Good run for these kids lately, especiaaly last night’s come from behind win.


      • Sandy……NOPE I don’t get to see them. I can only hear them until 8:30, then
        790 am goes off. I go to the computer and “watch” the rest of the game. I’d take Marwin hands down, compared to Villar…..AND Marwin Gonzalez is only *23*!!


      • Becky- Marwin is actually 24, and his offensive numbers in the minors are about the same as Villar’s minus the speed and occasional power. He’s also not that great of a fielder either. Hopefully a position change will help JV, as his defensive numbers in the minors are horri-bad.


  8. No doubt that Marwin provides a more serviceable and reliable defensive game at this point, but when you compare his offensive numbers to Villar, it’s hard to justify putting Marwin anywhere on an MLB field. And as Dan notes, Villar can really get a bunt down and once a bit settled, will not run the club out of an inning on the bases as frequently. He might end up hitting .280 with a .350 plus OBP next year. We’ll live with his defensive for now.


    OBP .343/.244
    BA .264/.225
    OPS .695/.573

    With those numbers, I wouldn’t even have Gonzalez in my dugout. I think Tommy Manzella could out produce those stats.


    • I think the hope is that Villar turns into a player like Ian Desmond. Basically, you allow for the high error count because the tools (speed/quickness, range, arm) also yield dividends on the defensive side, but the occasional pop and consistent speed are big positives on offense. Also, if the errors are mostly from throwing, that is something that can be reined in.


    • It is a shame – he was arguably their best pitcher last year and he has completely lost it this year. I would not be surprised if he is out the door.


  9. After last season, I wouldn’t release Harrell. But i’d sure find a pitching guru for him to work with this offseason. He’s working entirely too fast — his release point is way off (often), his confidence is shot. His pitches still have plenty of movement and sink but he needs to get on the 2012 videotape and work like crazy to regain what once made most of us believe he was the ace of the staff. Now, about Altuve: Omg, first of all you can tell the guy is dead tired. Absolutely no winter ball this year! Secondly, get him back to the videotape too. He’s no striding into the ball as he does when going well….he’s bailing and reaching and poking. Time to work with him. I just don’t think the coaching at the ML level on this team is very good. People seem to go to Okla City and come back with a new, better approach. Then it slowly drifts away with the Astros.


  10. I will be shocked if Harrell is still on this team when they get back to Houston. He’s hurting this team, and he’s doing no one any favors by keeping him on this pitching staff. I keep thinking what happened to this guy??? Bo Porter’s body language tells you a LOT after this game…………..Harrell not so much.


  11. Only a guess – but if they wait until Monday – the roster expands and they don’t have to release Harrell. Maybe they wait and see if he comes back any better in the spring and see if they can trade him for something / anything.


    • Dan, that’s probably the most intelligent thing to do. I just wonder if he’s a sulking, unhappy guy in a very young clubhouse. Wrong message if so. And with the youth movement in high gear, is there room for a reclamation project?


    • daveb – Well if things got bad they could shut him down with bad hangnails or blisters on his fingers. They could let him pitch in spring training in split squad games or whatever and if he showed anything try to trade him then. I just hate to cut a resource even one that is performing badly – he is just a season removed from being a decent starting pitcher.


  12. Anyone else notice that DeShields is moving back to the outfield next year?

    At the same time, beyond the month of April, Altuve has not produced enough offense to hold on to his job long term.


    • I only got to watch the Ranger series, but he appears to be “pressing.” No sure why. He has the unique ability to foul off a pitch that is 13″ outside, but one has to wonder why he is even swinging at it. He can play or at least could play. Hard to believe the excitement of Altuve, JMart, and Parades coming up. We are down to Altuve and sure hope he gets it straightened out.


  13. I think the new 6 man rotation has hurt this pitching staff. The guys go too many days without an outing, and it shows.
    daveb…..I saw that about DeShields. We saw how the move to the outfield worked for Carter and Paredes…..I don’t tnink it’s a good move, especially since Altuve has
    been struggling at the plate. DeShields is a base stealing STUD!


    • I agree with you on both points.
      Makes me wonder who’s behind these bonehead moves. I want to believe in this new management but they don’t always make it easy.


  14. I’ve not picked on Bo Porter to date. But as Jose Altuve continues to slide, you wonder if there is any coaching being done with this squad. Granted, there is only so much teaching that can be done, but in the case of Altuve, a 23 year old kid, he should not be hitting third. That will never be his role. Anywhere. His walk strike out ratio was an acceptable 9/16 in April, 4/21 in August. No wonder he hit .200 with a .226 OBP this past month. He continues to regress. It’s all about a lack of selectivity. Porter keeps talking about coaching moments. But he’s missed badly with perhaps his most valuable single resource.


  15. I actually stood up and gave Mr. Oberholzer a standing ovation like the rest of the folks at Minute Maid today! WHAT a performance. I’ve only gotten to see him on
    the TV, but I was impressed by his calm demeanor. He doesn’t blow anyone away
    with a blazing fast ball…….but this kid has quietly put together a nice winning
    run this year. I wonder if he’s impressed Luhnow enough to believed in him next year. Pretty daaaaaang good!


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