MMQB: The reality and where we are today

So, you’re frustrated, out of patience, probably depressed and virtually hopeless as it concerns the Astros. Yes, I know. You may recall that Dan and Brian talked me off the ledge last week and I all but called for the firing of Bo Porter if the team isn’t improved by July.

But before you throw in the final towel, let’s take a step back and look a little closer.

The reality.

  • Jim Crane isn’t moving the club and he isn’t going to sell.
  • Unless Jeff Luhnow commits a felony, he’ll be the general manager next spring and probably into 2016 and 2017.
  • Bo Porter will remain the Astros’ manager the rest of 2014. And probably 2015.
  • The organization — including the MLB team — is in better shape than it was in 2012 and 2013. It’s baby steps in the crawl, walk, run theology, to be sure, and it’s time for the baby to start walking a little, but that’s just the facts.
  • Whether you’ll admit it or not, there are bright spots. Perhaps not as many as you’d like, but they are there nonetheless.
  • It’s a slow grind, sort of like watching grass grow (see below). No overnight sensation, no worst-to-first story, no big splash. Unfortunately, the reality is that it’s still a work-in-progress. And, that’s just a fact.
  • Because there have been so many holes to fill, there are going to be hits and misses. Yes, there have been plenty of misses and there will be more. But the hits should also increase — even in 2014.

Where we are today.

  • May has been better to the Astros. Seventh in AL in OPS (.733), 9th in BA (.258), 8th in OBP (.319), 1st in SBs (12).
  • Pitching is looking up too, at least the rotation. Starters have a 4.14 ERA for the season, seventh in the league. In May, Houston pitchers have fewer walks than any other team in the league. Only the Orioles have a better GO/AO rate in May.
  • Also in May, Jose Altuve is hitting .325 with a .391 OBP. Matt Dominguez (.300), George Springer (.303 before an o-for-5 Sunday), Dexter Fowler (.370 OBP) and Jonathan Villar (5 SBs) appear to be putting things together.
  • Collin McHugh is still in probation period, but Scott Feldman, Jarred Cosart and Dallas Keuchel already make the rotation better than 2013. Or are you going to tell me that Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell and Philip Humber were better?
  • Bullpen stinks, but can you really blame the injuries on Luhnow? Sure, he might have had other options last winter, but take a look around the majors and count all the injuries. Most every team is scrambling. TJ surgeries are up, DFAs are up and roster shuffles abound. For example, Houston has used 19 pitchers, but Texas (21), LA (18), Seattle (17) and Oakland (15) haven’t been totally immune to pitching woes.

The reality of the future.

  • You can stack it up however you like: The Astros will get better sooner than later. For the first time in years (how many years?), there is legitimate talent in Oklahoma City. These guys (Jon Singleton, Michael Foltynewicz, Domingo Santana, Max Stassi, Nick Tropeano et al) may not be kicking the door down just yet, but they’re certainly knocking.
  • If — as some have speculated — Pat Listach is having a positive impact on Villar and Altuve, they will continue to improve. That attitude and work ethic will carry over to other players as well.
  • One month into the season, the Astros have added a rookie and one of the faces of the future (Springer) as well as found a possible rotation figure (McHugh) they didn’t know they had a month ago. If Luhnow can add one of those a month the rest of the season, Houston will have something.

The bottom line is expectation. Unfortunately, our generation expects instant gratification, but, as I recall, the tortoise beat the hare, no?

As a fan, you have a choice. You can pull up a chair, get a glass of tea — or your favorite beverage — and watch the grass grow. Yes, not a lot of fun at times.

Or, you can adopt the Negative Nellie route and no one enjoys a thing.

Do you see silver linings or a dark cloud approaching?

27 comments on “MMQB: The reality and where we are today

  1. Call me Negative Nellie. Yes, a 2 win improvement over 2013. At that rate, in 4 more years, we will be a .500 team. We have lost more games than the hottest team has won. We still rank 15th out of 15 in at least 5 AL batting categories, and 4 pitching categories. Is this team better than 2013 – YES. Can this team compete – day in and day out – Not Yet. This team is 12 -26. That is not negative in my mind. Just a fact.


  2. Chip – there are more positives than most people would think.

    – Last season they were 15th (last) in fielding % and errors in the AL. So far they are 5th in fielding % and 8th in errors and there is no doubt watching them that the fielders this season (especially in the OF) can get to many more balls than last season.
    – Last season the team gave up 82 unearned runs over the season (basically 1/2 run per game). Currently the Astros are on a pace to allow 42 unearned runs over the whole season.
    – Last season the Astros were terrible stealing bases with a 64% success rate. They have made a huge jump this season (which I was begging for) with 76% success rate while still stealing the 2nd most bases in the league.
    – Yes, they are still trailing the league in most hitting categories – but anyone who has been paying attention will have seen that the team was lagging the league terribly in April, but has been improving quite a bit the last 2 weeks. They have gone from putrid to bad.
    – The first 23 games of the season they were averaging just under 3 runs per game – since that time the last 15 games they have been averaging 4.3 runs / game – which is right at the league average.
    – Since last season the starting pitching ERA has improved from 4.72 to 4.14, WHIP from 1.47 to 1.32 and OPS against from .778 to .717. Last season they were close to the bottom in these categories whereas today they are 6th or 7th in these three categories.
    – The bullpen…..well the 2013 bullpen was last in many categories and somehow is not only still last – but even worse in those categories. The bullpen ERA has gone from 4.92 to 6.06!!! The WHIP from 1.52 to 1.62 and the OPS against from .816 to .832. The bullpen numbers are making the overall pitching numbers look much worse than what the starting pitching is delivering.
    If they can get Albers back (I’m not even thinking about Crain right now) and if people like Sipp help out on the lefty side (and if they unload someone like Jerome Williams) they can improve in the bullpen. I think they need to pick a closer and let the guy sink or swim. The guy can’t think if he blows one that that is the end of his chance.


    • Dan, you have articulated this more eloquently. I believe it comes down to how quickly this project is coming to pass, expectations. Many felt that 2014 would be different, that there would be some excitement, some marked improvement. Still believe there can be. If they add Singleton at some point this month or early next. Is Asher Wojciechowski or Alex White returns in the next 60 days. As you say, get Albers back. One per month changes this club.


  3. Some other things I find interesting are these:
    – At this point last season the Astros had given up 40 more runs (more than a run per game more) than this season.
    – Last season they had 21 games where they gave up 6 runs or more – this season only 12 games with 6 runs or more.
    – They are scoring 1/2 run less than at this point last year – but again what they have been doing the last 2 weeks is a big step up in scoring.
    – Last season at this point they were 2-7 in one run games – they are 3-9 currently.
    – Last season at this point in blowout games (where one team wins by 5 or more runs) they were 5-11 and this season they are 1-7.

    So the pitching is improved and the team is playing a lot more close games than last season.


  4. I think its just human home team nature at work here. There are a lot of stats that are better than last year, but when we have faced so much loosing, its hard to see the positives. I mean this early in the year 14 games under .500 yikes.
    On another note what is everyone seeing feeling about Springer. Obviously he need time to adjust I’m a little surprised how he has struggled with the glove and how much he swings and misses.


  5. The team came out and competed this weekend. There was good effort and the body language was positive. They could have won all three from a good Orioles team.

    Drak clouds or silver linings? I think the pitching has room to improve. The starters have been good, but only Feldman and McHugh have been pitching above their heads. Interestingly, I say that because Feldman is about 3mph down from his normal…so I expect the league to catch up a little over the long haul, and McHugh is about 3mph above his career normal…so I expect a downward trend if he cannot stay at that level and still keep the good downward movement through the season. All of the hitters have lots of room to improve. If Bo can hold them together and prevent a meltdown like last sept I think they play better and finish closer to 100 losses than 110.


  6. I’ll get back to the subject at hand in another post, but I had a feeling the O’s Gm was going to reach out to Luhnow about a catcher……and I was right. The O’s don’t wanna give up much, but the have their eye on Max Stassi………and Luhnow would be a fool to give up such a good catching prospect for a pitcher like Troy Patten.
    They are looking for a right handed catcher with some power…….Corporan was discussed, but he doesn’t have the power they are looking for. My vote would be a resounding……*NO*!!


    • I looked at the Orioles top 20 prospect list and the only ones that are worth trading Stassi for are their top 3 prospects, all of whom are on the DL and all are pitchers. Their minors absolutely are a wasteland of young C+ players.


    • I’ve always thought that there might be a catcher trade in the Astros future – but….. Stassi – a guy who hit 17 HR in only 289 ABs at AA last season and is on pace for 20 or so HRs this season at AAA for a lefty middle reliever who has been solid but is just a middle reliever – Nah.


  7. Here’s the thing. Day to day, whether they win or lose (because I’m always ready for a collapse and loss), I am a Negative Nellie. The towel has been thrown in. But long term, I think this team is headed the right direction.

    We were especially bad in April. Unsustainably bad. So I believe May and June and July — especially July — will get better. This roster will look different in July.

    We won’t have Jerome Williams. Carter and/or Krauss will be gone by then. We will have Singleton and an on-fire outfielder to be named later (Wates, Santana, someone else).


  8. I knew what this year was going to be like. Next year will be better. 2016 will be better. 2017 will be better.
    The question for me is whether to hang in there or move along. Right now, I’m tired.


    • oldpro, when they decided to clean house with the coaching staff, the front office, the back office, the minors and the major league roster, I didn’t realize that included the fan base too. But it does seem like that is the case as well. It’s hard to hang on, especially with any kind of passion.


  9. Hang in there old pro. It might be time to take a trip to the Caribbean. Sip a rum. Watch cricket. The latter will help you sleep. When you come home, you’ll have a new found appreciation for baseball. Even Astro baseball.

    Chip, I agree that the rotation has been a highlight to date. Something to be encouraged about. At the same time, neither Feldman nor McHugh will continue to pitch like aces. It’s simply not in their resumes. On the flip side, we should see guys like Tropeano and Folty at some point when the DL bug hits again or when Collin comes back to earth. I’m not very optimistic about Wojoski though. He’s got a lot of catching up to do. How about Thomas Shirley as a late season call up? He might be in OKC as soon as an opening develops.

    The pen is a mess made worse by injury. But that’s a risk Luhnow took when signing older guys not in the best physical condition to start with, and taking Crain, already injured, at a steep discount. Maybe Crain was available because no other club was willing to take that risk. The bullpen disaster is made worse by not having any real ready pen talent at AA and AAA. Chip, maybe a couple of our young starters come up and help out in the pen while getting their feet wet…..

    Things can only get better offensively, as you’ve already illustrated. Fowler will hit better than he has to date. Springer will hit. He’s showing signs of it. I’ll take Dominguez’ present stats stretched out over a full season. And Castro can’t continue to hit .220 something can he?

    So yes, I think we will get less worse. But that does not mean we won’t lose 100 games again.


  10. dave, yes, I and others have suggested that some of the younger “starters” at OKC could break in with the Astros in the bullpen–a la Roy Oswalt and others.

    Agree with you that Luhnow took the risk by signing Crain, Albers and Qualls.

    Best line of the day, perhaps the month: “…we will get less worse”.


  11. When Peacock hung the curve to Andrus in the first inning it was just a double. I commented to her that he better not throw that again all night. He did. Beltre put that pitch where it truly deserved to end up and then I watched the Astros run themselves out of two of the first three innings.
    The Astros are the worst baseball team I have ever seen. Four years running.
    Brad Mills and Bo Porter are like watching the thee stooges while waiting for the third to get out of the bathroom. I guess I’ll go check and see how the minor league starting pitchers are doing in relief and how the relievers did when they started games they had no business starting.
    Got a riddle for ya. How does a team not score with a single and a triple by consecutive batters?


    • My fault – I jinxed them by praising their stealing % and they get caught twice tonight including after the single and before the triple.


  12. So Hauschild throws five beautiful innings starting for CC. 1 hit no runs no walks and only 51 pitches. But he gets pulled and Heidenreich comes in and blows it all up and gives up 4 runs and six hits in two innings and your starter gets robbed by the tandem system and it’s brainiac baseball guru.


  13. How does your starter strike out 11 guys, and throws over 100 pitches, and the Astros can’t scratch ONE RUN? I’d love to know who’s bright idea to try and steal on these guys. This is the kind of game that drives fans out of the ballpark, by the way it was *empty* tonight, for the exception of a few hundred Ranger fans.
    GOOD news……..Oberholtzer went 7 innings, no runs, one walk, and Singelton, and Santana had back to back HR’s. Okc won.


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