It was the stars that made me an Astros fan.
As a kid–and frankly, as an adult as well–I was a big fan of the space program. A born night owl, I’ve always looked at the night sky and dreamed of who or what is out there.
So, when my Little League team was called the Astros (sponsored by a local insurance company) one year, I decided it was time to start rooting for a National League (sigh …) team in addition to my “local” Royals.
So my love of the Astros has always been about the “stars.”
Which brings me to a couple of points:
1. In case you’ve missed it lately, the Astros are begging for a second All Star for this year’s mid-summer classic. Pop-up adds when you log onto the official team site ask you to vote. Scroll through the top stories, and there’ll be something about the All-Star game.
MLB writer and biased Astros supporter Richard Justice recently wrote a convincing piece stating that Dallas Keuchel deserves a spot. I’m sure Tuesday night’s debacle (3 runs in five innings, oh, the horror!) did little to dissuade Justice or any of the Astros loyalists.
Listen to a game–either via TV (I get MLB and am not blacked out here in Minnesota) or the radio–and you’ll hear talk of not only Keuchel’s deserving candidacy but Jose Altuve‘s and even George Springer‘s. Heck, they’re making a case for Dexter Fowler.
So, are they all right? Is this the year Houston gets more than just the “token” All Star?
Well, All-Star rosters are 40-players deep. So part of the determination will be how many pitchers the AL manager decides to carry. Last year, the AL squad had 19 pitchers and 21 position players. The NL squad had 22 position players, so obviously there is a little wiggle room there.
So, let’s look at the candidates:
Altuve has the second-highest batting average and third-best OPS among AL second basemen. Of course, those aren’t necessarily the stats that will get Altuve to Minneapolis. He leads the major leagues with 94 hits and the AL with 24 stolen bases.
Is Altuve an All-Star? Will other second basemen edge him out? After all, Robinson Cano will get the fan vote. And Brian Dozier with his .807 OPS for the hometown Twins would likely be a lock as well. So it really depends on whether the AL will carry three second basemen.
Keuchel, despite his Tuesday night, is still ranked sixth in the AL in ERA at 2.63. His WHIP is still ranked fourth in the league. His batting average against is still top 10.
All the pitchers are picked by the AL manager, so it’s not like someone will get voted in ahead of him. Provided Tuesday night was a blip, it’s unlikely Keuchel’s stats will sink out of the top 10. So the question is whether the John Farrell is a fan of Richard Justice or not.
Springer and Fowler are tougher cases mainly because rosters generally don’t go that deep. You’re unlikely to see more than six or seven outfielders (one being labelled a DH) on the AL squad. Now, neither Springer nor Fowler is likely to get the votes to be a starter. However, Melky Cabrera, who is in the top 3 in voting, is actually ranked lower than Springer and Fowler in OPS, which is really the one category that could earn either an All Star nod.
Frankly, Fowler as an All Star is a pipe dream. Springer, as one of the top and most talked about rookies, is slightly more likely. But he’d have to go on another May-like run to get noticed.
All that said, it’s still very possible Houston only gets one All Star. If Keuchel’s stats slip a tiny bit, he’s probably on the outside looking in. If the logjam of AL second basemen tightens up–Altuve, Ian Kinsler, Dozier, Cano–then Altuve might be on the outside looking in.
While we’d all like two or three All Stars and maybe see one actually play. (Last year Castro just collected splinters, and in 2012 Altuve got one late plate appearance.)
2. Speaking of All-Stars, the Cal League played the Carolina League last night, and some of our favorite Lancaster Jethawks were in the lineup. Not that they did much on the offensive end.
Meanwhile both Carlos Correa and Anthony Kemp both went 0-2 with a strike out. Teoscar Hernandez doubled that, going 0-4 with two Ks. He did score a run for the winning side, so that’s nice. Roberto Pena went 0-1 at catcher.
Is this the last Cal League stop for Captain Correa? And what about Tony Kemp?
Kemp hit the All Star Break with a .921 OPS and more walks than strike outs. While you could say that OPS is a product of playing at the wind-aided Hanger in the Cal League, those strike out and walk numbers (32 Ks, 42 BBs) are real. He needs stiffer competition.
Correa has a .924 OPS, and has walked 35 times while striking out just 43 times. Not quite Tony Kemp, but nothing to be ashamed of either. Again, the competition in the Cal League is not challenging him.
Hernandez’s OPS is even higher at .926, but he’s struck out 86 times, which is about 25 percent. I don’t think it’s outrageous to say he needs more time looking at High A pitching before getting fooled nonstop by AA pitchers.
Kyle Westwood has a 3.14 ERA in the Cal League, which has got to be some kind of miracle. His 1.16 WHIP and 2.90 ground ball rate would also indicate he’s ready to move up. He only strikes about about 4.5 batters per nine innings, so that’s a little troubling.
Meanwhile, if you thought Westwood looked good, Hader looks even better (Mark Who?). Hader has posted a 2.34 ERA and a .191 batting average against. His WHIP is 1.01, and he’s struck out 75 batters in 65.1 innings. Yep, he’s awesome. His ground ball rate is a little low, which makes you wonder how he’s done all this at The Hanger.
So, here’s some questions:
With the MLB All Star Game about a month away, who should represent Houston? Who actually will represent Houston? What will stop the Astros from getting that second All Star?
With the Cal League All Star Game done, who should be promoted to AA right away? Who still has some High-A lessons to learn?