5 questions: Hey folks, DSTSS and IASS

At 21-13 after an unexpected dash out of the gate, the Astros are 6-6 in May. On pace for 100 wins — you’re kidding, right? — the team would win 85 by playing only .500 ball the rest of the way. If this is July, Houston is in buying mode.

But it’s mid-May. And Houston is probably in early buying mode, perhaps not ready to auction the farm just yet, but searching just the same. But that’s just it. It’s May, and, so don’t sweat the small stuff (DSTSS) and remember, it’s all small stuff (IASS).

Perhaps no one but Jeff Luhnow in his wildest dreams thought the Astros would be where they are atop the AL West with still the best record in the league. Can they stay there? Can they fend off the perennial powerhouses in the division? Good question, but the hot start has propelled the organization into the spotlight and may force Luhnow’s hand soon. Here are five questions while we consider if a team that has recently suffered three consecutive 100-loss seasons should dare think they can win 100 this year.


Yes, barring injuries, the hitters will be okay, but asking the question “will the hitters be okay” is reasonable. Houston has the goods. The question is, will they hit? The Astros still have the worst batting average in the league (.225) while leading the 15-team conference in home runs (49) and stolen bases (36). Jose Altuve is, well, Jose Altuve and Jake Marisnick has surprised early on. Still, George Springer, Luis Valbuena and Evan Gattis have under performed at the plate and are capable of breaking out. Add in Jed Lowrie after the break and a possible full season from Preston Tucker and Houston may be in good shape eventually.

Addition: If, as now anticipated, the Astros add Carlos Correa within the next month, it will be a huge shakeup for the roster and lineup.


Yes, everyone wants to know: What in the heck is up with that pitching? This may be the determining factor. It is not secret or shouldn’t be. The Astros are now looking for pitching outside the organization. With recurring injuries to Brad Peacock and now Brett Oberholtzer, the back-end of the rotation is close to disaster. Thank goodness for Roberto Hernandez!

Addition: Unlike the hitting side of the equation, there is no immediate solution within the organization. Any help will come from outside, unless Sam Deduno, Asher Wojciechowski or now Jake Buchanan can stop the bleeding.


What are the key pieces to the puzzle, you ask? Perhaps the biggest keys are Springer, Tucker, Valbuena. And, Luhnow. The Houston GM has perhaps his biggest task-to-date in front of him, a task that, until now, he has not faced: Add to a roster so the team can remain in contention in the present. Improvements from Springer and Valbuena will be game-changing for the offense. Tucker would be a bonus.

Addition: Correa, obviously. But the key may be addition by subtraction. While he will put this off as long as possible, moving, releasing or trading Chris Carter opens a lineup spot up if the key guys get hot.

4. WIPT?

The Astros are in first place. What is pressing today? Nothing, absolutely nothing! Hear me out. Change can and should come incrementally. Springer and Luke Gregerson are back. Tucker is in the fold. Making improvements — which include someone getting back to their norms — once a week or 10 days will be enough. For example, Springer starts hitting this week, Buchanan covers well in 2-3 starts, Valbuena picks it up a notch later this month and Tucker settles in by mid-June. Suddenly, it’s Correa time and the Astros are within weeks of Lowrie’s return. In other words, no time to panic.

Addition: May sound odd, but the additions the Astros most need right are named Springer, Tucker, Valbuena and Gattis. Yes, Carter is Carter. No expectations, so anything is a bonus. Correa in June.


Good question: Can this team possibly win the division? Many teams don’t play in April-May the way they will play when summer arrives. The Angels and Seattle aren’t .500 teams and they’ll play better, we know that. Other teams will settle in as well, so the task at hand of staying in first place and in contention will grow tougher.

The basic answer is yes, but it will not be easy at all. More than likely the team best case scenario is to back into the playoffs with a wild card. Now, that doesn’t minimize the team’s chances, just puts it in realistic perspective. It will take some additions and the ability to manage the injuries. On that score, the Astros haven’t done well. Tough to replace Lowrie with Marwin Gonzalez and Springer with Robbie Grossman while the rotating doors roll in the rotation.

Addition: Basically covered above, but the Astros can contend by adding Correa, at least one starter and the key players coming to life. Tall order and little margin for error, but 85-90 wins is not out of the question and should not be discounted.

67 comments on “5 questions: Hey folks, DSTSS and IASS

  1. My good luck charm came in to help the Astros win last night. Mrs. oldpro was there for the Astros’ three HRs. When Romo came in to face Gattis, I told her to prepare for the ugliest at-bat ever, because Romo’s slider is the best in history and Gattis can’t hit a slider. She almost fell off the sofa howling at his attempts to get a bat on that pitch. Poor Evan!
    WTHBOK? The hitters will be OK if the opposing pitchers throw two fastballs in a row in the location that they threw them to Springer on his HR. What was that guy thinking and where was his low outside slider? The only thing I can think of that would cause that mistake is the constant threat of the home run from the lineup that the Astros fielded last night. The Giant’s pitchers were perfect the night before but could not do it again last night.
    What the heck is up with that pitching? It’s got to be so frustrating to not have one trustworthy starter ready at the AAA level. If they are going to stay in this race, Luhnow is going to have to find another starter from outside the organization. Cue the comments about the three trades in the last year.


  2. NDC – Nicely Done Chip
    I will do a two part comment this morning – the first will be some thoughts from going to the game in person last night and the second one will look at your questions.

    Thoughts from last night:
    – The crowd was not bad for a weeknight with the kids in school – but there were a lot of Giant fans there and I have to wonder how many are lifelong Giant fans and how many have jumped on the gravy train since they started winning championships.
    – I noticed something from 3 close plays last night (all 3 called against the Giants). The home plate ump basically wandered away from his post – stepping across home plate in a couple instances and once wandering halfway towards first and it was obvious that he was doing nothing for 30 seconds or so to allow Bruce Bochy to decide whether he would protest the calls or not. I mean I don’t mind the calls being reviewed and all – but it felt weird watching it play out that way. In the end Bochy decided to not protest the first one (a bang bang double play call at first), did protest the second one which was reversed (taking away an infield hit from hard luck JFSF) and protesting the third which was upheld (a laser gun down of a base stealer by Jason Castro). I had never noticed the ump doing this before, but it was obvious he delayed to allow Bochy to decide.
    – I had deep foreboding early in the game as Oberholtzer was hit pretty solidly for 3 innings, but somehow squirmed out with only a Buster Posey RBI single in the first. Sam Deduno brought the proceedings to a halt after Oberholtzer was pulled for the blister problem that has put him on the DL. Deduno threw 53 pitches in 2 innings and poor Castro seemed to have to block about a 1/3 of those in the dirt as Deduno kept throwing 55 foot curveballs. But the only damage was a 2 run homer by Posey that helped the Giants to a 3-1 lead.
    – Last season – going to the pen in the 4th inning would have spelled doom for this team – but the pen kept them in the game (other than Deduno’s 2 run stint).
    – Rasmus hit a couple balls really hard, including the 2 out single that opened the Astros scoring. Valbuena and Castro both hit majestic shots into the right center bullpen to tie up the game. And Springer hit a nasty line drive for the winning home run in the 8th inning – a shot that never seemed to get more than about 20 feet off the ground.
    – And Becky, Villar was part of a critical brain-dead play in the 9th, but this time it was the Giants making it as Crawford tried to move to 3rd on a no out ground ball to the left side and Villar gunned him down – a critical play to keep the Giants from tying.
    – The team seemed to me to be on the verge of busting out on the hitting side. Along with 8 hits, they hit about 5 balls right on the screws that would have been hits if they were just a few feet to the side. (It is possible they are not busting out and were just happy to swing at some of Tim Hudson’s 88 mph fastballs).
    – It was a fun game – one that started out poorly, but one that the Astros did not give up on and which in the end they deserved to win.


    • Nicely done Dan! So great to have our own live Chipalatta media person at the game.
      Do you not wonder if the Giant’s own scouting might have backfired on them last night? Maybe challenging Villar to make that play was intentional, based on what they observed in the past.
      As far as last night’s pitching is concerned, Ober got himself in trouble twice with stupid walks. It cost him a run in the first and got him into another jam later. Ober did not look ready at all last night.
      Posey appears to be for real. Just a great ball player. One has to wonder if the Astros get those three dingers, if he was behind the plate calling the pitches, instead of DHing.


      • OP1- Brownie was talking about the pitch to Springer and it appeared (I watched the replay again this AM) it appears that Affeldt is yelling “WHY?” as he walks off the mound. Not sure if he was upset with himself or the pitch selection.


    • Interesting thought on the scouting of Villar – no way of knowing, but I think the young Giant just got too aggressive.
      I am not sure if Posey makes a difference behind the plate – Hudson was good with his breaking stuff but his fastball was eminently hittable last night.


      • You are taught “at you, or behind you advance to 3B. In front of you, see it through.” The catch is that Villar was positioned where the ball came right to him. Crawford, especially since he plays SS, should have known Villar’s positioning AND known that the ball was not getting through the infield. Once he made a bad read, the best thing to do was keep going and hope for a bobble or bad throw.


  3. 1. The hitters really can’t continue to hit as bad as they have, but based on the type of line up our GM has designed, there will continue to be long dry spells. We have too many of the same kind of hitter in our daily nine. That needs to change sooner than later. The strikeout guys will keep doing more of the same, but their BA’s and OPS’s have to edge up, don’t they? I think Marisnick is a big key. Will he continue to contribute at the plate?

    2. The rotation has to be the biggest concern. It’s been the big “if” since Spring Training. No depth. What if Keuchel and McHugh are human? I think we have to agree that they are. If we have an injury to Feldman or Hernandez, things get real problematic in a hurry. We might see McCullers before Appel.

    3. Springer makes it all happen. But as I said, Marisnick has to hit. And yes, it’s about time we got a guy up here (Tucker) who settles right into the pace of major league baseball.

    4. What’s really pressing? Not much. Even with Carter hitting what he’s not hitting, it’s not an urgent problem based on the 21 and whatever it is record. But I’d argue that the starting pitching is almost a very pressing issue. The rotation could implode easily.

    5. Sure, our Astros could win the division. I’m staying with my 78 wins on the season for now though.


  4. Questions
    WTHBOK? Well like I said, I did see signs of coming out of it. Carter had a terrible first at bat, but then got a solid single and worked a walk later. Castro had his second homer in the last few days, plus another line out to the outfield. Valbuena had a dinger plus another lineout. Springer looked overmatched early, but then worked a walk and hit the game winner. Rasmus had a couple really good ABs. Gattis had a nice hit to right amid 3 other terrible ABs. I think they will get better.
    WITHIUWTP? The bullpen is very solid and is carrying them these days in my opinion. The injury to Oberholtzer is a blow – Deduno is just not a good option in my opinion – they have to hope that the second time around that the job is not too big for Jake Buchanan. Man I wish we had Carlos Perez and Nick Tropeano back.
    WATKPTHP? Luhnow finding a 5th starter, Luhnow calling up Correa. Lowrie coming back and filling in around the infield. Springer deciding to do like he did for a couple months last season and hit significant hit after significant hit.
    WIPT? They really need to find a 5th starter solution, because if you have to go to the bullpen early too many times – it eventually shows.
    CTTPWTD? Yes they can win the division, but they have to hit better and they have to do better than .500 ball going forward. At some point one of their division mates will go on an 8 game win streak and that lead will be gone.


    • Dan, if Correa is at SS, I don’t just see Lowrie returning as a fill-in around the infield. I think he might be DHing a lot, especially if Gattis continues to struggle under the Mendoza line. I just hope that he is the April Lowrie when he returns. He was Dynomite!


    • If Valbuena is still hitting below the Mendoza line (I don’t care how many HRs he has) I think you have to give Lowrie time at 3B under that situation.


      • OK you two. Quit making fun of my hero, Mario Mendoza. He was a good SS in the field. His lifetime was .215/.245/.507. He was followed on the Rangers by Curtis Wilkerson, who was the original Villar. Mendoza bats 4th in the current Astros stats. 🙂


  5. From the peanut gallery in Colorado. When Correa comes up and Lowrie comes back, I see Valbuena packaged with someone in a trade. I love his glove and power but odd man out I think.


    • No way! If Valbuena and Gattis are hitting to the exact same numbers, you would not trade Valbuena. He has played and will play good defense at 3B, and you have to have him there with that shifting to the second base side. Lowrie does not have Valbuena’s range or arm. But Jed’s hitting stats absolutely crushed Gattis’s hitting stats.
      Gattis plays defense nowhere! So if it comes down to the Valbuena we’ve seen or the Gattis we’ve seen, trade Gattis and stick Lowrie at DH.


      • I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to Luhnow as a GM here.
        If it’s obvious he’s made a mistake with the Gattis trade, would he keep his mistake to save face and put his team in further disarray be trading his third baseman, who he has no good replacement for?
        Now, Houston is last in the league in BA at the DH and 3B position. But Houston’s defense is one of the reasons they are still in first place and Valbuena has been a big part of that D.
        I’m not advocating a trade of either player, but if you have to choose a player from those two to trade, trade the guy who doesn’t have a position. Since you’ve already added Correa’s RH bat to the top of the lineup, you could better afford to lose Gattis’s No Defense/Bad RH Bat than Valbuena’s Good Defense/Bad LH Bat, because Lowrie could be a terrific, switch hitting replacement at the DH.


  6. TTATI – the thing about trades is, you really don’t know how they turn out until at least months and possibly years have passed. the trades:

    7/31/14 cosart, hernandez, wates for marisnick, moran, marte and #37 pick in 2015.
    11/5/14 perez and tropeano for conger
    1/14/15 folty, ruiz thurman for gattis , hoyt
    1/19/15 fowler for valbueno, strailey

    currently i would call #1 a win, #2 uh oh, #3 around even, #4 a win. but months from now that could all change.


    • I think all four of our partners believe they won those trades. If JFSF continues to be this good, the Marlins will feel otherwise. As you say, however, only time will tell.


      • hey devin. i don’t know how #4 isn’t a definite win for us. we acquired marisnick so we had no need for his injury prone, tendency to dog it at times play in CF. in addition we got a pitcher with major league experience (although in the minors at present) and a 3B that can actually play defense and hit a bit. if we don’t pick up valbueno are options at 3B were dominguez (ouch) or gonzales.

        i think #1 is also a definite win. marisnick has already shown great defense and the ability to hit major league pitching, moran may be the answer at 3B in a year or two, marte has potential and the #37 pick could be really interesting vs basically cosart who has demonstrated he is or at least can be a head case.

        let those two teams think they won if they like, maybe we can trade with the again sometime.


      • Valbuena has hit a lot of HR, but otherwise is Matt Dominguez. Fowler hasn’t been great, but provides the veteran outfielder Chicago wanted and his .345 OBP is nice. Also, Valbuena was more expendable to CHI (Bryant) than Fowler was to HOU (JFSF). Straily doesn’t impact either club.

        We want all teams to feel like they won trades with Luhnow. That will make them want to answer his calls.


      • It’s way to early to call Marisnick a win. He has been awful offensively in his last 50 plate appearances. He is hitting .195 since 1 May.

        I think people have to accept that he is a streaky hitter. It won’t surprise me if he finishes the month below .200. It won’t surprise me if he ends up hitting .275 for the month. He is a big guy, swings a solid bat, but he swings out of the zone way too much and will continue to be taken advantage of with good pitches while himself he will take advantage of bad pitches. He is Chris Johnson with speed and defense (and apparently a better attitude).

        Not that is a bad thing, it isn’t. They all can’t be superstars. If a guy streaks up and down, and ends up at .270 with 10-15 homers while winning a gold glove and stealing 30 bases, at league minimum, I’ll take it. Unfortunately, I don’t know that he will end up at .270, it could be .290, it could be .230. You just don’t know with streaky hitters. That wasn’t the question posed though – the question is did we “win” that trade by giving up Cosart.

        I think we have to wait and see what Cosart becomes – and I don’t think you can discount the headaches he presents. Early vote – win, but if Cosart gets straight and two years from now shows to be a 15-17 game winner, or even better, we lost that one.

        The reason I like Fowler over Marisnick is that Fowler is more consistent as a hitter, gets on base a lot more, and isn’t going to be prone to 3-4 weeks of terrible production at a time. Even when he has a bad 2 weeks with the bat (they all do), he will still get walks and still be on the basepaths some. When Marisnick hits .195, it feels like offensively he disappears for those 2 weeks. I do think its hard to talk about winning one trade without discussing the other.


      • Steven – my only problem with Fowler is that he was likely to follow 2 good weeks with 2 weeks on the DL. If a guy is going to miss 25% of his games every year it is value lost, because you have to keep filling in for him with lesser talent.


    • OP cant argue with your points, I think Gattis was a blow also, but I just don’t see Lunhole doing it, but hey anything can happen is baseball, next thing your know Singleton will have 10 RBI’s in a game.


  7. I think if we can get Lowrie back and hitting before the trade deadline, either Carter or Valbuena or both could be traded. Maybe it’s Carter and Villar.

    I trust Gattis’ bat to come alive before Carter’s. If that’s the case, Carter is dealt for a high-upside pitching prospect. I also think Carter could be packaged with Deduno or Straily.

    It’s not going to be selling high, but it’ll make room for Correa and maybe LMJ.


    • Heck, if we don’t need Deduno or Straily, who would? The thing about Carter is that while all those homers look very attractive, I don’t know what team would want to risk having him on a playoff roster. He might pick that time to go 0 for 20.


    • Being realistic, if Carter continues down this road what team is going to give a mid level pitching prospect, much less high end? Teams will see it as an opportunity to try and get Carter for nothing with the assumption that the Astros are trying to move him to get rid of the salary. Afterall, I don’t think teams are looking to pay a guy 4 mil to hit .190 even if he hits the occasional homerun.


  8. I do wonder this from watching these guys hit.
    What the heck are they working on? Home run swings?
    Is anyone seeing any change in anybody’s approach to hitting?
    Is Marisnick the only one hitting above their major league career BA?
    Will I go to Hell for hounding John Mallee out of town?


  9. Luis Cruz is really struggling in Albuquerque, but we all know what Fresno’s furious offense can do in that air. Looks like whoever puts together the last big inning will win that game today.


  10. So how excited is Luhnow at this point as both his 2012 surprise 1-1 draft pick (Correa) and the guy he was able to sign out of the supplementary portion of the 1st round in that same draft (McCullers) due to Correa taking less money – move one step away from the bigs?


  11. 2. WTHIUWTP – Not enough depth in the starting rotation. As the old guy used to say, “When you think you have enough pitching, go out and get some more.” Instead, we traded away a lot of starting pitching. Lyles, Cosart, Folty, Tropeano. As a result, we have a gap in time with nobody demonstrating they are ready to step up. Unless something is done to address the rotation, I am sticking with my season projection of 75-77 wins.


  12. I don’t see any panicking from the organization when it comes to starting pitching. We have the same four starting pitchers we had when we started the season with high hopes base on nothing. Right now, we have the best record in the AL. If anything, other teams who were supposed to be better should be panicking. We need to find another pitcher from within or outside the org and Luhnow says they’re looking.
    Kluber has looked bad all season until his last start so pitchers, so even the best have bad days and ours are no different. If I’m not mistaken, Kershaw got bombed in one of his starts this year, so I’m not going to panic when McHugh or Keuchel has a bad day. If this was easy, they’d give out 30 Cy Youngs. I’m a picky baseball guy, but I still think we haven’t seen the best Astros team we are going to see this season. I’m convinced that Springer is a .250 hitter w/power and that Valbuena’s BA and OBP will increase. I also think we will end the year with a great young SS playing for us. I know Valbuena is pressing. Look at that complete at-bat from last night when he hit his HR. He was thinking nothing but HR the entire time and that is pressing. He got lucky. He needs to settle down and pick out a pitch to drive and not swing so hard at everything that he falls down.


  13. OP – I’m not panicking. The quality of the 4 man rotation has been nice, especially Keuchel and McHugh. But we are already one man short and to hope that all 4 stay healthy all season is a crapshoot.


  14. so steven you prefer fowler’s
    8 rbi 20 run 14 bb 31 k 8 sb 3 cs .262 avg .345 obp .397 slg .742 ops vs marisnick’s
    13 rbi 15 run 6 bb 20 k 9 sb 2 cs .303 avg .346 obp .485 slg .831 ops???

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll take April 2015 Jake Marisnick over Dexter Fowler any day of the week.
      I’ll take career to date Dexter Fowler over Jake Marisnick any day of the week.
      I’d probably take 2015 Dexter Fowler over 2015 Jake Marisnick when it’s all said and done….but a few hot streaks would change my mind.
      I’d probably take 2016 and forward Jake Marisnick over 2016 and beyond Dexter Fowler.


  15. Tucker showed Gattis what a DH is supposed to do…….*HIT* the dang ball! It will be interesting to see where Hinch puts him tomorrow. Poor Fausto……he can’t buy a win!


    • Could I suggest they move Marisnick to #9 in the order where he did a ton of damage before some brilliant person removed him?
      Oh, a 3 hit game by Tucker doesn’t make him a star, but it does take the pressure off of him to have to prove he could hit major league pitching. Maybe now he can relax and just be Preston Tucker, RBI Machine.


  16. Again, I have to admire the job Roberto Hernandez did pitching into the seventh inning last night. When you look at the numbers that the Blue Jays have in their lineup, I would never guessed he would give up two bombs in the first and stick around so long. With the Obie early exit the night before Hernandez did his team proud.
    The comeback by the Astros was very fitting on the same night the Rockets pulled off a major miracle of their own. Houston was clutch last night!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. My dreams of a lefty knuckleballer crushed yesterday with the release of Blaine Sims by the Astros.
    How about that Lance McCullers, Jr., huh?


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