The frustration of watching a team flounder which was expected to flourish has set in with the Houston Astros’s fans. This is not going to be a bash Carlos Gomez (though he has earned it) post. No, this is just a summary of the major failings of the team up to this point in the season.
Offensive Inconsistency – They have scored the 8th most runs/game in the American League, which is smack dab in the middle of the teams. The problem is that they tend to go through true hitting droughts as they have scored 3 runs or less in 17 of the 39 games to date and they are 2-15 in those games. The high flying Bosox have only ten times scored three runs or less in a game. It is hard to be consistent when you have to give so many ABs to players like Jason Castro, Luis Valbuena, Carlos Gomez, and Preston Tucker who are struggling to get to or stay above .200 and any ABs to Jake Marisnick and Eric Kratz, who have struggled with the .100 mark. Note Tucker is heading down and Kratz out as of this writing.
Very Bad Starting Pitching – Even after a spurt of decent starts on the recent homestand – the starters are still 14 out of 15 in ERA in the AL at 5.09. When you go from 2nd best ERA in 2015 to second worst in 2016, you have lost the solid foundation that the 2015 season was built upon. To date about 1/2 of the games have been started by a pitcher with a 4.65 ERA or higher. Last season 153 of the 162 games were started by pitchers with ERAs 4.50 or lower and 114 games were started by pitchers with ERAs under 4.00. Dallas Keuchel has a 5.58 ERA, a 2-5 record and four games where he has allowed 5 runs or more. Last year his ERA was never higher than 2.51 any time during the season, he did not lose his 5th game until July 26 and he gave up 5 or more runs in only 3 games all season!!
Unreliable Bullpen – The bullpen has been improving overall after a horrid home run filled start. However, it still is not solid with a one run lead and the game on the line. It seems like every time the team is ready to go on a little run, the bullpen coughs up a late inning lead. And it does not help when the fielders can’t catch a fly ball – see the note below.
Bad fundamentals – The team has been consistent in one area and that has been in the area of being a low baseball IQ team. Whether being thrown out or picked off, failing with situational hitting or bad fielding (e.g. Letting three flyballs / popups drop in the last two games in Boston) the team seems to have a bonehead play or two every game.
Questionable Management Decisions – It has been noted that A.J.Hinch has been making some questionable decisions with a short bench late in games, specifically with using a pinch hitter like White and then immediately pinch running for him. There have been problems with the lineup, with the use of certain players who are in a death spiral slump and with righty-lefty matchups that don’t make sense. In some cases it is hard to fault him, such as over-using Will Harris when he is the only sure thing out of the bullpen. The overall feeling is that Hinch is being out-managed, which exacerbates a tough situation.
Inadequate Coaching – Whether waving players into obvious outs, or not assuring that they have sun glasses on playing in sun-drenched Fenway Park or not being able to coach up hitters or pitchers – this year’s version of the coaching staff is a disaster.
The Front Office Stinks – What else can you say? They made no moves to improve the 1B, 3B, DH and C black holes in the lineup, other than bringing up Tyler White. They traded away the farm for a not ready for prime time set-up man (so far) in Ken Giles. The strong farm system they were developing has been weakened with trades and has obvious holes at OF and C. The tandem pitching system has been a double whammy that does not seem to develop starters with stamina or relief pitchers ready for the big time. Maybe the June draft will help them redeem themselves a bit, but don’t count on it.
OK – your turn to moan and complain, but one basic question – what should they do now?