Things we know and don’t know on a Thursday review


After 21 games, there is a lot we know about the Astros. Still, there is much we don’t know.

To be sure, this ride has been stupid crazy.

  • 9-1 in the last 10 games.
  • Houston has won four straight series.
  • Best road start (10-2) in team history.
  • At 14-7, the Astros have their first winning April since 2007.
  • The team is 12-0 when scoring first and 13-0 when scoring 4+ runs.

So, let’s review a little…

Here are some things we know.

This team will be streaky.

Get used to it. The Astros are on a 9-1 run after a 5-6 start. The next 10 could be 1-9, though that could be unlikely with Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh taking the hill four times every 10 games. A few games ago, Luis Valbuena was the high point. Now, it’s been Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus of late.

The Astros lead the American League in home runs and strikeouts — as Gomer Pyle might say: Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! — but it’s the average with runners in scoring position (.238) and the question of how many .200 hitters the team will have at any one time that could plague the team.

This team can be scary good.

Don’t believe that? Just ask Oakland and San Diego, who probably has no idea what just hit them in their own stadiums! On any day, it can be someone different who carries the team. And, it can be any one, not just Jose Altuve. Gattis has done it. Valbuena has done it. George Springer has done it. Jed Lowrie, bless that thumb, has done it. This can be the blessing of this team, and on certain days, it will be the curse when no one is able to pick up the other guys.

Already, this team is 5-1 in blowout wins (5+ run wins). Last year, it was 21-29. One-run games? Yeah, there too: 3-1 in 2015, 17-28 a year ago.

This team has more pieces than…well, in a long time!

It’s hard to compare A.J. Hinch to Bo Porter or Brad Mills because Hinch has so much more to work with. Neither of Hinch’s predecessors had as many potential offensive weapons and neither had as solid of a rotation as Hinch as thus far. Clearly, the bane of the team’s existence under Porter and Mills — the bullpen — has already been a safety net for Hinch.

Twenty batting orders in 21 games? Not even Porter or Mills put that many combinations on the field…and they had more roster changes and injuries to push it.

Now, there are still some things we do not know…

How will injuries affect this team?

While Jeff Luhnow has clearly upgraded the major league team and the minor league system is flourishing, depth is still the biggest potential enemy of the Astros. Lowrie’s injury has drawn attention to that and one starter or reliever going down would punctuate it further.

Yes, Corpus Christi is bubbling with eye-popping talent, it’s not quite ripe and the AAA lineup has only a handful of possible solutions ready to pick. The greatest friend for Hinch would be a healthy team this summer while Carlos Correa, Colin Moran, Mark Appel, Preston Tucker, Jon Singleton and others continue to incubate.

How many bad streaks will this team have?

As presented above, the streaks are inevitable. How many, who knows? Will the bad ones out number the good ones? Good question. What we do know is that it could be Hinch’s biggest challenge to make the right moves at the right time. Already, however, this team has proven it can remain relevant even when some of its better players (e.g. Gattis, Springer, Chris Carter) aren’t.

As long as more players than not are streaking positively, perhaps this team can streak to September by staying in reach of contention.

What will Luhnow be forced to do?

As I discussed earlier this week, June and July could pose the most significance moves of the Luhnow Era thus far. If 9-1 turns into 4-6 or even 3-7, it will be difficult to keep Correa, Appel, Tucker or others in Fresno and Corpus all summer. Or it may prove more challenging to say “no” to other GMs wanting to send a “sure thing”, “can’t miss” solution to a perceived hole in the lineup or rotation. Critical moves? Perhaps, especially if more injuries or bad streaks raise their ugly heads.

Things we both know and don’t know…

  • Keuchel is very good. Just how good, we don’t know.
  • The Astros are definitely better than 2011-14. How much better, we don’t know.
  • Houston, we know we could have a playoff team! Just when, we don’t know.
  • We know Gattis may well have the talent Luhnow believes, but we don’t know if his talent will live up to the talent given up in the trade.
  • Marisnick is dang good, we know that. How long can he sustain and why so suddently, we just don’t know.
  • Football and basketball rule in Houston right now. Can baseball return to the forefront by the end of the summer? Don’t know that yet.

What else do you know about the team/season thus far? And, perhaps more importantly, what is it that you do not yet know?

 

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25 comments on “Things we know and don’t know on a Thursday review

  1. There is another way to look at this. If the Astros aren’t a .667 team and go back to being a .500 team they have put themselves in a position to have over 85 wins with this current streak.
    If they lose Lowrie for three months, they have Correa if they need him. If they lose Springer or Rasmus for a while, they still have Tucker. If they lose Gattis or Carter for a while, they have Singleton.
    If they lose Altuve, they have Kemp, if they lose Valbuena they have Marwin.
    If they lose Marisnick, Keuchel or McHugh, they got nobody near to them.
    They can lose an important player or two and get picked up by the rest of the guys. They just can’t afford a lot of guys to go down with injury and still be a .500 team.

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  2. Things we have learned this year are that the Chris Carter of last year is the best Chris Carter there is and we should not expect more.
    That Springer has the ability we saw in the minors, but it is going to take awhile to get to there against major league pitching.
    That Colby Rasmus is dangerous every time he steps into the batter’s box, because he has the ability to forget what happened previously.
    That Jose Altuve actually is a .340 hitter all the time and that if you put runners on in front of him, they have a really good chance of scoring.
    That Gattis is a bear that, if he learns to dance, is going to be a productive dancer.
    That Hinch and Luhnow have found a Center Fielder.
    That if Valbuena finds his bat and stops popping up he is a really good 3B.
    That Jason Castro can catch very, very well.
    That we have a very dependable group of guys in the pen and Hinch has a pretty good idea of how and when and for how long to use them.

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    • OP, good stuff and I’ll piggyback and add a twist to a couple of yours…

      * We now know why the Astros were determined to put Springer in RF and Marisnick in CF.
      * Has Conger perhaps had some impact on Castro’s improved catching?
      * The negative thus far may be that Luhnow should have cashed in over the winter while Carter was at the height of his performance.
      * On your first comment…those are ifs and you could easily clasify them as “what we know” and “what we don’t know”. For example, We know that Gattis “can be a bear”, but could Singleton pick up the slack if he is called on?

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      • I had my Astro Taro cards out last night. Carter gets hot in May -June and we trade him and a couple others for a Big arm (-:

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      • I think Singleton could pick up Carter or Gattis’s slack because he proved to be a .150 hitter and that’s what the other two have been thus far. The big difference between Singleton and the other two is that he thinks he’s a stud hitting .150 and the other two really want to do better.

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  3. Hate to nit-pick, Chip – oh heck what am I saying – I love to nit-pick – but they’ve actually won 10 of their last 11, because they were 4-6 towards the end of the home stand.
    What do I know:
    – This is the most balanced lineup they have put out there in a while – I am not surprised by who is the hero in any one night.
    – That a team that can survive the total team slump they were going through the first 10 games of the season is a dangerous team
    – That Marisnick suddenly looks like a major league outfielder at the bat and in the field (did you see the ball he outran right over his head yesterday – insane) and does not look flukish at all.
    – Somebody is making great decisions on their base stealing, because they are leading the league in steals while being caught only 15% of the time
    – That I do not flinch when they bring in someone from the pen
    – That they were dominant on this road trip because they were playing all three phases of the game pitching, hitting and fielding at a high level.
    – That the playoff teams of 1980, ’81,’86,’97-’99, 2001, ’04 or ’05 or any other Colt 45 / Astros team since 1962 never went 8-1 on a 9 game road trip. But this team did.
    – That Keuchel is a combination of determined and bad a—-(shut your mouth). I’m pretty sure he was talking to Hinch about finishing the game after throwing 113 pitches in 8 innings. Is his beard kind of like Samson’s hair….
    – That this team does feed off each other and that Springer and Altuve seem to be the emotional heart of this team on an everyday basis

    What I don’t know:
    – How this team will face adversity – like Nance said yesterday – when they are on a losing streak or an injury streak
    – Where the real water level is for Carter and Gattis
    – What they would do if McHugh or especially Keuchel went down
    – How Hinch will handle things when all his decisions don’t turn to gold as they seem to have done this early season
    – What the front office will do in the long run if MarGo / Villar are not able to hold up SS in Lowrie’s absence
    – Whether the team will be buyers at the deadline
    – How I will handle things if they drop off the table at some point this season

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    • I was concerned this off season, because Altuve, Springer, and Fowler had an infectious energy on the field together. It certainly looks like the first two haven’t lost that, Valbuena brings that same emotion/excitement, and JFSF is also bringing it! This is a team that free agents will want to join! This is a team that, when not in a rock bottom slump, the fans should enjoy watching…even if they make Bill Hall look like Ronald Torreyes.

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  4. Keuchel is, and will remain at least as good has he was last year. No fluke. The cynic in me keeps reminding me to wait a bit longer on Marisnick, but it’s getting harder and harder not think that perhaps he’s finally gotten it. We all knew he could do everything on the field besides hit. But we’ve played an 8th of the season now and he’s still hitting. All over the field.

    This group has a great chemistry going. Of course, most teams do when they are going eight and one on a road trip, but it’s apparent that this dugout is a happier place than it’s been for a few years. Hinch deserves some of the credit for that.

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    • dave, since I didn’t have the means to watch the Astros for the last couple of years, I really missed something about Keuchel. Forget the beard, has anyone noticed how, when Keuchel is looking into the catcher for his signs, he has BIG shoulders? I mean, he has some wide shoulders on him, and I always had the impression that he was small, but he is not.

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      • OP, no way any of us, including the experts, could have foreseen what Keuchel has turned into. And if anyone says they did, I think they’d be fibbing. But I always liked the guys mound presence, even when he was getting his ass kicked. Never got flustered. And I liked that he played his position well. When you think about it, there are not so many crappy pitchers that play quality defense. They’re bad at everything. I thought Keuchel might end up as a solid starter one day, but never one of the best in the business. He’s a pitcher in the purest sense.

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  5. I was always envious of the Cards, when a guy went down….they nearly always had a guy ready to take over in AAA. Now that the Astros have that in Fresno and Corpus…..it make a BIG difference on how Hinch manages. No, we don’t have another Dallas Keuchel, or Collin McHugh…… we do have a few guys who could step up for a short while. This club believes in themselves, and when they take the field it shows. I love the speed demons we have in JFSF, Altuve, and Springer.
    Those three guys can disrupt ANY pitcher, and catcher…..:) 🙂 🙂 You can’t buy confidence, you can’t buy wins…….these guys know they have it.

    ESPN has a very nice article on Keuchel!!

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  6. i had a big argument about signing choo with another blogger. i was dead set against it. and am dead set against giving a position player in their 30’s a multi-year big dollar contract with very few or any exceptions. maybe a pitcher – but out of every 10 of these types of contracts a good 75 – 80% of them are failures for the team. just say no.

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  7. I’d like to take this moment to go off topic and note that Shin Soo Choo is a cautionary tale.

    What looks bright and shiny by the warm fires of the Hot Stove can be fool’s gold.

    This team is being built the right way. And we’re seeing the fruits of that.

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    • Brian, yes, you’re right. However, the idea of a long-term or longer-term contract is going to come up sooner or later. It will be interesting to see when Crane and Luhnow fall on that…especially when they go after pitchers, etc.

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  8. Fresno getting bombed but Tucker with 2 hits and 2 rbis and a homer
    Correa comes in the game when Moran gets hurt and goes 1 for 3. CC cruises.
    Maverick leads off the Lancaster game with a bomb over the CF wall but Lancaster loses 3-2.
    Nottingham and Fisher with dingers leading Quad Cities to a 4-2 win. Fisher with his fifth home run of the year returns to the lineup after missing a week with an injury.

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