Over the past few months — even years — fans and media have debated the timeline for return to respectability and competitiveness for the Astros.
Whether it’s ahead of schedule or right on target with The Plan, we may never know. But…
Make no mistake: The time is now. The Astros, indeed, have entered a new phase and Jim Crane, Jeff Luhnow and the team will be tested on handling the questions and speed bumps that come with being in the spot light and in the thick of things. Rebuilding, you can argue, is the easy part. Just dump the $$ and get prospects, get prospects, get prospects.
Now, it’s onto the heavier part: Continually analyze, put the pieces together, fill in the gaps for injuries and under-performance. Much more tedious.
World Series year? No, probably not, but at this point, it will be disappointing if this team doesn’t play well into September.
Pitching: The key is not to panic.
Even with all of the success thus far, this is not likely the WS season and perhaps not even a playoff year. And panic will not look pretty on the franchise. Brett Oberholtzer will be back next week and we’ll see if he can provide stop-gap starts, at least until the All Star break. Clearly, though, Houston will be a player and a buyer this summer. Clearly, the rotation needs an upgrade. And, clearly, Luhnow has put the word out that he is in the market.
Despite the trades we’ve discussed exhaustively, the organization still has some pitching depth. But here’s a obersvation I’ve noted before. The Astros may be more inclined to build its position stars through the draft, and more likely to pick up its start pitchers through free agency or trades. Just looking at the trends. More later.
A.J. Hinch. Can’t make a comparison.
Look, Brad Mills and Bo Porter never had a chance. To try to compare them to the Astros’ current skipper is ludicrous. Mills was never the long-term guy. Luhnow had to know that the first manager would be beaten up and torn apart, so Mills was the sacrificial lamb. Porter, however, was different, he was anointed for the long run. Hopefully, Luhnow learned much from the Porter experience and it will aid in his personnel decisions going forward. Personality matters. Relationships are key.
But Hinch has the goods as far as lineup and players goes. He’ll reap more benefits from the minor league pipeline than the other two (already has). Comparisons will happen, but it’s apples and oranges and otherwise useless.
The Carter dilemma.
Is it really a dilemma? You know Luhnow is tracking. You know the sabermetrics guys have their graphs, charts and jots and tittles working overtime. What they’ve seen on the surface is the same thing they saw a year ago.
After 30 games in 2014, Carter was hitting .170 with four homers, 13 RBI and 40 Ks. Of course, that line was similar to much of the rest of the lineup, making this year a little different. Through the first 30 games of 2015, Carter is at .152 with four homers, 10 RBI and 43 Ks. Give up on the guy? Ha, not a chance!
Here’s the Saturday morning question for you: If you could bank on the .227 average with 37 homers and 88 RBI from 2014, would it help ease your concern when you see his name in the lineup? At least, for this season?
Yes, he’s a possible, if not likely, trade candidate for a starter at the break. Meaning, he will likely heat up for another team in the second half. But the cavalry is on the way.
One more thing.
What is very clear is that the pipeline is flowing now and may soon burst. Preston Tucker is the first player drafted by Luhnow to reach the majors. Others will soon follow, whether this summer, in September or next Spring. Change is coming. We want to thank Robbie Grossman, Colby Rasmus, Carter, Roberto Hernandez and perhaps even Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar now, as their exits could happen suddenly over the coming months.