August Approaches: Five Astros’ Things I Think I Know

Ugly. So ugly that ninth inning might bring its bad Astros mojo to today’s game. Maybe having Dallas Keuchel on the mound will help right the ship, but this was an opportunity to sweep– Oakland no less–and the Astros blew it.

Let’s pretend Houston wins one of its remaining July games. That’ll be 44 wins. After the first three months Houston was 36-48. If the team splits the next two to end the month, that’s a July record of 8-17, slightly worse than the April record of 9-19. What do these two months have in common? Not a lot of George Springer. He played in 14 games in April and will likely not top that in July. We also haven’t had a full slate of Dexter Fowler in either month.

Allegedly, Bo Porter will get both back in August. Springer first and Fowler not long thereafter. But say the Astros repeat their two worst months in August and September. Well, that’s the first thing I think I know.

1. If Houston gets to 44 wins in July, then the Astros are looking at a minimum of a 10- or 11-win increase over 2013.

Likely even more. But to get to 70, Houston has to win 26 games the rest of the way. That’s 13 a month. After this skid in July, that’s looking less likely. Houston has played 107 games. After July, it’ll be up to 109. That leaves 53 games. Houston would need to play one game under .500 the rest of the way to get to 70 wins. That said, I will boldly predict we don’t lose 100 this year (baby steps, folks).

2. Despite Chad Qualls’ implosion Tuesday night, this team lives and dies on its offense. Which brings me to the second thing I think I know: The success of this offense has little to do with Jose Altuve because he can’t do it alone.

After an April where he hit .276, Altuve has hit well over .300 each month. Even calculating in the rate at which he misses games, he’s going to collect more than 220 hits this season. Still, no matter how he’s hit, it’s all about having guys like Fowler and Springer in the lineup.

3. That said, Altuve has been amazing. He’s hitting .343, leading the majors in batting average. And that brings me to the third thing I think I know. The race for the AL batting title is Altuve’s to lose, and one of the few reasons that keeps me tuning into games.

Robinson Cano is second in the AL at .327, and he’s fading, hitting just .268 in his last 10 games. Altuve has hit .429 in his last 10. Third Victor Martinez at .325 (about .250 his last 10 games). Fourth is Adrian Beltre at .321, though he’s been at the Mendoza line for the last 10 games.

To catch Altuve, one of two things must happen. First, Altuve has to cool off. He’s got to drop his average about 15 points or more. How unlikely is that? Well, say Altuve ends up with 625 ABs (that’d be a lot with just 55 games left). And say he hits .300 the rest of the way. JUST .300. Well, his batting average would drop to .330. Then the second thing would have to happen: At least one guy would need to raise his average to beat Altuve. And if it’s not Cano, Beltre or V-Mart, then the chances of this happening are less and less.

4. But the problem has been the guys hitting in the second half of the lineup. And right now it’s all about depth. And that brings me to the fourth thing I think I know. Organizationally, the organization might be deep down to A-ball, but with MLB-ready players, Houston is as thin as my high school mustache.

Sure, when Springer and Fowler and even Presley are playing, this lineup is not horrible. Imagine this starting nine:
CF, Fowler, .774 OPS
2B Altuve, .827 OPS
RF, Springer, .804 OPS
1B, Chris Carter, .766 OPS
DH, Jason Castro, .677 OPS
C, Carlos Corporan, .702 OPS
3B, Matt Dominguez, .638 OPS
LF, Enrique Hernandez, .791 OPS
SS, Marwin Gonzalez, .722 OPS

Maybe Presley (.650 OPS) starts against righties and Corp sits, moving Castro to catcher.

Heck, Oakland’s second basemen both have OPSs below .600. They’ve got three other regular starters (Jed Lowrie, Alberto Callaspo and Craig Gentry) with OPSs below .700. That Houston lineup–other than the Ks–looks good.

But we’ve been seeing the likes of L.J. Hoes, Robbie Grossman and Marc Krauss (he’s a scrub; you win Bopert!). Too much Jonathan Singleton is weighing down this lineup.

5. Which is why the Astros lose. That and the bullpen. Which brings me to the fifth thing I think I know. Once again, our bullpen is horrible.

Oh, you can blame it on a few weeks of Kyle Farnsworth, or too much Jerome Williams, or not enough Matt Albers and Jesse Crain (who?). But this bullpen has been pretty bad all around.

The bullpen’s team ERA is over 5.00 again. There are only three guys who don’t make me groan when they walk in: Tony Sipp, Chad Qualls (though last night was bad) and Josh Fields. Fields is especially interesting. After a horrid April, he’s done very well the rest of the way. Qualls is usually good for the close, but occasionally throws up a stinker. And Sipp, well, has been a diamond in the rough.

Part of the problem has been how Bo Porter handles them. For example, last night Sipp pitches to one lefty then gets replaced with Jose Veras, who isn’t doing as well against righties as Sipp does.

It doesn’t help matters, I’m sure, that Porter feels the same way I do about his bullpen. Those three, along with Darrin Downs and his 1.44 WHIP, lead the team in appearances.

So, I’d like to know what you think you know.

1. How many wins does Houston end up with? Considering how bad 2013 was, is that enough of an improvement?

2. There’s been talk of getting a bat for a pitcher in trade. If we get a decent DH or first baseman, is it worth the addition to this lineup around Altuve? Or do we need to keep what little quality pitching we have?

3. Are you watching the box score for Altuve each day? To me, it feels like 1980 and George Brett all over again.

4. If healthy, is this a lineup that can compete? Do we need to add depth, if not for this season, then for 2015? Or will our AA and AAA talent be ready to plug the injury gaps by then?

5. This bullpen was supposed to be much improved. And, if healthy, I guess it would have been. Is the bullpen your biggest disappointment for 2014?

6. What else do you think you know?

72 comments on “August Approaches: Five Astros’ Things I Think I Know

  1. How long a leash does Singleton have to get his contact issues resolved?
    It seems to me that trying to shorten his stroke should have happened at AAA. Is He still playing everyday because of his contract?


    • I think his leash easily lasts out the season. We have to remember that Singleton is very young, and he is certainly trying to work it out. I just hope he gets it figured out in the offseason since he’s not going to do it before the end of September.


  2. Larry, I think it’s pretty simple: The Astros believe he’s the future and there just isn’t anyone else knocking down that door. Indeed, they’ve “bought in” with the contract, so why not let him take his hacks in Houston as opposed to OKC. Unless they feel he’d get better coaching at OKC?


  3. I know that strict adherence to the righty/lefty thing is stupid. Sipp is your best pitcher. Let him pitch to more than one batter, especially in a game that might go extra innings. He should have been in there after Lowrie walked. It was clear long before that any out he might get would be by accident.


      • Just listening to Porter tell me that he made good pitches. I’m pretty sure Castro will disagree.

        I get that you don’t want to go out and say your guy should never had gotten out of bed, but come on, he was no where near his spots.


  4. 1. I could see them staying on pace for 97 losses, but think another Sept collapse is just as likely given how they entered and left the break. Lack of focus…
    2. Unless you’re adding Jose Abreu it doesn’t make a lot of sense to acquire a player limited to 1B/DH. A marginal increase in value over Carter and Singleton isn’t exciting. It took Singleton time at AAA and it will be the same at the MLB level. I think he ultimately will be a good value.
    3. For the last three years the first thing I checked in the box was Altuve’s performance.
    4. A healthy Fowler/Springer pair, improvement from Singleton, and a solid bullpen performance puts them within spitting distance of the second wild card. You think I’m crazy? The White Sox…at 52-55… Are 5.5 GB Toronto. The Astros are 14.5 GB right now.
    5. The number of starts given to sub-Mendoza line hitters is my biggest disappointment.


  5. The 9th was not handled very well by our manager. But overlooked is that our defensive replacement in left turned a very catchable ball into a double. That would have kept the score at 4-1 with two outs and just one guy on base. Manageable. Hoes is just one of several guys that I’ll never miss once gone.

    1. The wins question again. I don’t care Brian. I see a more stable rotation, a perennial All Star at second base, a quality effort by Fowler when healthy and George Springer. And maybe a bit of hope out of Enrique becoming our first real quality utility man in quite sometime. Other than that, I don’t see a whole lot of improvement out of this club from 2013 to 2014, even if we do win a few more games.

    2. I think we wore the “trade a starter” question out yesterday. But why consider bringing in a first baseman? Like it or not, Singleton will get a longer look than anyone has ever gotten. And a DH? Carter has a .766 OPS. How much more than that would we get in a trade for one of the three guys talked about? If we lose a starter, I sure hope it’s for an everyday shortstop. Failing that, a quality outfielder that will finally make L.J. Hoes a moot point.

    3. I watch Altuve on line nightly when I’m not in Houston. He’s really tuned in. Still swings at bad stuff on occasion though. I think he can be a .390 to .400 OBP guy at some point soon.

    4. Compete for what? We lack depth in all areas and have a terrible bullpen. That will not all get fixed in 2015, especially with an entry level payroll.

    5. My biggest disappointment is Jeff Luhnow. One of his responsibilities is that rotten bullpen. I think Collin McHugh is his season highlight. Did I forget something else? But seriously, McHugh was a pretty good acquisition. That 1.117 WHIP should not be ignored. I’d like to see if the guy can get deeper into games.

    6. I don’t know. I do think a few things though. I don’t think we are as far along with this rebuilding effort as we should be. We have question marks at every position except for second base and wherever Springer plays in the outfield. I include Fowler as a question mark, because I don’t know if he’ll be around next year. We have a terrible bullpen, still. I see reason for optimism with the rotation. I see the potential for a stronger bench. But I do think we’ve got way too many holes, at this point in time.


  6. I am not going to pile on Krauss. His first year at AA he was bad. He improved. His first stint at AAA he was bad. He improved. He has been bad at the MLB level so far, but he needs consistent PT to improve. His BABIP is far below what he has done in the past at every level.

    He is no superstar in the making, got it. But if you want to develop a fourth OF’er that can also fill in at 1B, who is also a natural DH because he has that good BB rate and some power, and can also function as your emergency catcher – how many of them are you going to find? I got it that I might be in the minority on this one, but I think a starting OF of Santana/Springer/Fowler going into ST with Hoes and Krauss on the bench could be a good way to go. It gives Porter options – you hand him a contact guy and a power guy on the bench, and he can mix them in.

    Of course Krauss, if he wants to survive in the majors and not become Crash Davis, needs to learn to perform well from the bench. His own defensive liability along with a ceiling on his offensive potential – he has some, but its not like he is Puig – means he needs to take his craft a different direction. He needs to learn about the “professional” pinch hitter, the one that prepares every day despite knowing he isn’t going to be in there every day. Give him time, he can figure it out.

    Keep in mind – take out the first month – he is at .240, and he is hitting .286 in July. Like the team, its baby steps to improvement.


    • Steven, even if Hoes hits, he’s a bad outfielder. I suppose in theory, he should get to more balls than Krauss, but he’s not good at figuring out the most direct route to a ball. I’ve seen it live too many times. And it’s not the kind of thing you teach a baseball player how to do in his 20’s. It’s instinct. I think a guy like Hernandez might better help us as the fifth outfielder because he can also play some infield. And at some point, assuming Hoes continues not to hit, I’d like to at least see what Wates can do in the outfield. It would be nice to have a defensive replacement in the outfield who actually plays defense.


    • I prefer Grossman over Hoes. For a guy to have a .300+ OBP with a BA below .200 shows me he has great discipline. I am not giving up on Grossman yet as a 5th OFer.


      • Tim – gone over this in my head a dozen times at least.

        Grossman is not bad defensively, but he isn’t great. He isn’t slow, but he isn’t fast. He has some power, but not a lot. His biggest attribute is that if his BABIP is just average he can be a .400 OBP guy.

        To me though when you are evaluating what you want on your bench, you are looking for some intangibles. You aren’t looking for exclusively guys that help you in one specific area – i.e. standing in the batters box. Grossman wouldn’t be your first choice as a pinch runner, defensive sub, or even a guy to throw out there with runners at 2nd and 3rd and one out because he strike outs a bit too.

        I think Grossman’s true value doesn’t get seen unless he is receiving a large amount of playing time to see that OBP become a true asset. The rest of his play is very average – if you were asking me to pick which ones to give 500 AB too – Grossman, Krauss, Hoes, or Hernandez, I would pick Robbie. Ask me which one to put up there with runners on 2nd and 3rd, one out, down by a run in the 7th, I might take Hoes. Make that two outs and down by 3, I might take Krauss. Ask me to send one out to CF in the 9th to help protect a one run lead, or pinch run for a guy on first with 2 outs in the ninth, I might pick Hernandez. Grossman doesn’t come in unless I need someone to get 4 at bats today, and go 1 for 4 with a walk.


  7. I can buy keeping Hernandez around over Hoes because of his defensive versatility. I am guessing Hernandez could even ump if they asked him too.


  8. Well, there’s No. 44.

    DaveB, while the wins really don’t matter in some ways, it does give us a gauge on how we are doing. Wins are what the game is all about, after all. And since going from worst to first in one season is exceedingly difficult, taking it in steps–as it looks like we’re doing–is the way to become better.


    • Brian, I know I’m in the minority, but 95 losses simply don’t mean anything less or more to me than 105 losses. Now if we had question marks at three or four positions instead of seven, then I’d feel like progress is being made. Or if the pen looked to be coming together, then I’d feel as if we’ve made progress, even with 100 plus losses. We might lose less this year, but I don’t see much progress overall.


  9. One thing I know for sure is as bad as our bullpen is, the guy managing it is worse. The seeds of last night’s ninth inning debacle were sown the night before. I was at the Monday game and appreciated Obie’s effort and thought it wise that Porter relieved him with 2 outs in the seventh and Steven Vogt (lefty) coming to the plate with a homer and double already racked up against Obie. But Porter brings in Fields instead of Sipp. I’m OK with that and Fields gets Vogt out on two pitches. Fields comes out to start the eighth – so far so good. He gets two outs and gives up a hit but has only thrown 11 pitches. Bo relieves him with Sipp to face Brandon Moss. Let’s see, Fields is OK to face Vogt who is hitting 360 with a double and a bomb in the game already but not Moss who is 0-fer and hitting 260? Sipp does get Moss out and comes back out to pitch the ninth. Gets two outs but his command is wavering as his pitch count increases. Walks two guys and then goes 3-0 on Vogt, threatening to load the bases for Yoenis Cespedes. To his credit Sipp got back to 3-2 and then got a fly ball for the final. He threw 31 pitches in 1 2/3 innings. Qualls on the other hand has had little work in the past week or so because there have been no leads to protect. If Porter lets Fields finish the eighth and brings in Qualls in the ninth then Qualls has 4 runs to work with and the bottom of the order scheduled. So he doesn’t get a save. He gets an inning to regain some sharpness which could have come in handy last night as well as Sipp being fresh and ready instead of worn down. His command last night against Moss was pretty shabby. What we really need then for the team to show improvement is for Dallas to start and finish every game so Bo won’t have to use the bullpen. Therefore, don’t trade Dallas.


  10. Since oldpro seems to be taking the day off, I didn’t think he’d mind my noting that Appel threw five shutout innings tonight, 2 hits, 4 walks, 4 K’s. That’s a pretty good start.


  11. 1) Wins – 68 – I think they will be better especially with Springer and Fowler.
    2) I go with daveb – trade pitching for a SS not DH or 1B
    3) Funny I almost take Altuve for granted – he seems to do something every day
    4) This lineup is better especially with Springer and Fowler – not sure if the cavalry will be here in time to fill in holes.
    5) I was most disappointed they brought up Santana and then sent him down so quickly.
    Made no sense


    • I am not too upset about Santana. He had 11 Ks in 13 ABs and was clearly over-matched. I don’t think Luhnow wanted to bring him up. He mentioned several times how Santana needed to cut down on his Ks before he was ready to be brought up. I think he acquiesced to the demands of the fans and probably ownership, but ultimately, Luhnow was proven correct. Santana is not ready for the show yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Just to amplify Devin’s post and defend my memory of watching Mario Mendoza attempt to hit for the Rangers. MM 9 yrs, 4 HRs, lifetime .215 avg, & .507 OPS — so Mario would bat 4th in our lineup.


  13. 1. I think they get to 66 wins.
    2. I think they need another major league hitter, no matter how they get him. A trade is better than signing a free agent. We have assets in our prospects, but not much money.
    4. No
    5.Dominguez is my biggest disappointment, followed closely by Castro.
    Sorry for being absent. I grabbed two gals at an internet cafe in Rome and borrowed their laptop and BMW to get to Florence for the parade. Took an unmarked jet to Paris and swam the channel. Now in Manchester taking care of grandchildren. Nice win today. Will try to contact you later if pos…………..


    • You are where you should be all the time. And when you’re not . . . . you are in Manchester taking care of grandchildren. That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.


    • That does not read true oldpro. Women in Rome do not walk with laptops……they like to travel light (very) especially in August and be fully ready for anything that comes their way. I believe everything else though.


  14. Knee jerk reaction, but I am not a fan. I’m a Tar Heel and getting Moran for Cosart feels like Luhnow dumped him. Letting Like go as well feels like getting kicked while I’m down. Can someone provide reassurance that Marisnick, despite looking like less than Hoes in statistics at first glance brings something to the table?


    • He has a smidgen more power. But a smidgen more power than Hoes isn’t going to get him far. Good news is at least Hoes will be gone.


  15. Well………..I guess that tells us everything we needed to know about how bad Luhnow wanted Cosart gone. Please tell me how this team got better, because
    from everything I’m reading about this trade Luhnow screwed us over. We won’t be clamoring for Wates to come up any more……………..this stinks.


    • Wates turns 26 in a few days. I like some of the corners he has turned, accepting his lot as a OBP guy with some speed – and cutting his strikeouts WAY down, but at 26 he may have just been better and more experienced than a lot of the AAA guys he was facing. He wasn’t getting opportunity.

      I guess we like overrated Marlins third base draft choices. Moran was all the talk when he was drafted, but the power is still missing. Maybe Luhnow felt like after he duped the Marlins on the Lee deal he owed them one, giving them what looks like will be a workhorse plus .500 pitcher for the next 7-8 years, a high energy super sub possibility and would could be their starting LF so we could get an overrated 3B prospect that hasn’t seen AA and a journeyman OFer with no particular strength (like we didn’t already have 3 of those).

      Didn’t he just say the other day he was shopping for a major league ready bat?

      Keep an eye on the throw in guy though – hasn’t played much professional ball but scouts rave about a live arm.


  16. The more of these I read, the more I think Bopert hacked the Astros files. We traded 2 average MLB players for a draft pick, an A+ prospect and .167 batter?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Trade Day Thought #1. Jared Cozart is good now and is just going to get better. The Marlins will NEVER regret this trade. Meanwhile, back in Texas, I sure hope Nitro or Folty or Wojo or Hader or someone in all this ‘surplus’ of pitching Jeff Luhnow likes to talk about gets here soon and at least equals Cozy’s performance level. Trade Day Thought # 2. BE IT RESOLVED, that from henceforth no one with the first name Austin should ever be able to allowed to play baseball for a team located in any state besides Texas. Trade Day Thought # 3. I guess this means we can expect to see a whole lot of Brad Peacock the remainder of the year. Somewhere in that young man’s 6′ 1″ frame I suspect is a pitcher who can hit corners with his breaking stuff, pound the strike zone with his fast ball, and miss bats of even really good and patient hitters in this league. Can that Brad Peacock please come out and play? Trade Day Thought #4: I thought we were talking about trading starting pitching for a middle of the order, major league ready BAT!!!!!!!!!! Seems to me we lost one [Kike] – not gained one.


  18. I think Colin Moran might be headed to Lancaster, Ruiz to CC. Davis just got to Quad Cities and Luhnow already said Ruiz would finish the year at AA.
    Marisnick probably goes to CF in OKC.
    The supplemental pick was #32 in round one, so we now have 3 first round picks next year.
    I liked Cosart and I hope he turns out well. We knew this probably was going to happen because we’ve been talking about which of the three pitchers were going for days now, right here on this blog. I guess Miami wanted to deal for Cosart and they did. The 18 year old pitcher is in GCL and we must like what we saw in him.
    Wates never got a chance in Houston. Maybe he’ll get it in Miami. Marisnick has a vry good arm, a good glove, has decent power and is only 23 and has good speed w/24 SB this year in AAA.


  19. Not sure what the future holds but we all know one thing for sure, when you trade MLB players for prospects, you will always have prospects — somebody will always take a MLB player and give you a prospect or two. So we now know the Astros were “sellers” again this year at the deadline.


  20. I can only guess that Cosart was one of the guys saying mean things about Appel last Sunday. Apparently, Marisnick is starting in center tonight. By all accounts, he’s a good defender and can steal a base. He’ll also be our latest strike out machine. For a big guy who’s played five plus years of minor league ball, his .790 OPS and .347 OBP are pedestrian figures. His limited ML stats are worse than Krauss, Grossman, Singleton, Hoes, etc.. I’d have rather given Wates and his .396 lifetime OBP a chance to get on base up here.

    Martes looks kind of like Rio Ruiz with less power. His minor league OBP of .346 is not far off Rio’s .361 and his .753 OPS is close to Ruiz’ .800, but do we need another Rio Ruiz?

    I guess it comes down to whether Francis Martes is more valuable than Jarred Cosart.

    I don’t think any of us debating the loss of one of our starters the other day expected this kind of an outcome.


  21. I was not a fan of Cosart and really don’t think he will be much more than a #3 SP at best. Everyone keeps saying he is only going to get better, but I don’t see it. I will miss Kike, but I think the Astros sold high on him. He was always projected to be a super utility player and, eventually, the league will figure him out. Wates, ehh, no big loss there. An almost 26 year old career minor leaguer will probably be a Brandon Barnes redux. I like Moran and will wait to see if Marisnick figures out the show. I really like obtaining the competitive balance pick.


      • Well, Peter Gammons, Keith Law and Ken Rosenthal all agreed the Astros won this trade. I think they have a better idea than you and I. Marisnick and Moran were both top 100 prospects at the beginning of this year (Marisnick is not eligible anymore since he has already played in the majors) and we will get the first pick in the supplemental round next year. I don’t think we got ‘mid level prospects’.


  22. I am officially off the Luhnow bandwagon. Right now i wish we could bring Shawn Chacon out of retirement so he could give Luhnow the ‘Ed Wade’ treatment.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Marisnick will be in the line-up tomorrow. Moran is going to Corpus. I’m so angry
    with Luhnow it’s not funny. we got *NOTHING* from Miami. Every single one of these guys are minor league players. And yeah……..Cosart sealed his fate last weekend by mouthing off about Appel.


  24. Astros’ line-up tonight features 4 of 9 hitters batting under the Mendoza line, and 7 of 9 under .240. Our starting pitcher’s ERA is 5.56. And we are playing Toronto – no one under .200, and 6 of 9 over .270. Let’s see, who to bet on . . . .


  25. I’m really disappointed in my blog buddies and buddiettes – I take a little vacation and you guys and gals let them trade two of our average plus players for what?
    Tut tut – I can’t take any more vacations I guess.


  26. If Colin Moran was THAT good, the Marlins would have NEVER traded him. Luhnow said he was the one guy they wanted, but they would have balked
    at that idea if he was as good as he was touted in the 2012 draft. Cosart needed
    to get away from this club……….I can’t say I’ll miss him. Now what do you do when Springer, and Fowler come back? Marisnick is a center, and has only played in right
    a handful of games. Getting kinda crowded in center field. And…..where did Luhnow bury Guzman?? We sure have a lot of dead weight on this club.


    • And if Cosart was that good the Astros would never have traded him. I feel very confident that Cosart will never be much more than a #3 on an average ML team or a #4 on a good ML team. He has had control issues his entire professional career.


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