Free Blog Weekend: Notes, roster decisions, playoffs and questions


Welcome to the stretch run! The Astros are in first place, 14 games above .500 (matching their best spread of the season) and on pace for a 90-win season.

Greetings friends, it’s the Free Blog Weekend!

Here are a few notes to start the weekend after a day off, just to get the conversation started.

  • The Astros lead the majors in home runs and are first in the AL in stolen bases.
  • Dallas Keuchel (15-6) and Collin McHugh (14-7) have combined for 29 wins, the most by any two teammates in the majors this season. The last time the Astros had two pitchers with at least 13 wins each in the same season was in 2006 with Roy Oswalt (15-8) and Andy Pettitte (14-13).
  • Nine players have hit double-digit home runs, tying a franchise record (2000). Houston has an opportunity to set the franchise record this season as Marwin Gonzalez (9) and Hank Conger (8) are also close with 34 games to go.
  • Talk about quality! Keuchel has gone at least six-or-more innings in 37 consecutive starts, which is an Astros’ record.  That streak goes back to July 25, 2014 and it’s the longest by a pitcher since Justin Verlander put together 63 straight starts spanning parts of three seasons (2010-12).
  • If you’re thinking this club is home run happy, guess again. The Astros have posted 174 home runs, putting them on pace for 220. The franchise record is 249 home runs, set by that 2000 club.

Playoff roster decisions.

When the playoffs roll around — yes, we’re assuming the Astros will be in the mix — A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow will have some decisions. If the rotation sets up well, Houston could use only three starters, especially in early series. That might mean that Keuchel and Scott Kazmir might sandwich McHugh. Mike Fiers and Scott Feldman, both of whom have pitched well of late, might be relegated to the bullpen along with Lance McCullers and/or Vince Velasquez.

The big question may come when deciding how many pitchers to carry on the roster. Who gets left off? Or do the Astros go with a 10-man bullpen? Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Tony Sipp and Will Harris are all locks for the playoff roster. Chad Qualls should be there as well, considering his post season experience. Oliver Perez could be expendable, though to lefties in a playoff game might be an advantage.

It’s also possible that the Astros could leave someone like Chris Carter off an early roster if necessary, especially if the rotation gets messed up down the stretch and doesn’t line up well.

Let’s play a little either/or on this Friday.

  • Astros’ MVP: Keuchel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa or someone else.
  • Most likely to be left off playoff roster: Qualls, Carter, Perez or Luis Valbuena.
  • Astros’ leader in home runs in ’15: Correa, Evan Gattis, Valbuena, Carter or Colby Rasmus.
  • Most likely to return in 2016: Kazmir, Fiers, Carter, or Qualls.
  • Most likely to not return in 2016: Kazmir, Fiers, Carter, Qualls or Valbuena.
  • Astros are 71-57. How many wins will the team finish with?
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87 comments on “Free Blog Weekend: Notes, roster decisions, playoffs and questions

  1. As for comment #1, not only do the Astros lead the major leagues in home runs, the Astros’ minor league system leads the minor leagues in home runs and walks. This according to a tweet by Brian McTaggart.

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  2. There’s a smell of something in the air other than fall. I believe it could be the playoffs. Haven’t smelled it for quite a while but it seems familiar. Hope I’m right. As for the Q&A session:
    MVP – Kuechel (Could also win the CY)
    Not on the roster – “K”arter but it’s unlikely, Preston Tucker has to be on the roster.
    HR’s – Got to go with Gattis at this point
    Likely to return – Kazmir (if they can get a deal done)
    Not likely to return – “K”arter (I sure hope so)
    Wins – I’m optimistic (91) (20 – 14 down the stretch) Can’t see the guys folding down the stretch after coming this far.

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  3. Chip, you do realize Fiers is under obligation to the Astros at the league minimum for 2016, right? He isn’t arbitration eligible until 2017. I would say that makes him the most likely of those four players to return.

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  4. When Vincent Velasquez accumulated enough major league time to be excluded from the Astros Top 30 Prospects list, it opened up a spot. Everyone moved up at least a spot and the new #30 prospect is Tyler White. Still don’t have a writeup on him, but it is his first appearance on list I have seen. Can’t wait to see how they grade his hit tool.

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  5. 1. Altuve. However, if Keuchel wins some playoff games, then that could change. 2. As set today, only Carter. 2. Fiers. 3. Carter followed by Valbuena. 4. 88 wins. But I think the only team in the West race that could make a run would be the Astros. Too many holes in the starting pitching for the others.

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  6. *Astros’ MVP: Keuchel*

    Kid Keuchy has been the anchor of this team through thick and thin. His consistent excellence on the mound combined with his mature demeanor and his mental toughness make him the natural leader. And with the offensive woes this team has, starting pitching – especially the standard of excellence Keuchel has set for it – is the reason the Astros are where they are. Perhaps Correa will arise to his fullest potential next year and lead the offense the way Dallas has led the pitching staff this year. But this year, it’s all about ‘the Beard’.

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  7. 1. Keuchel, where would this team be without him? I doubt they’d be in first place
    2. Carter. Please, please, please
    3. Have to go with Gattis
    4. Most likely Fiers, hopefully Kazmir
    5. See number 2
    6. 90

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  8. *Most likely to be left off playoff roster: Qualls, Carter, Perez or Luis Valbuena*

    I strongly feel that the answer should be Carter. But he should not even be on the 25-man, and he is, so I cannot rank him as most likely to be left off by Luhnow.

    So I suppose of the guys you mentioned the one I consider the most likely to be left off by Luhnow is probably Perez. He’s the ‘new guy’ with us, and has been less than stellar so far. We still have Tony Sipp as a lefty reliever, and he has been pretty good at times. Could he be more effective against lefties than he has been lately? Of course. Is Perez better at getting lefties? On paper, yes – but not so far in real time in the heat of the 2015 pennant race, and that is all that really matters. Meanwhile, regarding Valbuena, he’s no superhero, but he’s been way better than Carter this year – and how do you leave off a guy who not only sparkles on defense (at 3rd, at least) but also has led your team in HRs most of the year?

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    • I would disagree that Valbuena has been way better than Carter. They recent dive by Carter (was that even possible) separated them a bit, but both have been disappointing on offense. Defensively, Valbuena as a 3B brings a lot more value, and Carter’s def value at 1B is only by virtue of being a slight defensive upgrade there over Valbuena/Marwin/Singleton to this point.

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  9. 1. Keuchel – I think he is giving the whole team confidence and boosting results.
    2. Carter. He has to get hot by end of Sept to make it to Oct baseball.
    3. Rasmus. Recall he is playing for next contract.
    4. Fiers, Kazmir, Qualls, Carter in that order
    5. Fiers, Kazmir, Carter, Valbuena, Qualls. I think Fiers is dangled at winter meetings if they can or think they can keep Kazmir.
    6. 89…but if Springer comes back hot I’d boost it into the 90s.

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  10. One of our AL West rivals, the Mariners just fired their GM. I’m not going out on a limb when I say that their manager is about to follow him.

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  11. Astros’ MVP: This is tough – I love Keuchel, Altuve and Correa. I am going to say Altuve only because it feels like that as he goes the team goes. But if anyone pushes Correa of Special K – I have no problem with that.

    Most likely to be left off playoff roster: Perez – I think there will just be too many arms and he may be off even though he is a lefty.
    Astros’ leader in home runs in ’15: Evan Gattis – He is on a roll and I think he will pull away

    Most likely to return in 2016: I guess Fiers is the answer based on contract, but I would love it to be Kazmir – good article on what he has brought to this young staff since he joined.

    Most likely to not return in 2016: Maybe wishful thinking, but I have to say Carter.

    Astros are 71-57. How many wins will the team finish with? I think they will end up with 89 wins. I think that would be enough for the division

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  12. I’m going to have to go with Keuchel for MVP. The Astros had their best months early, before Correa.
    I’m going with Perez to be left off the playoff roster because all Carter has to do is close his eyes and get lucky a couple of times in the next month and everyone will be hollering “he’s back!”
    I’ll go with Gattis for the most HRs, because he gets to play every day.
    Most likely of the four to return is Fiers because of his contract.
    Most likely of the five to not return, I go with Carter because of his production and his money.
    I’ll go with the Astros’ trend and guess 89 wins. That’s 18-16 for the last 34 games. Taking into account that more of them are road games than home games, I think I’m being optimistic. They have surpassed all my expectations so far, so I won’t be surprised if they get hot and surprise me again.

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    • I think you are on to something op – We get Obi Wan Kenobi to convince Chris Carter to close his eyes and feel the Force when he is at bat. He could not be any worse than he is now.

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  13. MVP is tough. I tend not to consider starting pitchers since they only play in 20% of the games. I’m a little softer when considering a closer but I sure would not put Gregerson in the mix. Keuchel may be the exception to my personal rule since he has clearly been the leader of the staff from day one and has performed even better than most folks expected. IF Jose continues to hit the way he has lately and contributes even more once Springer comes back then he would be my choice. Correa is awesome but has only been here a relatively short time. He’ll probably be the consensus choice for the next 10 years so let his reign start in 2016.

    Of the guys who might be left off the playoff roster I think both Carter and Perez are no-brainers. Don’t forget Josh Fields who was pitching great before getting sent down. I think he was actually pitching better than Harris lately.

    Because of his contract Fiers will be back unless traded. Don’t see any need to keep Carter and I would have a very short leash for Valbuena. If one of the kids who is a potential 3B has a good spring then let Val go and give the new guys a shot. Of course we do have Lowrie but his injury history makes me wonder if we can rely on him. One should beware of Valbuena in the spring though. He had a great spring this year which got him way too much carry over into the regular season. Does everyone remember how Hinch kept plugging him into the 3-4-5 spots despite dismal performance. I hope we keep Kazmir but if he’s lights out in the playoffs he could get real expensive. If he’s not lights out in the playoffs then maybe we don’t go after him at all.

    I’m going to predict 90 wins which should lock up the division handily. I think we can get 19 more wins based on our pitching and defense alone and with Springer on the way back and Gattis, Gomez and Altuve showing signs of life I’m expecting our offensive woes to be easing.

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  14. Astros’ MVP: Keuchel will be the MVP because he has become the true ace that the club has been looking for. Additionally, he is in the lead for the Cy Young award and it seems as if the players who are in the race for post-season awards usually receive the teams MVP award.

    Most likely to be left off playoff roster: Of the four who are listed, Carter will be left off the roster because… he has done absolutely nothing this last half of the season.

    Astros’ leader in home runs in ’15: Reed will be the homerun champ for the team in 2015. He will have a lights-out spring and the club will have to do a Bagwell revision and keep him on the team.

    Most likely to return in 2016: Fiers will certainly return in 2016. A good pitcher who is under team control??? Heck yeah!

    Most likely to not return in 2016: A three-fer! Carter, Qualls, and Valbuena will not be on the club in 2016.

    Astros are 71-57. How many wins will the team finish with? I predicted earlier, that the Astros would win 92. With 34 games left, at .500 that would put them at 88 wins. 15 home games where they have been invincible would put that total at 86 wins. I do not consider 13 more road wins out of 19 games against the competition ahead, to be out of the question. So, out of my perceived possible 28 wins, they should be able to win another 21 of those games.

    GO ASTROS!!!

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      • Carter, ( sigh) You know, I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. I know he wants to hit. But, jeez, he’s taking up a roster spot where someone useful could be.
        I’m afraid to look at the lineup everyday.

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  15. Grrrrr! So tonight, Tyler White strolls to the plate in the ninth with Fresno down by a run and runners on 1st and 2nd. He strokes a single plating the tying run with his second hit, to go with two walks on the night. Runners now on 1st and third but Jon Villar is put into the DH slot as a pinch runner for White and promptly gets thrown out trying to steal. Fresno fails to score and they are now in the 11th.
    And Jake Buchanan just gives up 3 singles to load the bases and then hits Casey Kotchman to force in the walkoff run.
    Fresno has not won since their clinching bubbly party four nights ago.

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  16. AJ Reed with a two singles, a double, a home run and a sac fly tonight as Corpus scores 17 on Midland, allowing them to overcome a terrible debut by Francis Martes on the mound.
    Lancaster scored 16 runs in their win tonight with Bregman getting four more hits, and home runs by McDonald(28) and Davis(23). Six Jethawks had multi hit games.

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    • Man i love this organization. From rookie ball all the way to the big club its just amazing. Good prospects. You can choose many players not on the top 30 and they would make the top 30 on any other club

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    • It’s maddening, but JL is not going to do anything until after the season. He doesn’t want to mess with the 40-man roster, which makes little sense to me since it is highly unlikely Carter will return next season. I am guessng he is concerned Carter will get picked up by a rival and pull a JDM on us this year. If so, I think everyone will be fine with it as we have given him many more opportunities than we gave JDM. It is time to fish and cut bait.

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      • Tim, I agree. With roster expansion just days away he wants to give as many options as he can possibly have to Hinch. Stassi is going to be in pocket for the moment until they figure out if Castro needs 15 days off. With a 40-man roster, Carter does us more good on the bench than being sent home.

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  17. With their win last night Lancaster clinched a playoff spot. Now all four of Houston’s full season minor league teams are playoff bound and their next two short season teams are currently in line for playoff spots, they just need to keep winning to clinch.

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  18. Since the DSL Rangers1 are playing today and the DSL Astros Blues are not, that means that the DSL Astros were eliminated with their loss yesterday. Still a good year for them.

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  19. Castro will not go on the DL and, as of now, Stassi is not being brought up. Correa is out again today. This means we have 1 player available on the bench and that would be our favorite air-conditioner, Chris Carter. If Conger gets injured we have to move our DH to catcher and have the pitcher bat. Luhnow is really rolling the dice not calling up another catcher these next 3 games.

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  20. So if Castro isn’t going on the dl..who is going down to make room for Stassi. ..or are we only having 1 catcher for a few days?!

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      • Tim, what this may mean is that Stassi is going to be sitting somewhere in that stadium with the Astros and on Sept 1st he is going to be with the team and maybe sooner, if there is an emergency. So you and Jake can both be right. But I knew that if Stassi had left the Grizzlies he was not going to be in Houston while the team was in Minneapolis. First of all, Fresno is playing in Omaha, close to the Twin Cities.

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  21. As always the Houston Comical (spit) states, in its headline, that Castro will NOT be put on the disabled list. One reads the story and the story states Castro IS ON the disabled list. That newspaper is a real joke of information. Castro is one of my fantasy reserves and I needed to find out.

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    • jake i really don’t know the facts here, but if one catcher is called up to the bigs another may be called up from below to take his place. is a possible explanation. breathe deep and relax.

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  22. Good game by the good guys. Great pitching all around and timely hitting. Valbuena and JFSF for their RBI’s. A little concerned with Lowrie as his slump continues.

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    • Lowrie hit two ball right on the screws tonight for outs. I would say they were hit as hard as any of the hits the Astros got tonight. One was in the first when Buxton made a great play and the other was in the eighth when the SS robbed him. Right now, it’s just bad luck. BABIP will make a rebound for him.

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  23. AJ Reed hit two more homers tonight, a line drive to LF and a fly ball to right field into the wind. Colin Moran also hit an opposite field HR to LF and Jon Kemmer hit a bomb to right center into the breeze. The Hooks rolled 8-6.
    Fresno hit four solo homers but lost 9-5. Heineman left that game in the sixth inning. Trent Woodward arrived earlier in the day to replace Stassi and took over behind the plate for Heineman. No word on why that happened. Heineman had one of the four home runs for Fresno before he left the game.

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    • And a guy named Springer showed up and did OK. Was pleased to see he played RF and not merely DH. Wonder if the injury will affect this throwing?

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  24. Angels lose 8-3 as their bullpen implodes. They are now 6.5 games back and that was Garrett Richards who came out with the game tied.

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    • I fully expect the Angels to fade but also expect the Rangers to hang in there although I still stand by my confidence in our pitching and defense. It is hard on the defense though when you’re top catcher and SS go down. Hope Stassi can at least contribute defensively.

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      • The saving grace is that we don’t play the Rangers again until Sept. 14th, which is over 15 days from Castro going on the DL. Hopefully, he will be able to return at the earliest date possible.

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      • Devin…..a catcher who can throw out runners? Well i guess u pretty much said we need Pena. He is not on the 40 man but with Castro on the DL i think JL can call him up. The situation is that Corpus is going to the play off

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      • Jake: It doesn’t matter that Castro is on the DL; Pena can’t come up unless he is put on the 40 man. If someone is put on the 60 day DL then you can add someone to the 40 man. That won’t happen so we have to hope Stassi steps up.

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  25. Great column, Chip.
    1. Keuchel
    2. Agree with Mr. Bill—Carter should be, but Perez more (NAH–never mind)—Carter left off.
    3. I’ll take a long shot (sorry for the pun)—Gattis.
    4. Fiers—but my hope is Kazmir
    5. Carter
    6. 90

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  26. Even with the guys out, this was a very winnable game on paper today. They made Santana look like Cy Young. I had expectations of a series win.

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  27. Are the Astros really going to allow Hank Conger to get the majority of starts at catcher until Castro returns? He is just a miserable excuse for a major league catcher. The Rangers are 2 games back in the loss column and gaining fast. Are we really going to do nothing to improve our offense at catcher and 1B?

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  28. Is it too late to change my mind about those 91 wins. Shut out twice and 4 runs in the other. You don’t get to the playoffs scoring 1.3 runs per game. Say bye to O Perez and hope we bring up somebody who can hit. Release Carter because all he does is take up space on the bench or on the field.

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  29. Closes his eyes and gets lucky when the team is down by 7 runs. All the times it could have made a difference in the last two weeks, but he hits a three run homer with one out in the ninth and down by seven. Clutch!

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  30. Maybe JL will read this blog and make the needed changes. On second thought, he’s there and we are all where ever playing armchair GM. As one person wrote, an A for drafting but I give him a C+ on the trades to date. This stay the course on the roster reminds me of what my investment guy told me right before the 07 stack market crash. “Things are great and they’re going to get even better.” I think we’ll get better too but what about this year 2015? Why can’t we do better by bringing up some A+ talent from AA & AAA? No sacrifice needed for the future and opportunities for the youngsters. Just another comment from the cheap seats.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. DAAAAANG…….What in heck happened today!! I’ve been in Chip Bailey’s hometown
    For a BIG Cajun wedding, and the Astros fall apart! Castro is out, Correa is out, and the bullpen and McCullers go south on us. Lawd we gotta play better than this……….
    Chip, I gotta hand it to you, your little town is a gas downtown! Good good, good music, and ahem……good adult beverages!! Really enjoyed our visit, neat city!!

    Liked by 1 person

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