Finding Astros’ silver linings on a bad start


At 14-27 at the quarter turn, Houston is off to a bad start. At this pace, the Astros will win 54 games. Is that the improvement you were hoping for? Yeah, me neither.

But there are a few good signs. So with the second quarter of the season beginning, here are a few silver linings in this gloomy cloud of a season.

The Good Version
2013 was not a great season for Jose Altuve. His low .678 OPS came courtesy not of a bad batting average but his inability to draw a walk and a lack of just about any power brought down his productivity. Combine that with getting run over by Jimmy Paredes and the death of his grandmother, and it was a tough game for the little man.

This season, however, has been a turn around for Altuve. His OPS is .763 (after Game 41), he is a doubles machine, and his 14 walks are almost half way to the 32 he took last season.

Just across second base is Jonathan Villar, who came up last year with all the tools and none of the concentration. His OPS is up from .640 to .703. A big part of that is his power surge. He’s already got five homers, seven doubles and a pair of triples compared to one homer, nine doubles and two triples in about 80 percent more at bats.

Even better, his defense has been so much better. Range factor. Excellent. But that was always the case. The difference has been the decisions. He makes good ones.

While he’s at eight starts compared to 22 last year, Dallas Keuchel is on fire compared to 2013. His ERA is 2 full runs lower than last year in one third the innings. His batting average against is down, his WHIP is down and his ground ball rate is up. I think it’s safe to say his 2014 is looking up.

One Man’s Trash …
In addition to our returning bright spots, we’ve picked up a few castaways from other organizations that have, thus far, been gems.

In four games and 5.2 innings, Tony Sipp has not allowed a run. Heck, he hasn’t allowed a hit. And of those 17 outs he’s recorded, 10 have come courtesy of the K.

Speaking of four games … Colin McHugh has been mostly amazing. He is sporting a sub-3.00 ERA, a WHIP a hair above 1.00 and a batting average against just over the Mendoza line at .211.

There are other examples of silver linings. Anthony Bass–trip to the DL notwithstanding–has been a bright spot in the bullpen. Marwin Gonzalez has been the best super sub we’ve had in a while. Matt Dominguez is coming around.

So, maybe I’m just a little overly optimistic, especially for a team that’s 13-27.

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26 comments on “Finding Astros’ silver linings on a bad start

  1. Weird that the biggest offensive highlights revolve around the middle infield (Listach) – Altuve, Villar and Marwin G have been producing solidly for the Astros.

    I love what Keuchel and Feldman have been bringing to the rotation and Cosart has been pitching well – just not deep enough for my taste -yet.

    Albers looked good in the bullpen before his injury and Qualls, have early struggles has put up 9 straight scoreless appearances and is striking out more than a batter per inning and has been sort of named the closer.

    I need more appearances from Sipp and McHugh to make much judgement there.

    Again – I’m seeing a number of pitchers overachieving and hardly any hitters – so I would say Strom as pitching coach gets more kudos from me than Mallee.

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      • Dan, have you noticed that Sclafani, my guy for future scrappy professional utility man down the road, has gotten his average up to .286?

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      • Good for him daveb – there are always guys who dig a hole the first month of the season (or build up unreasonable expectations) but a season is a marathon not a dash.

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  2. Altuve has been pretty good. Matty, Marwin, Cosart, Mchugh and Villar have been barely passable. Keuchel has been above average, That’s it. Everybody else has been lousy. That is why their record is so bad. The vast majority of their players have been bad.

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  3. Silver linings? I’m looking beyond today, specifically at minor league OBP.

    Outfield: Wates .446, Alpin .424, Hernandez .370, Santana .360

    First base: Singleton .398

    Second base: Kemp .459!, Fontana .390

    Short: Correa .361

    Third base: Ruiz .371

    Catcher: Heineman .372

    I don’t care what league Kemp is playing in. .459 is a pretty good stat. And Ruiz, a guy who turns 21 next week, has made big progress. Heineman is also impressing, with his .372 at Corpus. A quality catcher with on base ability?

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    • Last night Kemp had four more hits and two SB. His BA is up to .373. His OBP and BA lead the league but, surprisingly he is the second best player in that league behind a SS named Trevor Story whose stats are even better.
      The Jethawks website raved about Correa making four tremendous plays at SS last night but did not describe any of them. Since his arm non-injury Correa has been on fire also, but with a few more strikeouts than usual.
      Lancaster was down 6-1 at one time but won the game 14-7

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  4. daveb, I am in complete agreement with you. The silver lining is in the minors. It is so hard to be patient, but if they rush them up a bunch of them could end up like Lyles. But for goodness sakes, how is Singleton not up here getting his feet wet with what we have at the major league level not performing. And why don’t we try Springer in CF where he feels comfortable? It’s so hard watching him struggle with RF. We know that Santana is going to be a corner outfielder with that arm. I can’t understand why you make a rookie feel out of position, when you know he is a center fielder and has played there for the last five years. What is wrong with these management people? If Springer was your RF of the future, why did they play him in CF for his entire minor league career. Where is the vision?

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    • oldpro, I am especially annoyed about Springer playing right, a position he probably spent little if any time playing at any point of his life until a couple of months ago. It is so much different than playing center out there. And struggling defensively can’t help him at the plate. I’m looking forward to the day that Fowler is moved over to left, or simply moved. I’m in firm agreement on Singleton too. For a kid that has wayward tendencies, I’d get him up her where we can keep a better eye on him! But more importantly, how can we ignore those stats?

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    • What’s great about Farnsworth is that he was pitching well and they released him because he was due a $100,000 bonus yesterday. He is very angry at the Mets.
      I hope he can overcome the anger but use the opportunity to show the Mets they made a huge mistake. After losing Bass and Albers, I think this may be a good pickup.

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      • oldpro, I totally agree. Was just looking over his game-by-game stats and kinda shaking my head, wondering what I was missing. He’s pitched in 19 games, which puts him on pace for near 80 appearances.

        Sure, his K/9 rate is down and he walks more than you’d like, but he still hits 95 and his sinker comes in at 91, so this could certainly prove to be a pretty interesting addition.

        And, yes, the Mets may end up looking a little cheap on this one.

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      • At a paltry $100Gs, the Mets are already looking cheap. When the ASTROS will pay a guy and you won’t, I think that’s the definition of cheap.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I heard from a guy at another blog that RJ has had surgery for a tumor in the salivary gland. Just thought I would pass it along.

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  6. Another good win today – Peacock pitched a good game – he looked good in his last game also with 11 Ks.
    Dominguez looks like he might want to hold onto 3B for awhile with 2 more dingers today.
    Two series wins in a row – they are playing better ball and the bats are coming to life.

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    • I like Peacock when he strikes fewer guys out. I haven’t checked his game logs to verify, but it seems like the wheels come off in his bigger K outings.

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