So, after my post which ran Friday morning, it seems the Chipalatta team dropped the ball like Villar on a routine grounder this weekend. Chip, Dan and I didn’t have the time to write you a new post. Fortunately, you kept the conversation going.
Well, I’m here to take the burden off your shoulders with a few basic conversation starters.
1. A couple of sportswriter yahoos — without giving any attribution — have said Preston Tucker is on the auction block. Well, I say baloney! Tucker hits for average (.341 after Monday), hits for power (.585 slugging percentage) and in 46 times to the plate has only whiffed seven times while drawing five BB. I’m pretty sure if you look up the definition of a “Luhnow hitter” on that hacked computer of the Astros’, you’d find a photo of Preston Tucker. Offensively, he’s what George Springer is supposed to be. Oh, and Rasmus will be gone by this time next year … if not sooner. Does Luhnow really trust Domingo Santana to fill those shoes?
So, how much credence do you really give those un-sourced reports? On a scale of 0 to Pitchforks-at-Crane’s-House, how mad would you be if Tucker was traded?
2. Speaking of trade bait … Look, I love our minor leaguers. But if a couple of them can bring the Astros some help, a solid starter or a quality bat … or a solid starter … then I will wish them well (when not playing the Astros) and send them out the door.
So, we hear all this talk of Jon Singleton and Carlos Correa in the minors. Anyone been watching Andrew Aplin lately? The guy who tore up the AFL is back in Corpus after a poor stint in Fresno, and tearing it up. In nine Texas League games, Aplin is hitting .452 with 9 BBs and 3 Ks. Sure, he got off to a slow start in Fresno, but AA isn’t some chump league. And someone who can dominate there might be worth dangling as trade bait.
Would you part with Aplin for the right price? What about Hooks pitcher Chris Devenski?
3. Speaking of Corpus Christi, Conrad Gregor is now hitting .289 with a .765 OPS. The 23-year-old first baseman hasn’t exactly been a big slugger, with most of his 20 MiLB homers coming at Lancaster, but in 167 plate appearances this season in AA, he’s walked 23 times and whiffed 33 times.
Compare that to Mr. Singleton. Mari-Jonny has hit .291 with 14 HRs this season. And, he’s only whiffed 35 times in 188 PAs while walking 29 times. But, he famously collected 134 Ks in 361 PAs in Houston last year.
Has Singleton finally figured it out? Or are you starting to join Team Gregor? Any other “top prospects” got someone nipping at their heels?
4. With five games remaining in May, the Astros are currently 14-10 on the month. One more win (29 games in May for the Astros) secures another winning month. Furthermore, the Astros have not lost a series since getting swept by the Rangers way back on May 4-6. If you’ll recall, the Astros finished April at 15-7. Say Houston wins three of the next five — not a stretch considering their record — and ends April at 17-12. That’ll put them 13 games over the break-even point on the season.
All this despite Jose Altuve‘s slump, Chris Carter‘s standard start to a season, Luis Valbuena, Evan Gattis and George Springer all under-performing. All this despite no real No. 5 starter. All this (well, the May part) with Jed Lowrie out of the lineup and Carlos Correa getting his mail in Fresno.
Imagine if a couple of big sluggers got hot — really hot — for a month or even three weeks. Imagine what happens when Correa gets called up? Imagine what happens if the rotation finally solidifies. Where would the Astros be then? Would Crane be looking for another spot in the stadium to hang one of those playoff banners?
Will a winning June make a believer out of you, if you’re not already?
5. We’ve all talked here about how this year feels different. Last year, that game Sunday in Detroit would have been lost the moment Hernandez gave up those five runs. May 3, the Mariners put up a 4-spot in the 7th to tie the game. In 2014, you’d feel the wind out of the sails. No way the Astros respond with a run in the 8th and the win. May 7, the Astros have two hits through 8 innings, and Huston Street is coming in to lock it down in the ninth. The Astros get four hits and score the winning run when Altuve beats a double play relay at first base. Astros win 3-2. That does not happen often — if at all — in 2014 or 2013 or even 2012. But we see it time and again in 2015.
To me, though, I loved hearing the other night how mad Collin McHugh was about his loss. Eventually, Houston lost 6-2, but McHugh said, “I was pretty bad. I was pretty bad with the fastball command. Too many cutters. Too many hard-hit balls. I was behind too many batters. They had nine hits in seven innings. Every mistake I made, they were hitting hard. No, I didn’t feel very good about it.”
In his defense, the only runs scored off McHugh were on a J.D. Martinez 3-run homer.
Keep in mind, this is after a seven-inning, 3 ER quality start. Most pitchers would talk about it just not being their night. Maybe tip their cap to the opposition. No. Mild-mannered, thoughtful Collin McHugh sounded downright angry. I almost feel sorry for the next team he faces.
What, to you, has been the biggest evidence of an attitude shift among these Astros? Is that shift just a byproduct of winning, or is the winning a byproduct of that attitude?