The Astros spent months atop the American League West before falling a half game behind the Angles on the final day before the All-Star break. Is the inevitable end of the 2015 dream now upon us? Was that lead the Astros built just a mirage doomed to fade?
Well, here are a few interesting facts as Houston looks forward to its second-half run.
1. A big part of Houston’s lead in the first half came from that 14-1 stretch from the end of April to early May. During that run, the Astros averaged 6.6 runs per game. Meanwhile, as the Astros have been going 3-8 thus far in July, the offense has been scoring at a 3.55 runs per game clip. June, a game over .500, saw the Astros scoring 4.72 runs per game. Suffice it to say, the Astros need to start crossing the plate at a higher rate.
2. Meanwhile, the Astros have been giving up 4.21 runs per game in July, nearly three-fourths of a run more than they’ve been scoring. Meanwhile, the ERA in June was 3.34. May was 4.03 and April was 3.04, which was tops in the AL. So, keeping the team ERA under 4.00 looks like the benchmark for keeping the Astros’ winning ways.
3. Another part of winning has been playing above .500 each month thus far. 15-7 in April, . But if you go to the Astros’ one World Series season, the team didn’t win each month then either. April was 9-13, May 10-19. It wasn’t until after June (16-9) and July (22-7) that the Astros topped .500. So maybe one bad month won’t kill the Astros, though month after month of mediocrity doesn’t look helpful.
4. Part of sustaining that .500 record each month has been getting an infusion of talent. There was Preston Tucker with his .733 OPS and 104 OPS+. Tucker debuted on May 7, and was with the Astros for a big part of its winning. Then on May 18, Lance McCullers came up and has pitched to a 2.62 ERA and a 1.6 WAR thus far. Then Carlos Correa came up and has hit for an .820 OPS and a 1.6 WAR.
5. But those three are just about the only help from the farm that the Astros can reasonably expect. What’s left in the minors are players not likely to be major contributors such as Mark Appel (top prospect as of now), Domingo Santana (No. 2 and not exactly looking like the next Lance Berkman), Vincent Velasquez (No.3 and most likely to help, but will have his innings watched) and Michael Feliz (No. 4 and likely bullpen help at best). After that, Tony Kemp could be super-sub help, and Colin Moran might be a September call up.
6. That leaves trades. Yeah, yeah, Johnny Cueto and maybe another outfielder, blah, blah, blah. I’ll believe it when I see someone new in a Houston hat.
7. So, that leaves guys coming back from the DL. Scott Feldman likely will be first. Next, we’ll see if Jed Lowrie‘s repaired thumb will hinder his hitting. Then, finally, we’ll welcome back George Springer in about five more weeks … just in time for the stretch drive.
So here’s some questions to consider:
1. Will the Astros have the ability to amp up their scoring over the anemic pace of July?
2. Are you looking more forward to a trade arrival or Lowrie and Springer returning?
3. Is the pitching staff a little too thin to keep up that early pace?
4. Is one losing month the death knell of the Astros’ playoff hopes?