Halfway: 5 Must Do’s for Astros to get to 70 wins

After 81 games, the Astros were on track toward a 70-win season. They lost Game No. 82 (47 loses) then they won Game No. 83 (36th win). Game No. 84 … another loss. Still, If you had told me at the start of the season that the organization would be on track for 70 wins, I’d have been thrilled. I think most of us, looking at a 19-game improvement, would have been thrilled.

Well, don’t pull out the party hats just yet. At 36 wins, the local nine still has 34 to go, and it’s a long way to Sept. 28 and a 12:10 game against the similarly hapless Mets.

What must the Astros do to get those 34 wins in the final 79 games? Well, here’s a simple list:

1. Hold Leads
The Astros bullpen is 8-12, and has only 15 saves in 28 opportunities. The Pirates have more blown saves, but also a bullpen with a 19-10 record. Houston also has the worst bullpen ERA in the Major Leagues at 4.70 and the fifth-worst WHIP at 1.41.

This week it’s fashionable to be angry with Jerome Williams his 6.04 ERA and three blown saves (thank goodness he’s gone). But there’s plenty of blame to go around. The Kyle Farnsworth experiment was a disaster (6.17 ERA and WHIP of 1.97). Jose Veras hasn’t exactly pitched like the guy we traded a year ago, posting a 9.00 ERA in limited work. Fortunately, the worst offenders, Raul Valdes, Kevin Chapman and Jose Cisnero are gone.

And that’s the solution: Addition via subtraction. Matt Albers, Anthony Bass and Jesse Crain (allegedly) will be replacing the worst offenders before long.

2. Put April Behind in the rear view mirror.
Houston went 9-19 in its first month. May was better at 15-14. The Astros won’t have a winning record in June, but 12-15 isn’t bad.

This is nearly a .500 team since the start of May. Yes, even with a bad week or so in June and a horrible start to May, the often-streaky Astros have almost managed to remain level.

And that’s what they’ll need to continue doing in July, August and September. Heck, this team doesn’t need to go .500 the rest of the way to get to 70 wins, just make sure the bad days don’t outnumber the good too much.

3. More Than Altuve
There is one player who is among the best in the major leagues. But if you look at the Astros’ lineup every night, you see a guy hitting well over .300 and a bunch of .250 or lower hitters.

Oh, I know, measuring a team by its batting average is so 1970s. If we’re really looking at the lineup, its strength can be more easily measured by a quick look at OPS. Unfortunately, only four Astros have an OPS over .700: Altuve (.838), Springer (.822), Fowler (.774) and Corporan (.723 … no “scrub” is he).

If the Astros are going to maintain some semblance of winning, some other players will need to step up. For example, Jason Castro is hitting far below his MLB average for OPS at .660. Last year’s OPS was .835 and in half a season in 2012 he compiled an OPS of .735. If he can just regress up a bit, this will be a better team. Jonathan Villar could not seem to bring his OPS back closer to the .640 he posted last year instead of the sub-.600 he’s got in 2014, and now he’s gone. Will Chris Carter be next? Carter may have struck out a ton in 2013, but he posted a .770 OPS; this year he’s at .673. Jonathan Singleton was brought up to improve our first base offense.

4. An Influx of … Help!
Yes, we’d all like to see Domingo Santana. Yes, Luhnow basically said last week that barring injury he won’t arrive until September.

I don’t buy it. His strikeout rate has been dropping. His average and power have been solid. I’m all for making sure L.J. Hoes gets his chance to shine, especially after he tore up Oklahoma City. But we don’t have a DH worth anything. Jesus Guzman and Carter do not seem to be the answer, Guzman especially so. His spot on the roster looks like it could be opening up soon if you ask me.

And while we have a revolving door between the bullpen and either the DL or Oklahoma City, I think our injured relievers will help stabilize that. Rumor has it Anthony Bass will replace Williams. Gosh I hope so.

That said, any other help from the minors might be whomever is being called up to replace Villar or Mike Foltynewicz filling in for an injured starter. The good news is, we’ve got some quality players to bring up.

There’s also the possibility the Astros are buyers in this market, looking for a shortstop or a DH.

That leads us to …

5. Don’t Sell
The Astros can get to 70 wins or better with the talent on this team. The important thing is to keep the talent on this team.

If we lose Chad Qualls or Dexter Fowler, this team is worse.

There’s been talk of trading Chris Carter, and I’m all for that. Twenty-some homers a season isn’t worth all those strikeouts. I was never a fan of Dave Kingman or Adam Dunn. And I’m not a fan of Carter.

So it’s not like the Astros can’t trade anyone, but Luhnow needs to make sure he’s adding to the 25-man roster, not subtracting from it.

So, here’s my basic question: Whether it’s part of my five things or one of your own, what will the Astros need to do to have a successful second half?

And how will you measure success?


64 comments on “Halfway: 5 Must Do’s for Astros to get to 70 wins

  1. 1.Stabilize the LF position with a .250 hitter
    2. Add two pieces to the bullpen and subtract the two worst pieces. Bass for Williams is the first.
    3. Put a real hitter in the Designated Hitter position. You know, someone who doesn’t strike out just about every time.
    4. Get Dexter Fowler healthy and back in CF
    5. Send down Villar and get a major league replacement. Petit is fine for right now.
    I think that gets you 70 wins.


    • “Put a real hitter in the Designated Hitter position. You know, someone who doesn’t strike out just about every time.”

      Old, you say that like Bo can just do it, like the thought hasn’t occurred to him. Who do you propose? Alex Presley? Marwin Gonzalez? Those are the only guys available with a sub-20% SO rate.


  2. The key is a fresh new marketing program. Perhaps a slogan or ditty that stresses the importance of maybe one day winning HALF the games in a given season. Dream big! Imagine one day winning almost 80 games! IT COULD HAPPEN!

    “ROOT ROOT ROOT for the Houston Half-Astros” or something like that.


    • Yeah, I’d like a contending team. But no amount of money would have got us to 82 wins or more. When Crane bought this team, the MLB product sucked and the farm system was a wasteland.

      Show me one team — one — that bought its way to contention without a decent farm system.

      Yep, I thought not. Because that is not not will it ever be the way things are done. Don’t believe me? Ask Anaheim in the last five years. Lots of money spent. No championships.

      I can’t tell if I’m yawning because it’s late or because of your tired argument.


      • I agree about the need for a solid farm team. Never disagreed. But Jeff Luhball and his tired approach to lowballing his players is ALREADY starting to ripple through the players and agents community.

        And if the trade leaks aren’t embarrassing enough, look at the SUBSTANCE of the offers. Pretty ridiculous.

        Luhball was lucky to sign Altuve and SinglePuff at bargain-basement rates. But, believe me, his antics are not just one-off, but becoming a disturbing trend.

        Watch what happens if Aiken doesn’t sign.

        These things matter, dude. Having a paltry payroll and penny-ante antics will affect the future of this lousy franchise.


      • Hmmm…I’d say JL’s antics in the Norris Trade were pretty good. Maybe you could get someone to show you how to do a Google search for “Josh Hader”.


      • Bo, I think it’s the “substance” of your posts that is the question here. They’re as one-tracked and predictable as an afternoon popcorn shower along the Gulf Coast. If you don’t think *every* single GM worth his salt is floating trade possibilities — “ridiculous” offers — you’re not paying close attention. Every good salesman starts high and comes back down. Look at what the Florida GM asked for in the Stanton discussion. That’s *not* ridiculous?!

        If Aiken doesn’t sign, the Astros get the #2 pick in next year’s draft as well as their regular pick, which still appears to be a top 10. If you wouldn’t want two top 10 picks in a MLB draft, well… It won’t be the end of the world. Yes, problematic, curious, even frustrating, but not derailing!


      • I admit I like your optimism on Hader. If he pans out, THEN you, unlike many others on this BLOG, made a ballsy prediction. But that, my friend, is a long shot. Bud Norris was (is) an established pro coming into his prime. And his big payday is forthcoming….


      • Norris is a solid known quantity. He usually ends up with a record close to .500 up or down – is usually around a 4.00 ERA up or down and usually gives you 5 or 6 innings throwing a ton of pitches.
        He ranges from average to a little above average. The starting rotation is not hurt without him this season.


    • I suppose Hoes for Norris would have been pretty bad. But again, have someone show you how to Google “Bud Norris Trade”.


  3. I agree Brian about keeping the team together to a point. Dominguez is what he is, and above average defender at 3rd. base, and around 20 HR hitter. We know what we have in Singelton, Springer and Altuve as well as Fowler. Left field will be a revolving door, until we give one of the guys in OKC a chance to fail or succeed.
    The one guy who has been in question this season is Castro. Is he not happy with the organization? Are his knees giving out……..or are we seeing an average catcher, who will hit 220 every year. He has hit some balls hard this year, but the book is out on him, so he lines out to someone, or grounds out a *lot*. Carter and
    Guzman are dust magnets, and their impact on this club is dwindling, and if Luhnow is looking to trade Carter…….good luck.


  4. I thought the media was ill mannered to stand around Williams locker while he was trying to get out of the club house. Asking stupid questions to a guy who was near tears is inexcusable. And McTaggart was right in the middle of it with his recorder, ………..asking stupid questions.


  5. Wow Becky that is huge news – especially Santana. Hernandez has been doing a good job and we know Chapman did good things at the end if 2013 before struggling earlier this season.
    Who is going down or out ? Villar, Presley and Williams? Or Hoes instead of Presley?


    • For Santana it isn’t Presley or Hoes. Presley is playing well and showing his value in center. Hoes hasn’t been back up long enough to piss anyone off. My guess is either Fowler went on the DL or (and here’s my hope) we traded either Carter or Guzman.


  6. Brian – to answer your question – what will it take to get to 70.
    – I think the call up of Santana helps – they need another real bat in the lineup.
    – Deeper work by the starters – with a thin pen – they really suffer when the starters only go 4 or 5 and it carries over
    – Yes – get some more help in the pen – between Bass, Fields, Albers and Crain – need a couple back soon
    – Have to have Castro get back over .700 OPS
    – Need the hitting coach to improve someone anyone even if it is a trend back towards last year


  7. Any chance they DFA Carter with Santana coming up? I realize the probable call is Hoes being sent back down, but, truth be told, Hoes has more value than Carter. His catch on Saturday was nothing, but amazing and he makes contact at a better rate than Carter. Of course, that is not saying much as I probably make contact at a better rate than Carter.


  8. Twins GM says he feels like he dodged a bullet not being included in the leaks and I am sure he speaks for a lot of the GM’s around the league. The Astros’ phone are going to be silent.
    If Santana and Hernandez are called up then there is bedlam in Luhnow’s camp because he just got through telling us Santana is not ready last week.
    The litany of major messups with the Astros and their prospects that I listed yesterday apparently has the rowboat filling up and only a few red solo cups to bail with and none of that failure is featured better than the record of teams like Corpus Christi, who was supposed to inherent all that talent from Lancaster but has seen their pitchers get beaten up and go down with injuries all season long, with the supposed arm-saving tandem system draining the life out of many arms. The Astros top pitching prospects, as a whole have been a disappointment , but even worse, are not happy with where they are. Sure, Hader, Nitro, and Shirley have pitched well but haven’t been promoted and what about all the rest?
    A bunch of us on this blog are lifelong Astros fans and we saw a huge void at the SS position last year and were scared to death when Luhnow gave the job to Villar over the winter with no misgivings at all. Villar has folded and Luhnow looks helpless and panicky now, because he didn’t do anything to fix the SS position over the winter. His decisions to keep Springer and Singleton down, keep Carter and Villar up and to send Appel to Lancaster are big time mistakes, and it is about time people see him as less a genius and realize that he is a GM similar to Bo Porter as a manager: not quite there yet!
    Also, please remember this is not the first leak. There was the leak about Springer getting kept down because he refused to sign a deal. Becky is right. Something is really wrong currently with the Astros. And it is not confined to just the Astros, it is all through the system. Kemp is kicking DDJ’s butt but is not even listed as a top 20 prospect. E Hernandez is kickin’ Fontana’s and he’s not listed. Tropeano is doing it but he watches Owens, Buchanan, Ober, Martinez, Clemens, Chapman Zeid and Shields bounce up and down and he doesn’t even get a whisper. Now he sees Santana called up at age 21 with half a season at AAA and he doesn’t get the call after 1.5 seasons at age 23.
    Folty, Smith, Feliz, Rodgers, Jankowski, Emanuel, Thurman, Westwood and Owens all got bombed this week and Aaron West, and Velasquez are hurt, Appel is treading water, and OMG what about Aiken? Our minor league pitching has disappointed everybody.
    At least we didn’t trade Correa! But I’m not sure sending him to the AFL is a good idea after a major foot injury and surgery.
    That’s enough.


    • That is indeed a litany. But again, what does “do anything to fix the SS position over the winter” mean? Stephen Drew? Brendan Ryan? Derek Jeter was a free agent. JL was just sittin’ on his hands while the Yankees swooped in and stole him away. There weren’t many legitimate SS options if you wanted to “do anything”. I suppose they could have traded prospects for a blocked SS prospect like, I don’t know, is there one? Or I guess JL could have simply walked out to the SS tree and plucked one off.


      • Even the leaks don’t show Luhnow shaking the Shortstop Tree to see what would fall out. I am saying that he was mistakenly satisfied. He had a preview of Villar last summer and he had all the stats that you and I have and much more. Villar has never hit as high as .270 for a full season in any minor league and has a history of errors. How does that project on the major league level? It projects to exactly what we saw in Villar so far this season.


      • You are incorrect, Old. Villar was better than average SS at AA and AAA. One could expect that he could reach that level in the ML. He beat out two veterans in spring training. I don’t think it is unreasonable to see what you have. By “all the stats” do you mean the 210 ABs he had last year? We still do not have all the stats. I’ll remind you that JD Martinez never reached 1000 PAs with the Astros. That is roughly how long it takes to fully evaluate a hitter.


      • Villar’s career BA in the minors is .260. His career fldg% in the minors is .931. Those are not good and they don’t translate well and so far, that holds up in the majors. His 2013 AAA BA was .277 and that projects to a .225 hitter in the majors, Where did you see good #s? Right now he is a decent AAA player.


    • I think the starting pitching situation is different from – say – the left field situation.
      We are not getting major league average production out of LF while we are getting it (so far) out of starting pitching. I think promotion for Tropeano would be tied to an injury or trade or sustained poor performance by a starter (McHugh perhaps in the future)


    • Apparently your stat doesn’t mean much because he had a 100+wRC in AA and AAA and still couldn’t hit in Houston, so your stat fooled you and my stat led to a .200 hitter. How about that .931 career fldg%. Did that fool you or is all the errors just a mirage. Your problem doesn’t appear to be with Villar but with the fact that even the Astros got tired of his lousy play. I didn’t send him packin’, the stat guru sent him packin’, wRC and all.


  9. I’m only going to comment once on the leak/hacking. If it was an outside intrusion which achieved the penetration then I have two thoughts: either Crane was too cheap to pay for proper IT, or Luhnow’s staff was too arrogant to bring in experts to do it right. If this was an internal leakage, it’s time for Crane and Luhnow to get together and do some serious soul searching. They need to turn off the SMUG attitudes and start approaching their dealings with the utmost professionalism.

    OK, I’m excited to see Santana in the rainbow stripes. However, I think the answer to the 70 wins question has more to do with execution and less with personnel. The K’s are a real problem. Every pitching coach teaches their staff that when they need to escape a jam without allowing runs they are working for a Strikeout or a popup. How are so many of our rallies dying? How we botching bases loaded, no out situations. There is a reason why our record is so good when they hit multiple HR and so bad when they do not.


    • We hit multiple HRs last night and still lost. Yes, I realize we are facing a red-hot Mariners team, but just pointing out that even hitting HRs does not guarantee a win.


  10. Lot’s of great stuff to talk about!

    Marwin deserves his shot. Villar is a much better athelete, but keeps his head up his butt far to often to stick at the ML level right now. We (at least I) will miss his play at short though. Marwin simply will not get to nearly as many balls. But if he’s steady defensively and hits in the .250 range, then we’re better off, for now anyway.

    oldpro, the free pass for Luhnow is indeed over. With Santana coming up, it’s pretty clear that someone has taken away Luhnow’s free reign at decision making. And that’s certainly not a vote of confidence. I think the scrutiny is long overdue. In Luhnow we trust? Sorry, show results. Show a well run operation.

    So, does Springer go to center now? I don’t think Santana has played much left. Or is Santana’s arrival a prelude to a trade of Fowler?

    This leak mess is a big mess. Just the tip of the iceberg I fear. I guarantee much of the old guard owners and GM’s are pleased, especially on the heels of this dysfunctional organization getting the big spread in SI.

    So what is Enrique going to do? You sure want a 22 year old kid to play everyday. I suppose he might be the utility guy that gives several different positions a day off. I just hope we are not bringing him up to play twice a week.

    Altuve has been showing us how good he can be. But there has to be a bit of a correction at some point. Don’t expect him to finish the year hitting .340.

    I really don’t care about 70 or 85 wins for that matter. It’s either competing for a playoff spot or nothing for me. For now, I want to see an organized march in a winning direction by a well run Major League Baseball club. That includes a serviceable payroll, a television contract and a level of credibility that this club still lacks. At this point in time, we still have too many holes in the organization, both on and off the field.

    One more thing. Luhnow tells what little media we have very little. As a result, we hear very little from the club. If this leak thing was apparent a month ago, he should have come clean much sooner. When Correa broke his ankle, Luhnow should have confirmed it. We hear almost nothing about our minor league players. Are they even allowed to talk to the press? Does not seem like it. Right now we’re wondering what the situation is with our number one pick. I don’t know if our GM thinks he’s being coy by keeping information from us baseball fans, but it sure does not instill any confidence in me.

    I’ve said this before. This fish stinks from the head down. If this operation continues to be the joker in MLB, then the minority owners will go after Crane at some point. And MLB might just be supportive of their efforts.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. One more thing. It’s a shame we’re not spending all of our time discussing on field baseball issues. There are far too many distractions with this club, and that can’t help but effect the on field product.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes sir, agree. Very few comments on yesterday’s entry about the items in the entry, which marked the halfway point of the season. Following suit today. I do think this is part of the growing pains of an organization that has been turned topsy turvy in recent years. New owner. New general manager. New manager. New players. And by “new” I mean have never been in the role before, including players who have never been in the role of a major leaguer before.


    • Two more comments to add to yours:
      1. The most “tech savvy” org in MLB gets hacked?
      2. Putting all your eggs in 1 basket: Correa, Appel. Aiken. How’s those three investments looking?


      • I don’t follow. Correa is a clear example of trying to get multiple, top quality candidates over the one whom everyone was salivating (Buxton or Appel) who would have taken more of the budget.


      • You don’t follow. All his eggs in the “Draft Basket”. Selling off your team to the marrow, spending nothing on proven players and then getting high draft picks for three years.
        And then your ace 1.1 SS breaks his leg in Lancaster, your future ace 1.1 starter gets bombed at High A, and your third 1.1 goes home without signing. That, Hansel, is my bread crumbs.


      • Old pro – I know that right now the 1.1s are problematic (though I expect Correa to return and kick butt and it is early to write off Appel) but what about all the rest of the young talent down there?
        Lancaster without Correa – Gregor, Hernandez, Pedromo, Ruiz, Vasquez, Hader, Smith, Velasquez, McCullers
        CC – Kemp, Fontana, Aplin, Shirley, Rollins, Cruz
        OKC – Hernandez and Santana (being called up), Duffy, Wates Torreyes, Tucker, Tropeano, Folty
        I know they won’t all make it – but the basket contains more than 3 guys and you know that from all your reports of the minors.


  12. wooohoooo well well now we have our outfield of santana, springer and fowler. i hope they play santana in rf springer center and fowler lf. that will get the young guys in their normal slots and fowler will be fine in left as long as he is with the team. i dont know that you can pin the leaks on negligence on the astros. how many leaks and security breaches do you see these days. lots. hacking is very hard to prevent. ask the pentagon, target, the university of texas, the white house and on and on. the lack of good info from the media is the media’s fault. mcnugget is lazy and slow, let them go dig and report thats the job right? this team is improved from last year and from the beginning of this year. thats the real bench mark, improvement over time. would you really want to be the rangers instead of the astros as an organization at this point. now lets see what happens between now and the trade deadline.


    • that would be the reason for an earlier than stated call up for santana. im anxious to see him, well hear someone talk about seeing him play. sigh. now if we can just call up a tv deal.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Not a kick in the shin, Chip, but what if Aiken does not sign, and we get two – 1st round picks next year that do not sign?


    • If Aiken doesn’t sign, and Chip thinks this is okay, then he’s ignoring the problem. Just like he’s ignoring the payroll problem. Regardless, the perception issues with this franchise and with Luhball remain. And it IS a problem!


  14. Back to the original question: How to get to 70?

    We’re getting some help. Kiki Hernandez for Villar sounds like an upgrade. Bringing up Santana is good. Maybe he rakes and stays up when the injured player comes back like McHugh did. And Chapman is a huge upgrade over Williams. (My grandma is an upgrade over Williams. Grandma has an arm!)


  15. The bullpen is looking better but do you think we will keep 3 lefties? When Bass comes back I suspect Zeid will be reassigned. All of the BP guys we have returning are short men. Who takes on Williams’ long role? Oberholtzer is still here. Does he stay as the long guy or go back to OKC and start? Bring back Buchanan as the long guy?
    I do suspect that we will get to 70 wins with this cast of characters here now. When Fowler comes back we keep Santana if he has done well and DFA Guzman. If Santana falters then he goes back to OKC. Seems like a great opportunity for an audition. Hernandez intrigues me. He may even fill Fowler’s spot as a high OBP type and his K numbers look really good, almost as good as Altuve. He makes contact and at least puts some pressure on the defense.A guy like him hitting in the 9 spot when Fowler returns would be pretty cool. I’m kind of expecting him to force his way into the lineup.


  16. I am really happy to see a couple of new guys tonight, even if I can’t really see them. it’s all about the youngsters.
    Ok, back to the USA in overtime!


  17. I have a feeling it will be Oberholtzer to get sent down to make room for Chapman, which is a shame……..because he held the Tigers to *one* run the other day.
    I wonder if Porter will put Springer in CF tonight flanked by Hoes in right, and Santana in left. We need to remind ourselves that rookies make errors, so don’t
    be too hard on them, because they are trying not to show their nerves. New blood always makes the game more exciting! I only *wish* I could see them play……*sigh*


  18. The lead article in this week’s Sports Illustrated is on the Houston Astros – it’s called Baseball’s Great Experiment, An Unprecedented Look At How a Franchise Is Going Beyond Moneyball To Build the Game’s Next Big Thing…Your 2017 World Series Champs. George Springer is on the cover. Will the Chipalatta’s be breaking this down?


    • A lot of that article is the stuff we talk about every day. The Luhnow Plan. The farm system’s renaissance. The slow trickle of talent percolating up to Houston.

      It seems more like Sports Illustrated analyzed what we’ve been writing about.


      • I think there’s plenty of material there to discuss. Sure, every George Springer factoid has been reviewed here, but a national, positive 3rd party perspective of a franchise viewed by many as a joke represents an extremely rare opportunity. Did they cover the right stuff? Was it fair? Was it correct? Was there new material for you? Maybe I missed it here, but I found the process to narrow down the finalists to a high school pitcher for the 1-1, the third in history, was new for me and very interesting.


  19. Well Brian – to get to 70 wins they need to play like they did over the weekend against the Tigers not the crap they are putting out there against the M’s.


  20. Kike Kike Kike – just put a charge into a double to right center in his first MLB AB scoring Santana. The highlight of a low night so far.


  21. Hernandez strikes me as the kind of player who is not intimidated by his first big league exposure and expects to do well. Don’t see a lot of fear of failure in him which I did see a lot of in Chapman tonight and continue to see in other parts of the lineup. A lot of veteran players might learn something from the kid. I noticed Kike was wearing #6 tonight, I know Villar switched to #2 before being sent down but I bet #6 is going to be unavailable to anyone else for a while.


  22. Well………….that was a waste of our time. Glad to see (hear) Hernandez get a solid double tonight, other than that……..not much was going right for the boys tonight.


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