Happy Sunday morning friends! The sun has risen, the Astros are in first place and the stretch run is in high gear.
The questions that plagued the organization only a year ago are gone. The negative attention the Astros received from the national media and fans alike is history. Debate the success, failure or mediocre tenure of Jeff Luhnow if you wish, but the turn around has been nothing short of miraculous, if not spectacular.
Put this in perspective. Last August 23, just one year ago, Robbie Grossman started in left field, Gregorio Petit started at third base and Jesus Guzman was at first base. Yes, Dexter Fowler was in center and Kevin Chapman, Jose Veras and Jake Buchanan all pitched in relief in the 3-2 loss that day. Oh, and did I mention Bo Porter was managing the Astros?
What a difference a year makes.
No one would have bet good money the Astros would be where they are today. No one. Not good money!
Now that they are four games up, though, there is lots of good money, but the big question isn’t whether they will make the playoffs, but how deep can they go in 2015. Right?
Here’s a quick synopsis.
The Astros are 2-2 against the Yankees in 2015, 4-2 versus the Royals, 8-5 against the Angels. Unfortunately, the team that could cause the most problem is the nemisis Rangers. Can the Astros hold their own in a tight series against any of these teams? Of course.
Best case scenario. Houston wins the division and home field advantage through at least the first round or so of the playoffs. Since the Astros obviously play better in Minute Maid, the home field advantage would be key.
Worst case scenario. Houston backs into the playoffs, is forced to play that one-game “playoff” and waste Dallas Keuchel.
Pitching and defense wins games. Ask the old school Orioles and most any other successful team. If the cards fall the Astros’ way, a team could do worse than to have to start Keuchel, Scott Kazmir and Collin McHugh — and maybe Scott Feldman in a pinch — with Vincent Velasquez and Lance McCullers Jr. out of the pen in front of Tony Sipp, Will Harris and Luke Gregerson.
Best case scenario. The Astros are able to line up the rotation in their favor, get a couple of days off and save enough innings for Velasquez and McCullers to be effective this time next month.
Worst case scenario. An injury occurs, the Astros fall off the pace and back into the playoffs (see above) or one — or both — of the kids doesn’t have the gas to finish the run.
You don’t need me to tell you the holes that are in the lineup and on this roster. It may simply come down to who gets hot and who does not. Or, how many get hot or do not get hot. Clearly, there are more “givens” on this team than even a few months ago. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer when he’s healthy. And, there is a more solid list of, ummm, contributors that we could argue about.
But yes, there are names similar to Guzman, Petit and Grossman who won’t be around this time next year.
The key to the lineup isn’t anyone on this roster. It won’t be anyone added in the next few days or weeks. It may not be who gets hot and who does not. The key to the lineup will be — as it has all season — by A.J. Hinch and how he stacks it up. To date, Hinch has used 116 different lineups in 124 games. You can’t/won’t get much “different” than that. And, yes, some of those lineups will include Chris Carter, Luis Valbuena, Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus. Or it’s possible some of those or others could be gone come the playoffs (or just left off a particular playoff roster).
Best case scenario. Springer gets back in his groove, and Gattis, Rasmus, Jed Lowrie or Preston Tucker goes on a tear in September.
Worst case scenario. Obviously, an injury to Altuve, Correa or a setback for Springer could be devesatating to the team. If no one else steps up, it could also be a death knell to the 2015 hopes of going deep.
As a fan or onlooker of this team, it would be easy to sit back and say this season has been successful with a winning season or if the Astros simply make the playoffs. If those things happen, then yes, you could say that.
However, at this point, with 116 days in first place, no losing month, a better record in the second half than the first half and much more positive notes, the Astros should want more.
Yes, 2017 may be the World Series year, but 2015 is The Year of the surprise!
Questions for your Sunday morning consideration.
- Does it matter if the Astros go deep into the playoffs? Or is just making the playoffs enough for 2015?
- What is the single, most important key to the Astros’ playoff success?
- Off subject question: Has Luhnow set up the organization for future failure with this roster? In other words, can he fix the Gattis trade, find a catcher better than Castro, is Lowrie a long-term answer at the corner, what will the outfield look like next season, etc?
- If Hinch isn’t manager of the year, they should discontinue the award. Still, how much credit does the first-year manager get toward the 2015 success?
- How would you set up the Astros’ outfield for the playoffs?
1. Does it matter to go deep into the playoffs. I think it does because of the sacrifice of losing Nottingham, Phillips and Hader.
2.The single most important key to their playoff success is to be able to play .500 ball on the road to get the team some confidence to win there.. There are no long homestands in the playoffs to make up for no road wins.
3. I don’t think that Luhnow has set the Astros up for failure with this roster. I think the Astros will have Springer in RF, Gomez in CF and Tucker and Marisnick in LF next season Gattis is the only one who can fix the Gattis trade. He doesn’t need to find a better catcher than Castro. He needs to find a better catcher than Conger. Lowrie is an asset somewhere so he doesn’t have to worry about that.
I think a bigger question is: How good is Marwin Gonzalez? He’s only 26 and he only has a thousand MLB PAs. Can he actually get better?
3. Hinch has been the best manager.
4. For the outfield in the playoffs against righties I would have Tucker in LF, Rasmus in CF and Springer in RF with Gomez on the bench. Against lefties I have Rasmus in LF, Gomez in Center and Springer in RF with Tucker on the bench.
Great to see you here, Chip.
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hey chip! nice to see you back!
springer getting back and contributing some offense is a key. continued very good starting pitching and bullpen is a key. eliminating base running mistakes and getting picked off is a key. continued good defense is a key. more than one or two guys hitting at a time is a key. will we step up enough to cover enough of these keys to get to the playoffs and make a run? i say yes. we shall see.
1. the objective is always to get as far as you can get into the playoffs
2. continued very good pitching
3. there will be some tweaks to the roster like there is during the off season every year, but i think success is here to stay for the next few years.
4. hinch IS manager of the year in my opinion and should get lots of credit
5. springer rf, gomez cf, rasmus lf, with tucker and marisnick in there by pitching matchups.
wooohooo i get to see the game on tbs.
We are so happy to see your name again! I’m sure you have read all the accolades we have been heaping on Tyler White. I think he will make an impact on this roster as we go through the playoffs!! Gosh that word sounds good doesn’t it….. (((( playoffs ))))!! I’ll check back after today’s game to answer your questions, but I’ll tell you right now…
A.J.Hinch IS going to.be the manager of the year! The players love him, we love him…
That’s enough for me! TBS is showing the game today, so I’m a happy girl! Good luck today Mccullars!
Becky, I’m not sure how much longer I can watch this game. Seeing Kershaw miss the glove by two feet and get a called strike at the top of the zone, but McCullers hits the mitt on what looked to be a good pitch called a ball…
Ditto Devin. Some of these Umpires……
Mccullars is a rookie….Kershaw has three Cy Youngs. There ya have it. The Umps are going to show respect to Kershaw, just for that fact. It makes me wanna hit someone, but.it is what it is.
Someday maybe Mccullars will get those calls from the Umpires. But the kid has shown a lot of poise out there today!
Welcome back, Chip!
Welcome back Chip, we missed ya
1.Winning it all would be just unbelievablely awesome. Making the playoffs would be great, but only if we finish above the Rangers.
2. Offense. but they still have other problems to work on.
3. They may run into some problems, Gattis and Conger were bad moves. Luhnow needs to get rid of Conger, period. Almost any catcher would be an improvement. Lowrie is a great guy to have around, but I would prefer more power from 3rd. A more consistent DH would be great too, but….
4. A ton of credit should go to Hinch. These guys love playing for Him. Overal the team was bad under Porter and he didn’t help matters. In my opinion he did more harm than good.
If Hinch is not manager of the year something is very wrong.
5.Springer in center, Rasmus in R, Tucker in L. But if Marisnick keeps swinging like he has the last couple of days, I may change my mind.
And we go to extras!!! I’m going to formally adopt Marwin….start the papers!!
Posted this earlier in the previous blog, but feel it still relevant:
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?
Becky you adopt Marwin. I’ll take Castro.
OH. MY. GOODNESS.!!!!!!! I LOVE THIS TEAM!!
Could this possibly be one of THOSE Years?
May it never end.
In case you missed it, here is a great article about the problems for the 40 man and Rule 5 coming up.
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I am not sure I am more excited to see the Astros comeback / walk off win or to see Chip’s post.
Welcome back big time.
Again great pitching and just enough hitting got them to the win.
Again a goofy out on the bases (Gomez trying to steal home) almost did them in.
Again Correa acting way beyond his years hits the ball where it is pitched thru the hole on the right side and steals a base at the right time.
Again MarGo hits in the clutch with 2 outs after striking out 3 times in a row.
Again – the 4th time in 10 games they walk off with Castro the hero this time.
Again they somehow beat a team starting a top notch pitcher.
This has been some good stuff – time to win on the road!
We made two goofy outs on the bases. Don’t forget Altuve’s deja vu pickoff early in the game.
Marwin made a great throw to get a Dodger stretching a single and Castro and Valbuena made the Dogers look every bit as silly as the Astros on that strike em out/throw em out.
Correa’s steal of second in the ninth was an incredible move in the course of this game. Huge!
Correa’s single and subsequent steal proves that one doesn’t have to hit the ball out of the ballpark to make a late inning difference.
This was win #69 on the season. Folks….
We only won *70* games ALL of last season and we were extatic that we didnt lose 100 games!! I have to keep pinching myself because we finally have a good team! Four walk offs in a week! The kids are Allright!
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Becky, I was just about to post the same. Last year, the team improved by 19 wins, if I recall correctly. This season, they could do the very same!
Chip: Great to have you back but you left a guy named Fiers out of your rotation consideration. He might be able to help. 😉 And that will create another dilemma; who to include on the post-season pitching staff. I have been a critic of McCullers and Velasquez but they certainly did well today. Mcullers got some good fielding behind him, he had some hard hit balls caught BUT he did not have hardly any long counts and a barrage of foul balls. I was impressed with his stuff and presence and holding his own against one of the elite pitchers in the game should be a huge boost to his confidence. Quite a turn around from his last outing! And VV did a great job cleaning up Sipp’s mess. I was actually surprised he didn’t come out to start the tenth. The tough call regarding the playoffs is that you only need four starters so one of the standard bearers is going to be left off or relegated to long relief. Feldman is replicating last year when he pitched very well in August and September. I think I want his veteran presence available. Which reliever would you leave off? All of the right handed relievers have been good all season. I actually think Sipp may be the weakest link but do you keep Perez as the only lefty in the bullpen?
Does anyone know what the contract implications are of the playoff roster? Can Carter be left off and not placed on waivers? If we keep 13 pitchers you can’t waste a spot on the bench for a complete non-producer. Tucker can be placed on the post-season roster and IMO should be but who gets left off? Perhaps there won’t be an answer until we see who comes to play in September. Now let’s go beat the damned Yankees!
There are so many travel days, I think you go with 12 pitchers because you will only use four starters at the very most and that gives you eight relievers.
What stinks is that the entire pitching staff has performed well and the weeds have been culled for the most part. Someone who has performed well and deserves to be on the roster will be left off. The position players, especially from the offensive perspective have lots of dead weight. At least the weak hitters are playing decent defense and it is usually pitching and defense that succeed in the post-season.
If you count Fields, right now we have 14 pitchers who are performing well. What other team can claim that?
Last year, the Giants went with four starting pitchers and eight relievers in the BP for the playoffs
The Royals went with four starters and seven relievers for the playoffs.
But it was Bumgarner, a starter, who turned reliever in game seven that made the difference.
It really is great to have you back, Chip. You have been missed, but not forgotten.
Does it matter if the Astros go deep into the playoffs? Or is just making the playoffs enough for 2015? I don’t this year they have to go deep, but because of the trades they made and where they are now I think winning the division is very important.
What is the single, most important key to the Astros’ playoff success? Primarily, staying healthy. If they get in and, let’s say, go with a rotation of Keuchel, Kazmir, McHugh and Feldman or Fiers they would have a strong bullpen with LMJ and, possibly, VV added to ti.
Off subject question: Has Luhnow set up the organization for future failure with this roster? In other words, can he fix the Gattis trade, find a catcher better than Castro, is Lowrie a long-term answer at the corner, what will the outfield look like next season, etc? I am still fine with the Gattis trade. I don’t think we gave up anyting of real value. The Conger trade is a concern, not so much for what we gave up, but for how horrible, defensively, Conger has been.
If Hinch isn’t manager of the year, they should discontinue the award. Still, how much credit does the first-year manager get toward the 2015 success? For this team, which is relatively young, a calming influence like Hinch is important, especially during those tough stretches.
How would you set up the Astros’ outfield for the playoffs? I am seeing signs of Gomez coming out of his slump. I would still go with Rasmus/Marisnick in LF, Gomez in CF and Springer in RF.
Oh, as far as the questions go….
– I think it is more important that this team makes the playoffs than how far they go. They need to get this experience under their belt. Sure I want them tyo go far, but they need to hold on and make the playoffs first. I do want hem to play a series not some one and done play-in game…
– I think the starting pitching is the most important. It gives them a chance every game.
– The team has less position problems every year. No team is great up and down. I think they will shore up more every year and bringing youngsters up every year will help them afford it.
– I like how Hinch does his business. He is strong but calm. He let’s therm have fun. He throws no one under the bus. And he has squeezed out as many wins as you could imagine out of this team.
– OF – Rasmus in LF, Gomez in CF and Springer in RF with Marisnick and Tucker on the bench. The bench will be bigger with less pitchers on the playoff roster.
Dan, fully agree. A step into the playoffs provides a never before duplicated experience to most of these guys. An invaluable experience.
What a ballsey squad. I sure didn’t think we’d get a sweep from the trolley dodgers with the three guys they had throwing against us. Anyone? These Astronauts find a way to win. Uncleknuckle/daveb will report from the big Stadium in the Bronx tomorrow.
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We will look forward to your assessment!
First, welcome back Chip. We have been suffering from Cajun deprivation. 1. Right now, it is important to go deep. But after 50+ years, this year is already a winner when we get to Winter. 2. Improved Hitting. 3. Let’s worry about that this Winter. 4. I think A.J. should get a lot more credit. If this was Bo’s team, they would have improved, but the FUN would not be there. 5. If Springer is healthy, Rasmus, Gomez and Springer. The rest are pinch hitters/runners. If memory serves me correctly, and it normally does not, you can set the roster of 25 for each series in the post season. So they can do more mix and match determining the opponent in the series.
I think the questions were well answered, but let me throw out on the most important / key question that Altuve absolutely raked this homestand. He raised his average from .298 on 8/12 to .310 on 8/23. Over those ten games (7-3 record) he had:
1 game with 0 hits (Archer)
2 games with 1 hit (Verlander, Anderson)
4 games with 2 hits
3 games with 3 hits
Altuve being Altuve.
Saw this on twitter: ” The Astros pen is a six handed legion of doom” I LIKE IT!!
Mr. Moran and Mr. Reed hit home runs in the Corpus Christi win tonight and Edison Frias pitched a whale of a game. His Game score was 77.
The game that 19 year old Frances Martes pitched for Lancaster was terrific, too. He went 7 shutout innings in a 5-0 Jethawks win at Lake Elsinore. Chase McDonald hit his 27th HR. This has been a great week for the Astros.
I was excited when I saw that in the box score. Then, I noticed they hit them off of Paul Clemens.
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 callups will be after the minor league playoffs
I am guessing Stassi, Chapman and Wojo are the call ups. Does anyone have a different guess?
I think those are as good as any. Not sure of any twists coming, but apparently he plans to stay with same 40 man through September. Else he would have already made some moves, although he still has a week to improve the 40 man if he chooses to do so.
Stassi is the only catcher on the 40 man so that’s pretty easy to figure but that will cause a ripple effect since that will leave Heineman as the only catcher at Fresno and they are playoff bound. Could Stassi be any worse defensively than Conger? And even though it is an incredibly small sample Stassi has hit when he’s been on the MLB roster. Conger is awful against LHP so maybe Max will rise to the occasion. In that same interview Lunhow put a lot of value on the minor league teams experiencing winning. I was thinking Chapman too but perhaps Obie as the long man or even Buchanan.
Here is my opinion of a partial list that will be gone this winter, so I am not sure why we have not upgraded the roster. These are the minor league stats for 2015. Buchanan (26) WHIP 1.44, Chapman (27) WHIP 1.70, Cruz (25) WHIP1.53, Wojo (26) WHIP 1.42, and Villar (yes he will be an All Star for another team) & Karter. Grossman and Stassi are probably on the bubble. But you can give them one more year (ages 24/25). But I can’t see losing someone with potential in the Rule 5 when these did not improve. I don’t mean to be hard on this group, but there is pressure coming from the bottom. Those are younger and have a potential upside. It does not appear to be JL’s plan to keep career minor leaguers on the 40 man. You can insert Thatcher (33) or Presley (30) in that group.
LOL I think you all summed up everything pretty well. I will take the day off, welcome back Chip
Stassi would seem to be the catcher considering he’s on the 40 man, is a RH batter and has been called up the last two years. There is not a problem with minor league catchers to fill his spot, as Lancaster has three on their roster, so they can move some guys up to back up Heineman.
If the Astros are looking for a LOOGY only, Chapman is the guy because he is very good against LHB. But don’t look for him to pitch to any righties because he has been bad against them this year. The thing is, the other teams are going to have expanded rosters, too and they can pinch hit when Chapman comes in, so there is that. The way Ober has been pitching, he might be a playoff starter, for sure, for Fresno. I think the Fresno and the Corpus Christi coaches might have some input to help make this decision, along with Strom.
A lot of statistics involving how these guys would do pitching against the Rangers and the Angels will factor into it, too. How did these pitchers do when they pitched against Round Rock and Frisco guys who are now playing for the Rangers? Or against Salt Lake and Arkansas guys who might be playing for the Angels in September.