The Astros have just passed the 20% mark of the season, far enough to at least note the trends to this point performance-wise for the team and players. The following is a totally biased look at the over-performers, under-performers and those living up to expectations. The bias is based on a combination of statistics and judgment. Be aware that each player is judged against the pre-season expectations of him and he is not compared to other players in his category.
The Team as a whole. Only people who have a padded cell for a bedroom would have predicted a 20-12 start to the season and/or a five-game lead in the AL West for the local nine at this point in the season.
A.J. Hinch and his coaching staff. It certainly helps that when you call in someone from the bullpen they bring fire extinguishers instead of fire starters, but Hinch has been right a lot more than wrong this season and rarely has had us scratching our heads or feeling embarrassed for him. The team is playing much more solid and smart baseball especially in the field.
JFSF. Jake Marisnick is cooling off, but when you are flirting with .400 for the first month of the season that has to happen. He has looked like a great center fielder defensively and a very good one at the plate: .319 BA/.880 OPS with 9 SBs.
Jose Altuve. Hang with me here. The guy who led the AL in hitting, hits and SBs is better. While keeping his BA within a few points of last season, he is on pace for the following improvements RBIs (59 in 2014 on pace for 106 in 2015), HRs (7 on pace for 20), OPS (.830 on pace for .879) and Walks (36 on pace for 60). He has continued to be a hitting machine while leading the team in RBIs from the leadoff or second spot.
Colby Rasmus. Rasmus is doing about what could be expected based on his career numbers, but based on written expectations here, most everyone expected him to be on the downward decline. He has been a pleasant surprise with six HRs and 12 RBIs, a nice .825 OPS and very good fielding.
Dallas Keuchel. People were hoping for only a slight regression from last season. Instead, his 4-0 record, 1.39 ERA, .852 WHIP and 5.1 hits/9 IP has been a bold progression. He is one of the best pitchers in the AL right now.
Roberto Hernandez. He has gone six or more innings in five of his six starts and he has given up three or fewer earned runs in five of six starts (four runs in the other). He has been unlucky as far as run support goes, but has exceeded expectations with performance.
Will Harris. Three hits and 1 run given up in 15 IP for a scrap heap pickup. Talk about exceeding expectations.
Luke Gregerson. He has not been perfect, but seven out of eight on save attempts and a 2.57 ERA for a guy who has never been the closer is above expectations.
Tony Sipp. He has continued to be a very valuable piece picked up for nada. His 0.68 ERA and .750 WHIP have been exemplary.
Jason Castro. Based on what he gave the team last year he has met expectations and due to improved defense might be considered a little on the high side.
Luis Valbuena. His glove has been A+, his BA has been a D and his seven HRs and 12 RBIs have been solid. He was expected to be a much better third base option than Matty D and he has been. But his bat has room to grow.
Collin McHugh. His 4-0 record , 3.23 ERA and 1.103 WHIP are aligned with the hopes and expectations after last seasons’ revelatory debut.
Chad Qualls. He has had a few problems, but basically is giving them solid performance late in the games.
Pat Neshek. He had a few clinkers the first 3 weeks of the season, but has been very good lately as his 3.65 ERA is part of a nice drop since it was 5.87 in later April.
Cartis. More is expected of both Chris Carter and Evan Gattis than they have produced to date. Gattis’ 18 RBIs are about the only satisfactory statistic between them. And the fact that both of them waited about three weeks to produce anything is also worrisome. Hitters in the middle of the order cannot be putting up .151 and .183 BAs or .558 and .605 OPS. Carter’s 38.8% K rate is as ridiculously high as Gattis’ 3.5% walk rate is low.
George Springer. Springer brings energy and tremendous desire and fielding. He has speed and power. But compared to what was expected of him, his .192 BA and .685 and his tendency to get injured mark him as a player who is playing below expectations.
Scott Feldman. Feldman’s 5.23 ERA highlights him as an underachiever in 2015. To be honest he has had five solid starts allowing three runs or less, but he has had two very bad and worrisome starts giving up six and seven runs respectively. They need him to do like he did in 2014, which was to turn into a more and more reliable starter as the season progressed.
Dedunchowski. The 5th starter spot shared by Sam Deduno and Asher Wojciechowski has been a mess. Both of those men have ERA’s at 7.00 and above. Oh, and Brad Peacock had one poor start before he ended up injured. Can you say (or spell) Brett Oberholtzer?
The Bench. Marwin Gonzalez has been decent, Robbie Grossman has been a gross man and Jonathan Villar has been worse. Hank Conger has shown some power and seems to handle pitchers well, but is … a backup C.
Relievers Joe Thatcher, Josh Fields and Kevin Chapman have been good in very small samples. Jed Lowrie was very good until he did what he always does, which is get hurt. L.J. Hoes and Preston Tucker have not shown much in cups of coffee.
So, where would you grade these folks if it was up to you?