Another starter? Another bat? How about a legit closer who is a flame thrower? Yes, apparently Jeff Luhnow is keeping his phone charged and the ringer on this week.
Until that other shoe drops, here are a few things to take your mind off the non-stop Cole Hamels talk.
Thing is, after nine outs last night, down 4-1 against a good starter and a good lineup, the 2014 (or 2013 or 2012) Astros would have started looking to tomorrow. Game over. Those teams just didn’t believe they could come back. This year’s team does.
Now there are a couple of reasons this year’s team doesn’t give up. One is the bullpen generally stops the bleeding. Collin McHugh gave up five runs. In past years, you could have counted on the bullpen to give up three or four more. But this year’s bullpen held the Angels to the five runs McHugh had given up.
Still, down 4-1, last season’s bats would have gone quietly into that good night. So, what’s the difference in last season’s offense and this one’s? Well, this season, the Astros are hitting a slash line of .244/.311/.425 with 138 HRs in 101 games. Last season, the Astros hit .242/.309/.383 with 163 HRs in 162 games. The K rate is essentially the same.
What’s the difference? Well, essentially it’s the difference between 1 HR/game and 1.3 HR/game. The other interesting part of this is how that power comes. The 2014 Astros had five players with double-digit homers. Most notable were Chris Carter (37), George Springer (20) and, yes, Matt Dominguez (16). This season’s Astros have 10 players on track (7 homers or more at this point) for double digit homers.
Carter not getting it done? Jose Altuve is hitting. Jose having a rare 0-for night? Carlos Correa is hitting. Or Colby Rasmus. Or maybe Jed Lowrie starting this weekend. Or Evan Gattis or Luis Valbuena or … you see how this works. This is a much deeper lineup even if, overall, it’s not better besides the power.
So, how does this team believe in itself enough to come back all these times?
2. Speaking of Evan Gattis, he is currently ranked third in the AL in triples with seven. The two guys ahead of him, center fielders. The guy tied with Gattis, a center fielder. The guys right behind him, center and left fielders, and one second baseman. Of the top 14 (five triples or better) triples hitters in the AL this season, all have at least three stolen bases. Well, all except Gattis, who has none.
Other than a good chuckle about Evan “Cheetah” Gattis, why do I bring this up? Simple. Unlike the other triples hitters out there, Gattis isn’t using his speed to make it happen. It’s his power. Last night he banged the ball so hard off the wall the outfielders spent time chasing it down before they could corral the ball. Time that Gattis, who didn’t really start running until after he rounded first base, used to end up standing — standing! — on third base.
Power is really making me rethink how to build a lineup. Sure is nice Luhnow thought of it first.
3. MLB has updated its prospect lists. Alex Bregman is Houston’s new No. 1. How he merits a higher spot than Brett Phillips (No. 2), I have no idea. Anyway, you can certainly see the Astros top prospects list at your convenience right here. But those farmhands aren’t the ones I want to mention. No, I want to look at those diamonds in the rough. Here’s a short list to keep your eye one.
Tyler White, 24 at AAA, DH. He’s hitting .402 in 20 games at Fresno after hitting .284 in 59 games at Corpus.
Akeem Bostick, 20 at Lancaster, P. He’s struggling, not Appel bad, but struggling a bit, in Lancaster. But that’s after dominating in Quad Cities with 0.76 WHIP and 1.50 ERA.
Nick Tanielu, 22 at Quad Cities, 3B. I would like it if he were a year younger, but Tanielu’s .773 OPS has been pretty consistent since he was drafted in the 14th round last season.
Are you watching any diamonds in the rough? Who, who’s not on the top 20 prospect list, do you think might be that future MLB player who is flying under the radar right now?
So, there are a few things to consider while we ignore the nonstop rumor mill.