So the Astros are on a seven-game losing streak. Time to consider some not-so-fun thoughts.
Can 2015 still be a lost season?
Yes, possibly, but not in the sense of a 100-loss season. Jeff Luhnow assembled a crazy, high K, low OBP, high homer type of roster. Early on, there were days when the roster had seven of the same type of hitters.
Still, the Astros have been in first place in the AL West for the last 57 days and there have been unexpected highlights to go along with the horrifying dark side. But, this will not be a 100-loss season and Houston should still realize an improvement over its 70-92 season from 2014. Playoffs? Yes, it would be terrible if the Astros didn’t make the playoffs after this start, but it still may not be the focus since that could ultimately take 88 wins.
But, could it still be a lost season? Yes. If the Astros gamble and “go for it” and miscalculate by attempting to add one big player by giving up 3-4, including top prospects, it could backfire. For example, give up a Mark Appel and Preston Tucker or perhaps even a Vincent Velasquez or another top gun for a #1 pitcher who straps the team with a large salary. It could have an impact on the 2017 team and even a short-term beyond.
It’s the tough decision facing the Astros’ front office.
Were the recent moves too little, too late?
Houston has promoted several pieces in recent days and weeks. Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr, Preston Tucker and now Velasquez have joined the roster. Only Tucker might have been realistically thought to be here so soon when we spoke on the subject during spring training. Correa was slightly pushed and rushed and probably would still be incubating in Fresno if Jed Lowrie had not been hurt.
Certainly these players have offered some infusion into a struggling team, but will these moves make the difference Houston needs?
But: Is it time to panic? Were the recent moves too late? Does the team still need a major shakeup?
Maybe. Maybe. Yes.
Only Luhnow, manager A.J. Hinch and their main men know for sure what lies ahead in the coming days, but the holes are evident and time may be of the essence. The season is at a point where teams with good early starts begin to wane, when players out of the gate quickly (umm, Roberto Hernandez) begin to slow down and come back to earth. To be sure, the Astros have more players who started slow that may pick up the pace, but the real danger is in those handful of players who have played well slowing down. Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, even George Springer and now Evan Gattis, who is on pace for a 100-RBI season after a crazy slow start.
Despite the recent youth additions, the Astros will get Lowrie and Scott Feldman back by next month, but unless someone else steps internally (e.g. Luis Valbuena, Chris Carter, Jon Singleton), Houston will need to go shopping, and that could take them to Nordstrom’s rather than Wal-Mart.
Creative may be the watch word of the summer.
If Luhnow isn’t able to or is hesitant to pull off that blockbuster — and who could blame him? — the Hinch may have to continue to be creative with his lineups and substitutions on his march to manager of the year honors.
McCullers and Velasquez simply cannot remain in the rotation all season as is as the innings mount up. The tandem possibility with the two could work. Moving them to the pen with spot starts is another possibility. Using one as a starter this summer, the other in the pen and flipping their roles come August should also be a consideration.
And the recent issues in the bullpen? Are those a blip on the radar? And, without adjustments first base and third base will continue to cause everyone to shudder.
A mish-mash of lineups and patchwork roster does not a playoff team make. Multiple platoons and shuffling generally is not what you see from those teams destined for greatness.
And some questions for your Friday…
- Care to adjust your projected wins for the Astros now?
- If you had to pick one and only one key for the Astros to have a successful season now, that would be?
- What could still make this a disastrous season? Define “disastrous” in terms of that season for Houston.
- Of all the moves the Astros could make, which one would be the absolute worst to consider?
- Should the timeline for a World Series run still be 2017 or should the Astros be all-in in 2015?