It’s Friday, the weekend is ahead, so you know what that means: Free Blog Weekend. Let’s get started.
- It does seem like a new day now that Tom Lawless and Adam Everett are leading the dugout. Houston is 6-2 this month with 16 games to go and, while several games are against contenders or semi-contenders, it doesn’t seem to matter. Lawless told the Chronicle’s Evan Drellich: “They’re not intimidated by anybody. They know who we’re playing and they know the other team has a lot at stake. We’re going out there with the attitude, ‘We can play with them and we can beat them.’” September hasn’t been kind to Houston in recent years. Last year, the team finished on a 15-game losing streak and dropped 18 of its last 22 games. Tony D had the Astros playing good baseball at the end of 2012, but the team was 13-14 in September that year.
- Even a .500 finish down the stretch would put the Astros at 73-89, a 22-game improvement over 2013. It would also put Lawless at 14-10 and make a strong case to Jeff Luhnow in the search for a new manager.
200 hits = Batting titles.
- Someone mentioned this week that since Jose Altuve was only thesecondAstros’ player to reach 200 hits in a season, that explained whytheAstros had never had a batting champion. Perhaps, but I thought I’d look a little deeper to see how many similar teams had players with 200 hits. Here’s a short list of teams — with similar life spans as Houston — with the year of their inception and the number of players with 200-hit seasons:
- Texas (1961) 7 players.
- NY Mets (1962) 2.
- Milwaukee (1969) 4.
- Minnesota (1961) 4.
- Kansas City (1969) 6.
- Colorado (1993) 7.
- That’s a short list. A little surprising to see some of the names that were on these lists of 200-hit seasons. Cecil Cooper had three 200-hit seasons. Others names on the list include Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla and even Juan Pierre.
- For the Astros, part of this may be due to playing so many games in the Astrodome, where long fly balls were just long outs. However, you could argue that the dome vastness was also an advantage for spray or gap hitters.
Saving the farm.
- Chad Qualls leads the team in saves this season with 17. With his injured hip and the fact the Astros may want to get a look at others, it’s quite possible he won’t reach 20. You have to go back to 2011 to find a pitcher who reached that mark (Mark Melancon, 20). Of course, when a team wins only 51 games, duh, it’s a little more challenging to save games, right? still, the Astros haven’t started the season with an established closer since Jose Valverde in 2009.
- Just an observation. Five times since 2000, the Astros have fired a manager in mid-season. Jimy Williams, Phil Garner, Cecil Cooper, Brad Mills and Bo Porter were all fired in the summers. Unless you count Porter, not since Larry Dierker “resigned” after the 2001 season has Houston had a “normal” between-season manager transition. Get this: Prior to this recent rash of in-season firings, you have to go back to 1982 to find the last such transaction. That was when Bob Lillis replaced the fired Bill Virdon, the longest-tenured manager in Astros’ history.
And, a list of questions to get your weekend started:
- With the above-mentioned reference to closers, how important (rank it) is it for the Astros to bring in an experienced closer to start 2015?
- As we’ve discussed before, it should be a busy winter for Luhnow. What is the single most important area Luhnow should upgrade (e.g. third base, shortstop, corner outfield, closer, etc.)?
- Have you noticed a palpable difference in attitude, on-field decisions, etc. since Lawless took over as manager September 1? In your mind, after eight games, should he be a strong candidate for the permanent job?
- This one calls for honor and honesty. Looking back at your Astros’ predictions and expectations before the 2014 season began, what’s the one you absolutely nailed and what’s the one you absolutely missed?