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.