2015 matters for Astros: Don’t let it slip way


There are a number of realities facing the 2015 Astros team as it rolls towards the end of the season in the rarefied air of a pennant race.

  • The Astros are a young and inexperienced team. The two teams chasing them down the stretch (the Angels and the Rangers) have nine playoff appearances in the last 10 seasons between them. The Astros best players — Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel — have not been within 20 games of a major league pennant race before this.
  • The best case scenario, at least in most fans’ minds, would be the Astros getting hot and finishing with 89-90 wins. Most fans don’t believe this will happen and figure if it does happen, what will it matter?
  • The Astros are a terribly flawed team, especially on the offensive side. Regulars and semi-regulars like Chris Carter, Evan Gattis, Luis Valbuena, Carlos Gomez, Jason Castro and Jake Marisnick are bad offensive players. They are inefficient producers, who are rally killers no matter where they show up in the lineup.
  • The organization takes the long view. Perhaps someday the fans will be happy that the Astros have an extra year of control of Carlos Correa, but in the short-term they may rue the two or three wins the delay in bringing him up cost the team.

But despite all this, 2015 does matter to the fans and it should matter to the front office and to the team. It does not matter how many wins the team earns this season, if it is enough to get them into the playoffs. The 2014 World Series featured two wild card teams with less than 90 wins each. In the last five WS there have been five teams appearing with 90 or less wins.

The Astros greatest year was 2005 when they eked into the playoffs with 89 wins. It is true that was a special year with a veteran team on a super-run the second half of the season. But it still comes down to getting into the playoffs and once that happens everyone has a 0-0 record when the post-season starts.

Once a team makes the playoffs, they have a puncher’s chance at the title. A wild card team could win the championship with a 12-8 playoff record, a division winner with an 11-8 record. Yes, it is against tough, tough teams but it is a fairly reasonable task if a team plays steady and above average for three weeks.

The bottom line here is this. Tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Ask Dickie Thon. Ask J.R. Richard. The 2015 Astros have a decent but flawed team that is in the lead in their division. The front office can play it cute and wait until September 1 to bring in help that will disappear when and if they make the playoffs. Or they could get bold and go for it.

The fans have been patient during a very painful and slow descent into baseball hell. With heaven in sight, the patience is gone. Win now. Play to win now. Make decisions to win now. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

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52 comments on “2015 matters for Astros: Don’t let it slip way

  1. Solid post Dan. I am keeping my expectations in check. We’ll see some September assistance, but as you note, I don’t think it will get here early enough to be around for the playoffs.

    We’ve got real depth in the pitching department. I just don’t know if our anticipated playoff roster will generate enough offense when they are facing the other best rotations in the game.

    But I also think that any post season exposure for this young club will be invaluable as they build further in 2016. I’m not letting Luhnow off the hook though. His obvious refusal to deal with first base is almost criminal.

    What a boost last night by Friers! But alas, controversy is brewing this morning. What was that shiny stuff inside his glove last night? I noticed during the game that he was rubbing the ball around in his glove quite a bit.

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  2. You have to ask yourself how many times a year will we see Chris Carter start a two out rally with a hit and then score on a Jake Marisnick bomb? That truly is lightning. It will happen about as many times as Mike Fiers throws a no-hitter.
    The truth of the matter is that when Jake Marisnick leads off with a double and steals third base with nobody out, there should never be a time when he gets stranded right there. And yet, that is a scenario that has happened over and over with this team this year. If the organization can do anything to help the rally killing at bats to occur fewer times in the last six weeks of a playoff run, shouldn’t it try to do that by eliminating a some of the times when .200 hitters come to the plate and fail?
    It just seems like they would turn to their own organization for improvements and forget about some team-control issues in 2021.
    This team is close, but every team that is close needs something extra to help it get there. It is obvious that this team needs to get more hits and make less outs when it matters. The only way to do that is to try and add a player or two who get more hits and make less outs when there is a run on the bases to be had.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny you should mention that – but man on third base with no outs is about the clearest example of batting average not mattering. Or, it shouldn’t matter is more accurate. Not to go all “hey kids, get off my lawn” an everyone, but grounding out to drive in a run…especially in a 2-0 game when your offense is struggling…is fundamental baseball that seems to have died with the PED era. The big key is not striking out or hitting a pop-up / pop-fly. Guess what all three of our hitters did?

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  3. Somewhat of an anomaly with JFSF and “K”arter last night. I’ll take it in a heart
    beat but it’s not the norm and on a day to day basis it’s not what we’ve been seeing. As 1OP and Devin mentioned about JFSF on 3rd with nobody out and we can’t get him in (no excuses). How about a safety squeeze? Rarely have we seen the Astros play “small ball”. It’s the all or nothing scenario. Should we get to the playoffs we need to have a strategy to score runs that doesn’t exclude everything except the long ball.
    We did it a few games back with Margo on the squeeze and it paid dividends. Occasionally you have to do the unexpected. Let’s play smarter not harder. I believe we’re playing harder already. Love to take 2 of 3 or 3 of 3 from the Dodgers so let’s do it.

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    • Z-man: I would like to see it also but we have a bunch of guys that can not make contact even with a bunt. It is only an eye ball test which may be unreliable but Rangers, Rays and Dodgers appear to make more solid contact than we do. Even Fielder and Beltre were willing to go the opposite way to get a run home. Correra the other night also. But for any of this to work, you have to have guys that make contact. You don’t lead the AL in strike outs by making contact.

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  4. Not sure I would call Gattis a poor offensive player. His OPS is over .700. He picks up a lot of RBIs.

    Value can be found in many places. Ask our pitchers how they feel about Jake Marisnick.

    Yes, this team is flawed, but name one that isn’t. The high-payroll Dodgers just got no-hit by a No. 4 starter.

    Liked by 3 people

    • BT, I believe Gattis to be a decent hitter in this lineup. However, on the team .714 places him ahead of only JFSF, Castro, Carter & Valbuena. So as a DH, he is not doing great. Compared to other DHs in the AL, he is about mid-pack with all the ones above not having a negative WAR. He does have the 5th most RBIs for a DH (ESPN site). And he is a triples machine. And finally, in my opinion, if we are attempting to upgrade, Gattis would be 5-7th of those that I would like to see replaced. We have more pressing problems.

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  5. Statistically, according to Fangraphs, Evan Gattis is only trailed by Jason Castro as the lowest contributor to this team, offensively.
    Flipping that, Evan Gattis is the lowest contributor defensively, while Jason Castro is the highest contributor defensively.
    What kills Gattis and the Astros when he is at the plate is that he either gets a hit or makes and out. He never walks, giving someone a chance to do something. According to fangraphs, that factor weighs mightily because it keeps his plate appearances so close to his at bats and just kills the team because he has no OBP. He has so many more chances to help this team and fails more than any other player. He has the lowest WAR on the team at -0.4
    He has the second most PAs, next to Altuve, but his BA and OBP are each 70 points lower, his strikeout rate is more than twice Altuve’s and his walk rate is one of the lowest in all of baseball.
    His physical presence and lovable nature masks his failures this season. If you went game by game and analyzed the times he walked away from the plate with nothing you would actually see what the stats are saying. But the triples and homers hide the fact that he fails to deliver more times, both offensively and defensively than anyone on the team.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I don’t like to brag about my baseball knowledge, but I would like to point out that I thought JL made a HUGE mistake in not signing Billy Butler. Butler is making 12 times the salary of Gattis and ranks right beside him. VMartinez is not performing for Detroit and many other DHs stink up the stats. When Jimmy Parades is near the best – it is not a good year to be a DH. So in most years, Gattis would be bumping bottom but this year he has plenty of negative WAR friends that are DHing. A statistical argument could be made to let Tucker DH against RHP. There is no statistical argument to ever let Chris Carter bat.

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    • Yep, the hole in the bottom of the boat is a flaw. but that hole in the sail is a lot more pressing right now, cause it looks bad to the people sunbathing out there on the deck.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I almost did not include Gattis in that list but his inefficiency gets to me. Plus side – he does drive in runs. Negative side – he has a lot of opportunities so he should.
    I agree he is not the biggest problem but he is a problem.

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  7. Its almost too late to get anything out of Tyler White and that’s a real travesty. There is no way Chris Carter will be on this team next year so why have him take up a roster spot? If you DFA Carter and bring up White to play first you can try to catch a hot hitter at the right time. Lord knows we need one. If White flops you can send him back down for the AAA playoffs and bring up Singleton. I often think Lunhow is so proud of his minor league teams and wants the players there to experience winning that he forgets that the primary purpose of the minor leagues is to develop players who will help the MLB team win! When the MLB team sucks like we have for the past several years then letting the kids experience some team success in the minors makes sense. But when a guy is hitting close to .400 and has an OPS well north of 1.000 at a position of dire need, well not bringing him up puts the lie to the claim that we are dong all we can to win now. Also, I would be shocked if Carter got claimed with his contract and his performance. If we could keep him in the organization he might go to Fresno and get some competent instruction and develop some value again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Carter is out of options……….you put him through waivers, and if no one claims him you CAN put him in Fresno, however he may elect free agency.

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    • I’d sure like to hear the answer if Luhnow was asked that question. Much too logical a suggestion for the Astros FO to understand.

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      • Sandy, Luhnow was asked by Matt Thomas point blank, and his answer was he was leaving White where he was, as well as A.J. Reed. He didn’t elaborate any further.

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  8. I thought long and hard about this last night. I really think Lunhow wants Fresno and CC to win their league. I also believe that Both Lunhow and AJ in their heart they know that this line up can’ twin a WS, they are looking at it like a great learning experience for the young guys and the future, they are not going to admit that Also they are showing a ton of patience and loyalty to the 25 guys in the dugout, for better or for worse and once again are building an Astro culture for the next 20 years.. Now it will drive me nuts the next 6 weeks , but I’m looking at everything as half full ,Go Stros.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My feeling is that this team has the pitching to go deep in the playoffs. If they don’t do anything to enhance the lineup for the playoffs it is possible that they could be alright, if…. a few guys get hot (not named Correa or Altuve). Between now and the end of the year they need a few of the main suspects to go on a couple week roll or so.
    In my heart I know it is very difficult for a team with no playoff experience to go far in the playoffs. But there is no reason not to fight to give them that first splash of playoffs this season.

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  10. Of course Carter may be gone tomorrow to make room for McCullers, another head scratching move since every starter is pitching well and so are the relievers. Tell me why we need six starters and a long man (VV) with these guys doing the job? We have off days coming up in the schedule as well so why do we need 13 pitchers? If they send a pitcher down instead of a position player who gets screwed? They’ve already dissed Fields. I suppose Harris will be next. I think we are being too cute and crafty for our own good.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The scariest scenario of all is if Luhnow really is happy with the team he has right now.
    If he is right and they really are as good as he thinks they are, 2016 and 2017 are going to be great years for me because I will know that the AstroShip is truly being captained by the Master and Commander and I won’t have to worry about it any more.

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  12. Gatti isn’t the only one who doesn’t walk.
    Put Altuve, Gomez, Tucker and Rasmus to that list. I really hope Luhnow isn’t going to be satisfied with just MAKING the playoffs this year. These guys have scratched and clawed
    Their way to where they are today, and no I have no idea why he is so stubborn about not bringing White up…..but he said this week that’s not gonna happen. Since Marisnick can play all outfield positions I look for Tucker to get sent down. I hope the bull pen stays in tact we can’t afford to send ANY of those guys out.
    I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Greinke doesn’t turn around and no hit US tonight, but I’m not going to be surprised if he does.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is the deal:
    Preston Tucker was sent down to make room for McCullers tomorrow.
    He has to stay in AAA for 11 days, uness he replaces an injured player.
    If he is NOT on the roster on Sept 1st he will NOT be on the playoff roster.
    Confused yet??? Makes no sense to me that Tucker won’t be on the payoff roster, but Carter will be. If I have any advice for Preston Tucker is to have him to learn to play first base in the off season. The outfield is just a log jam in AA and AAA. Soooo
    I’m kinda bummed out over this. Love the kid, and Love his bat.

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  14. It turns out there was a rule change that allows anyone on the 40 man roster August 31 to be eligible for the playoffs. Makes that pill a little easier to swallow. I expect Tucker will go down and torch AAA and get his swing back together. Still not sure why we have 13 pitchers on the staff.

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  15. So the Astros have stretched out to a 4 game lead in the division and now that lead is over the Rangers not the Angels.
    It would be great to see that lead stretched a bit more today before they head out on the road.

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  16. OK. Dan, do you have an opinion as to why he’s still here?
    I can’t think of anything unless Luhnow and co. have a whacky computer that’s telling them he’s about to start hitting 3 or 4 HRs every day for the rest of the year.

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    • I am at a bit of a loss Sandy. I am sure they don’t want to give him up for nothing. But who wants him? I think they will be paying his salary for the rest of the season whether he stays or not so it should be looked at as a sunk cost.
      Maybe by this time next week all will be clear but I’m not counting on it.

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  17. Great Astro win last night. Another stunning pitching performance. A couple of huge hits off one of the best arms in the game. Can it continue? I am in Brooklyn and will be at the Stadium in the Bronx tomorrow.

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  18. Huge hustle play by Marwin on defense to cut down Ethier at second. Can someone remind me why he had to go to arbitration last winter instead of getting paid? They locked up Alex Presley and his below avg replacement, of bat but wouldn’t open the checkbook for Marwin?

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    • Arbitration is not that big a deal.
      And they did not go to arbitration! It was Marwin’s first year of arb eligibility and he and the team settled without arbitration.

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  19. McTaggart tweets that Luhnow told Robert Ford that the Astros will call up a Catcher, a LH reliever and a long reliever on Sept 1st. Barring injuries, the rest of the callus will be after the minor league playoffs.

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