Except for that 7-game stretch in May, the next four days will represent the longest non-losing streak this season for the Astros. A nice respite and an opportune break to evaluate, ruminate and deliberate the Luhnow Plan and the Porter Predicament.
There will be a series of questions at the end, but until then, let’s start the Monday conversation with some observations, not to mention wishes.
The Astros have used 41 players over the first half of the season, a number that would normally be good enough for 162 games. Injuries and under-performance have been the chief cause, but it’s time for some stability in the second half.
When the Astros come back from the break Friday, here are some things Luhnow, Porter and the team should have in place.
- Forget Jesse Crain and Matt Albers. Don’t count on Michael Foltynewicz or Asher Wojciechowski…at least not the rest of the year. If they make it back, great. Until then, dance with what ya got.
- George Springer should be playing center field the rest of the way. An announcement should be made Thursday that the team is making the transition to the future. No more coddling.
- Have a game plan for Dexter Fowler. He’s been an asset to the team and should be treated as such. An extension would be a step forward, though he’s under team control next season with one more year of arbitration.
- Brett Oberholtzer should give his shuttle pass to someone else and be invited to find an apartment in Houston. Despite the flip-flopping, in six starts since May 6, Obie has pitched well. Realize that Luhnow wants to keep him prepared to start in case of a trade over the next few weeks or injury, but it’s time to make a commitment to the guy. He. Can. Pitch.
- Plant Kike Hernandez in LF. Yeah, yeah, he’s looking like a Super Sub, but provide some consistency and let’s see what the 22-year-old can do.
- Enough with the sub-.200 batting averages. If you can’t hit .200+, you don’t belong in the starting lineup, not regularly anyway. Figure it out, work overtime, but averaging a couple of hits every ten ABs isn’t much to ask for someone making at least $500,000.
- Did I miss anything?
If Porter is looking for a fresh start out of the gate for the second half, here’s a look at a solid lineup starting Friday.
- Jose Altuve 2B.
- Hernandez LF.
- Fowler RF.
- Springer CF.
- Carter DH.
- Singleton 1B.
- Dominguez 3B.
- Castro C.
- Gonzalez SS.
And, here are those questions I promised…
- Assuming that we could theoretically be looking at two different seasons within 2014, what would you title the first half?
- Has anyone seen Jesus Guzman?
- How long do you continue to DH Chris Carter and his .205 average?
- The Astros have only a few days left to sign Brady Aiken. Yes or no? Should they or shouldn’t they? Who do you believe, Luhnow or the kid’s doctors?
- The Astros aren’t likely to reach Jim Crane’s .500 goal for the season. They’d need to sprint to a 41-26 record the rest of the way. That said, what is the biggest obstacle to Houston playing .500 (34-33) over the second half?
- Dallas Keuchel, Jarred Cosart and Chad Qualls have been the pitchers in the first half. Altuve was clearly the best position player. Who captures those honors in the second half?
- Last question: Who improves their “game” the most between now and October: Crane, Luhnow or Porter?