Sunday update: Yes, Houston has a real live baseball team

Friends, fans and countrymen, Houston has a real live, honest to goodness major league baseball team. It’s amazing that winning can cause forgetfulness quickly.

Yes, those Astros are streaky.

But maybe not in the way you were thinking. Dallas Keuchel now has 11 consecutive quality starts going back to August 2014. During that stretch, he’s 4-1 with a 1.81 ERA. Meanwhile, Will Harris stretched his scoreless streak to 23 games despite a challenging inning on Saturday. Harris has not given up a run since August 2014. It’s the second longest active streak in the majors (Aroldis Chapman, 24).

What happened to versatility and flexibility?

During spring training, the watch words for the Astros were flexibility and versatility. Several different players would play multiple positions, allowing A.J. Hinch plenty of room to mix and match his new team. While the batting order has certainly been flexible, few players are playing all over the field. Only two players have played first base (Marwin Gonzalez, Chris Carter) and third base (Jonathan Villar, Luis Valbuena). Of course, Jose Altuve is the only starter at second base and Evan Gattis has only “played” DH this season. Hinch hasn’t run anyone to right field other than George Springer.

Jake Marisnick‘s steady start means he has gotten the lion’s share of starts in center, leaving Robbie Grossman and Colby Rasmus to share time in left. As a result, the defense has been one of the steady — if not stellar — parts of the Astros’ game thus far in 2015.

Players/pitchers of the month.

Keuchel and McHugh each have one more start left in April and should garner consideration for pitcher of the month. Nick Martinez, Trevor Bauer and Scott Kazmir all have sub-1.00 ERAs and you can make arguments for each based on their work so far. McHugh obviously isn’t in the same “class” this month (3-0, 2.41), but he’ll get an opportunity with Monday’s start to improve his position.

In case you were wondering. The Astros…

  • Are more games over .500 (10-7) that at any time in any season since July 24, 2009 (50-46).
  • Have not had a winning season in April since 2006 (16-8) when they finished at 82-80.
  • 9-0 when scoring first and 9-0 when scoring four or more runs.
  • 8-0 when either Keuchel or Collin McHugh start, 2-2 when Scott Feldman is the starter.
  • Are 7-5 when hitting a home run, 3-2 when not.
  • Are off to their best start since 2006 (12-5).
  • Are 7-0 when leading after eight, 6-0 when leading after seven, 6-0 when leading after six.

Sunday questions…

  • What is impressing you most at 10-7?
  • Will the Astros always have two players hovering around .200 this season?
  • Is the 10-7 record real? Or is it smoke and mirrors?
  • What would bring the team crashing and burning quicker than anything?
  • Sort of rhetorical, but if Marisnick gets today off as well, will a three-day layoff impact his torrid start (remember Dexter Fowler in ’14, longer layoff though)?



54 comments on “Sunday update: Yes, Houston has a real live baseball team

  1. Without a doubt, for me anyway, the single most impressive thing so far has been the play of our centerfielder. I’m not yet convinced the hitting will continue, but Jake has proven to be a real tease so far.

    Following a close second would be the starting pitching. We all know that Keuchel can’t end up with an 0.82 ERA, or whatever it is right now. But unless he or McHugh lose time on the DL, they will continue to provide stability for the rotation, and the rotation is still my biggest concern. I don’t think Feldman and Hernandez will continue to be as good as shown so far. And the 5th slot is still in flux. Big game for Wojciechowski today. Sam might get the next start if Wojo does not provide six solid innings.

    And did I read this morning that Neshek is working with a slight stress fracture in his right foot? This is a guy who has had several shortened seasons. Maybe he’s replaceable, but his health is certainly a consideration going forward, especially with his track record.

    All that said about pitching, we will continue to hit better. Altuve is Altuve. He’s a gem. Springer, Carter, Valbuena, none of those guys were going to hit .150 and we’re now starting to see some reason for optimism. And no, I don’t think any of the guys will end up in the .200 range, unless Grossman or Conger are the culprits. Even Gattis will get his average up if given the chance.

    Sure, the 10-7 record is real, but is it indicative of what we should expect going forward? Still too early. It’s up to the pitcing. It won”t remain as good as it has been, but will it remain solid?


  2. Awesome stuff I’ll be back. When last year did we win our 4th series ? If JFSF even stays a .275 hitter Huge win with his defense and speed ! I like Keuchel but I have to honest in my heart of hearts thought last year was a bit of a 1 hit wonder, he has proved me wrong wow has he been stellar,


  3. * Jake’s injury might be easier to come back from than Fowler’s was. Fowler had food poisoning and lost ten pounds and a lot of strength last year and took weeks to recover.
    * The flexibility stopped when Villar blew up the SS position, Gattis stopped thinking about LF, Singleton got demoted and Marisnick started hitting so well that Hinch didn’t want to mess with the outfield.
    * Keuchel and McHugh might move toward their norm, but they could remain just as effective if the .224 hitting Astros move up toward the MLB norm batting average, which currently sits at .245. The middle of the league teams(#s15&16) are hitting .243 as a team, so the upper teams batting averages are still a little inflated over the bottom teams.
    * What is impressing me most about the 10-7 is that many people had the Astros early schedule as one of the toughest in baseball, which leads me to believe that the Astros are currently one of the toughest teams around to beat consistently.
    * Will the Astros have two players hovering around .200 this season? Not as long as a couple of unnamed players remain in AAA.
    * I think the 10-7 record is real, because the Astros rank in the top five in pitching and defense, and their #4 and #5 starters, Ober and Peacock have been hurt.
    * I don’t want to about any crashing or burning unless it’s Springer’s bat on fire.


  4. If you get a chance, take a look at Carlos Correa’s stats in AA this season versus Byron Buxton’s stats in AA this season. Note that Buxton is 2.9 years younger than the average age of his league, and that Correa is 4.4 years younger than his league’s average age.


      • PS Villar is a enigma, 1st game back in AAA 3-4 i think a couple doubles and RBI’s. I guess he will always be that AAAA dude.


    • Our 1st round draft pick at SS hit a HR, had 6 RBIs last night and is hitting .333 for the season. No, not Carlos Correa, but Jio Mier. Could he finally be turning the corner? He played 2B last night, but with Altuve and Correa blocking him I think our best hope is that he can become a valuable trade piece.


    • So Wise OP1 ( may the force be with you) Hypothetically Correa is the Astro SS 2016, what will we do with Lowrie, he is a solid veteran piece on this team?


      • I’ll be straight with you. I think Lowrie is a big part of this team. I have a ton of thoughts about next year, but in short, I think Lowrie and Luhnow have a lot of respect for each other and that Luhnow would go to Lowrie and talk to him if he is approached about a trade in the offseason. I know that sounds stupid.
        My preference would be for Lowrie to be the infield utility guy/DH/PH next season, after Correa is at SS. My eyes tell me that Lowrie is not a starting 3B in the majors, but a fill-in 3B. My ears tell me that he wanted to be the starting SS as long as Correa was not here and that he would be happy in Houston after Correa gets here.
        I believe this: that Lowrie thinks the Astros have a team good enough to make the playoffs this season and that he will do everything he can to help it happen. I have never seen him so aggressive as he is this year, especially at the plate.


  5. Kemp and Correa between them have 0 errors. Mier has 4 errors.
    But, maybe he could be a DH. Wouldn’t that be an about face? Mier, not being able to field and knocking the cover off the ball. Baseball is very weird!


  6. It looks as though Adam Wainwright might be lost for the year with a torn Achillies, suffered while running to 1B last night. That is a huge blow for the Cards.
    National League, designated hitter, Baby! Isn’t it time that baseball got it right? Either everybody does it or nobody does it.


  7. What is impressing you most at 10-7?

    Looking at the teams that they have played to begin the season, I would have been deliriously happy with .500. The hitting is where I thought it would be at to begin the season (why can they not just pretend it is spring training? They bust it then but they fall off at the regular season start) but the pitching is vastly superior top what I thought. I hoped Kuechel and McHugh, along with Gregorson, would pitch lights out but the bullpen has been very pleasant… minus Qualls’ meltdown last week.

    Will the Astros always have two players hovering around .200 this season?

    We know Carter will be there, probably Castro as well. Gattis, Valbuena, and Springer will move the averages up to at least .250+.

    Is the 10-7 record real? Or is it smoke and mirrors?

    Real deal and I am glad! Again, the opening month has presented playoff-caliber teams, sans the Rangers, and the Astros have held their own and more.

    What would bring the team crashing and burning quicker than anything?

    Not even gonna act like I see this question….

    Sort of rhetorical, but if Marisnick gets today off as well, will a three-day layoff impact his torrid start (remember Dexter Fowler in ’14, longer layoff though)?

    I am curious… is he injured? If he is not injured, then is Hinch playing a little Porter again… “how DARE you hit this well when you are not supposed to! I’ll just sit you until you cool off!”

    OldPro… I am still a old baseball person… Pitchers can hurt themselves just charging off the mound to field a ball. Wainwright’s injury was a fluke and I hated to see that. He is a starter on three of my four fantasy teams I have on the yelling website and the Cardinals are one of the five fantasy teams on MLB!

    Keep going Astros!


    • “He is a starter on three of my four fantasy teams “


      Well, Sarge, I suppose we know what you do in your spare time. Or retirement! 🙂


    • Sarge, I’m the guy they refer to as OTBG, but I would consider Wainwright to have a fluke injury if he tore his Achilles pitching. If he tears it going down the line running, that’s not a fluke. Missteps while running is how the Achilles usually gets torn.


  8. What is impressing you most at 10-7? The 10-7 record impresses me with so many hitters struggling. They seemed to have figured out how to win even when things are not going there way.
    Will the Astros always have two players hovering around .200 this season? My gut is that Carter may have trouble getting away from that mark this season. Don’t know why – probably over -reacting to his early season record.
    Is the 10-7 record real? Or is it smoke and mirrors? It has not been flukey – they have built it on solid starts and a very good bullpen.
    What would bring the team crashing and burning quicker than anything? Same thing I said before the season – losing Keuchel or McHugh – they are the heart of this team’s start from my standpoint.
    Sort of rhetorical, but if Marisnick gets today off as well, will a three-day layoff impact his torrid start (remember Dexter Fowler in ’14, longer layoff though)? Well he is playing today, and I think missing a few games and maybe thinking about his injury may impact him, plus the law of averages. But he was hot when no one else was – maybe with others warming up he will slowly trend back to normal.


  9. I think the 10-7 is real and may actually get better. Bear in mind that this is a vastly different team from past years. I’m not talking quality although it is much better but rather this is a bunch of guys who have not played together all that much. A poor start could have condemned this season to more angst but thanks to the pitching, defense and steady performance up the middle the team won despite lousy hitting from the middle of the lineup. As the hitting from the power guys improves the offense will start to carry its load and things could get really fun.

    I think major injuries are the only things that could have a devastating impact.

    This is a much more mature team mentally. While Rasmus isn’t tearing it up I think it is huge that your $8 million career centerfielder didn’t insist on playing center or nothing. When Rasmus, Marisnick and Springer are in the OF we might have the best defensive OF in the league. Lowery at SS is a steady hand. Castro’s low BA is primarily the result of bad BABIP luck. His walk percentage is way up and his K rate is way down. Carter has been abysmal offensively but has been very serviceable at 1B. Springer also has been stellar defensively in spite of his offensive struggles. Marisnick has been able to flourish in a non-pressure spot in the lineup and I suspect Hinch will leave him there. And of course Altuve is getting bigger and bigger all the time. I would not be surprised to see him end up with 10+ homers and 70 RBI out of the leadoff spot. Summer is so much easier to tolerate around here when the local nine is worth following and providing hope.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Holy guacamole, Chip!!
    JFSF just launched a 2 run dinger right after the ump launched Bob Melvin for arguing balls and strikes.


    • He absolutely cannot keep his fastball down. He fooled lesser hitters with it in the spring, but he cannot continue to always throw it between the belt and the letters to major league hitters. They see it well up there and are sitting on it since he is throwing it 55% of the time. He needs another pitch.


      • OP1, that was truly an ugly outing. Even his strikeout-the-side inning did not look crisp. He’s consistently struggling with his fastball command, and he just does not seem to have an impressive 2nd pitch.


      • Xactly what I was thinking. Go to Fresno work on keeping the ball down and get a 3rd pitch/ Man Marwin and the stros got screwed bad on that 3rd strike call GRRRRRRRRRRRR


  11. On the other hand . . . don’t look now, but Preston Tucker has 7 home runs and 24 RBIs in 16 games for Fresno, and Carlos Correa has 4 home runs and 19 RBIs for Corpus in the same number of games.


  12. Ummm, did Trout really just homer off Bass? Sounds a bit fishy to me.

    Oh, and, on Wojo, wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him head to Fresno tonight to get an extra position player heading into the NL series/park against San Diego.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, you just can’t give a 5-2 lead right back to the other guys.

      How many honestly thought Gattis was going to make something out that at bat in the 9th after getting behind by two strikes swinging at one over his head?


  13. Well a “New Astros” rally in the top of the 9th that included two strikeouts with runners on third, but those were sandwiched around a huge 2 run double by Gattis. Gatts’ AB was intriguing. He got his second strike by swinging at a pitch 6 inches too high and 3 inches inside. But he got his double by swinging at a pitch 6 inches too high over the middle of the plate. I have no idea how he caught up with it – it reminded me of a tomahawk job that Glen Davis hit against Dwight Gooden to win against the Mets in 1986.


    • Yes, that Davis shot was a rocket. I think the centerfield fence in the Dome in those days was 410. The ball never got more than 30 or 40 feet off the ground.


  14. Astros sweep the A’s for the first time in their history in a game they tried to give away 2 or 3 times, but stole in the end. 4 RBIs for Gattis who had 1 RBI coming into the game. Baseball is just weird!


  15. It has been so long since I had this kind of pride in the Astros, that I hardly know how to act. I know my girl is thinking the same thing as she sees me walking around outside trying to figure out how to stop grinning. Seeing Jake just pound the ball after spending the entire offseason wondering if he had the offense to go with the defense. Seeing Gattis pull off what he did today reminded me of old time baseball, the big guy carrying his teammates to victory. That has to be so sweet after all his struggles and after they put Lowrie on so they could pitch to him.


  16. Good golly miss Molly!!! Took off for the casino today, and whadoyaknow…….the Astros and I BOTH won! Saw where Melvin was tossed in the 4th. was it arguing
    balls and strikes? Didn’t get to see Wojo pitch today, but from the sound of it… wasn’t pretty. Brett Oberholtzer will be back soon, and I totally expect him to be in the rotation. (((( I LOVE WINNING)))!!


    • Yes. The pitch wasn’t close – prob 6 inches off the plate, but Pomeranz’s body language was getting worse and worse to that point. I don’t know if he was trying to support his guy or really thought the ump was missing too many.


    • I think it was a hang over from a very high strike 3 called in favor of Wojo the previous inning. The ump seemed to have a wandering strike zone throughout the game (both ways – Castro had a couple called strikes on balls outside). I think Melvin was also trying to rev up his team.


  17. Anyone notice that Rasmus quietly has a batting line of .260 BA, .327 OBP, .480 SLG, .807 OPS? And it has been trending upward. That is what we were hoping he could do!
    The Astros won a game their #5 rotation guy started. Deduno kept the game close and pitched some innings. I think he did a really fine job.
    Astros lead the Angels by 2.5 games and the other three teams by 4.0 games.
    Keuchel pitching against Shields tomorrow. Since we don’t have the DH, our bench goes back to four players, so we may not make a move and just go with 8 relievers.
    Our bullpen is pretty rested. Fields, Neshek, Qualls, Harris, Thatcher didn’t throw today.
    Max Scherzer injured batting and calling for the DH.
    Brad Ausmus calling for the NL to adopt the DH and says baseball needs to get that situation straightened out.
    If Valbuena continues to struggle at the plate, the Astros might notice that Marwin’s BA and SLG are about 100 points higher. Gonzalez is underrated. He’s not walking, but he is making pitchers throw him at least a half dozen pitches each time up and seems to have them figured by then. They might want Marwin to get a start at third against a lefty or two.
    Successful hit and run and successful double steal in the same inning today, leading to runs. That was fun.
    As Gattis started to swing in the ninth inning the catcher stood up from his crouch to catch the high pitch and it was level with the catchers eyes. The ball never got to him and the catcher said after the game that he could not believe what Gattis did with that pitch.


    • OP, couple of thoughts on your thoughts:

      * Houston bailed out Wojo Sunday, but wonder how many more shots Wojo would get. Here’s an idea: Before sending Wojo back down, simply flip him with Deduno for a couple of starts.
      * Here’s hoping Gattis doesn’t sit three straight games only pinch hitting. Wonder how often he’s been taking ground balls early at first base?
      * I agree the leagues should be balanced rule-wise, just not sold on the DH. However, conceding it’s not going away (we passed that turning point years ago), the NL should go ahead and install it. Reckon they’d implement by the break? (Yeah, yeah, I know…)


  18. I am assuming Gattis will be on the bench this entire series. With the vast OF of Petco Park I don’t think you want Gattis roaming LF and he hasn’t played 1 inning at 1B or catcher yet so it looks like he will be on the bench this series.


    • Tim, a reasonable assumption. However, though we’ve heard no mention of it, we really don’t know if Gattis has been taking ground balls at first or continues to take fly balls in the outfield. Granted, he has no game action at either, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hinch tries to get him a start somewhere given his bat coming around.

      Still, there are three RH starters for the Padres, so we’re likely to see a left-heavy lineup each night.

      And…please, please don’t mess with that outfield!


  19. My conclusions at the 1st furlong: A. We now know why JL was seeking another SP. B. Trout, Cruz, Cano, etc going down will hurt that team worse than any single loss to the Astros. C. Carter (.150 & $4.175 Mill) is a bad investment until you compare David Ortiz (.194 & $16 Mill). D. Astros could easily be 7-10 but are not. E. Baggie called it situational hitting – but with a runner on 3rd with less than 2 outs – a strikeout never scores the run. F. .500 against the West Division is very attainable. G. Gattis does not hit that pitch two times in 20 – but he did and it counts. (I love Clippard shaking his head as he returned to the mound). H. Castro at .191 is terrible until you look at the other AL catchers. I. Hank Aaron never struck out 100 times in a season. And our guys are NOT Hammerin’ Hank. J – Z Repeat – “Baseball is a strange game,” over and over.


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