Astros 2016: Reasons for hope six weeks in

The Houston Astros have driven a rocky road to get to a 17-25 record, six weeks into the season. They have made a team effort to hand away games in every manner possible, between poor starting pitching, blown leads by the bullpen, non-clutch offensive performances and a series of bonehead plays in the field and on the bases. But all is not lost, there are signs of improvement.

Reasons for hope……

  • Recent improvement – The Astros are 9-7 in their last 16 games. And the seven losses include three games where they had the lead late in the game, including two extra inning losses. They are very competitive right now even with tough teams like the Red Sox and White Sox.
  • LMJ is back – Lance McCullers was a key cog in last season’s success and is back in the rotation.
  • Evan Gattis is back….OK ignore Wednesday night’s 4 K fiasco and concentrate on his game winning dinger from his first night back and his two hits including a dinger on Thursday night against Chris Sale. Besides that, the Astros don’t have to have a bench spot taken up by a .043 backup catcher.
  • Youth will be served – No way of knowing how things will go, but Tony Kemp had a two hit, one walk, one big OF assist debut that was promising. Colin Moran was hitless besides a walk, but the kid needed to get his feet wet some time.
  • The Walking Dead are coming to life – In his last 21 games, Jason Castro is raking (for him) at .286/.452/ .988, Luis Valbuena is finally above the Mendoza line and Tyler White has pulled out of his death spiral slump.
  • Carlos Gomez is “hurt”. OK give the guy a break…..of his leg.
  • Jose Altuve may be the best hitter in the AL and a possible MVP candidate if….. the team can right the ship and get on the upside of .500.
  • Will Harris may be the best set-up man around where it is not obvious why he is so unhittable. His ERA (.46), WHIP (.661) and BB/9 IP (0.9) are all unearthly good. And he is doing it without a 99 mph fastball or a 12-6 curveball.
  • Dallas Keuchel will trend back to good, not because he must, but because they must have it to contend.
  • George Springer and Carlos Correa have been good and could go on a run of very good to excellent.

So, what do you see as signs of life with the Astros?


155 comments on “Astros 2016: Reasons for hope six weeks in

  1. This is starting to look like a team that has lost hope. And that’s AJ’s job to prevent. Just like it was his job not to let them enter season over confident. I am not asking for him to be fired. But I am seeing warning signs that point to the value of an experienced, effective manager. But maybe we couldn’t get one of those because they wanted more autonomy than front office would give.


    • Good post OP, only we don’t know what will happen with those ten you just mentioned the rest of the way. How many will get traded, or bounced back and forth or misused or simply just not make it to the show? History, even recent history, indicates that won’t play in Houston.


      • Dave, bouncing the rookies back and forth has aggravated me for years. It is a confidence killer even when done for real roster needs. Adjusting to the major leagues is difficult in the best of circumstances. Dash that confidence and it’s impossible. I think that may explain why so many players do well when they go to other teams.


    • Nancy, sooner than later, Hinch will be on the hot seat of this continues. It’s much easier to fire the manager than the team. Maybe he’ll sacrifice a couple of coaches soon, and get a bit more time. But if this team remains a bust in 2016, he’s gone.


      • I had said that Luhnow won’t get fired, but I think he and Hinch are a package deal. Either both stay or both go and if this continues I could see both let go. Crane is looking at low attendance this summer and that may prompt him to make a change.


  2. Dave, if the soon-to-be 17-28 Astros continue down the same path, at least there won’t be a reason to keep the older, expensive players who aren’t playing well.
    Then the Astros have to decide whether to start over or just bring up the young guys and play them.
    We can gripe all we want about it, but the Sabrmetrics guys created the stat WAR. If they follow their stats, they will know who is cutting the mustard and who isn’t. It’s right there in the stats.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OP, I’m not sure if they read the stats the same way we do. Otherwise, guys like Gattis, Marisnick, Valbuena and others would not be on the roster. And I’m all for seeing guys like Bregman, Musgrove and maybe even Reed soon. But what if Luhnow decides to trade a batch of your top 10 list for more major league stiffs. Don’t rule that out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I thought about that earlier, but, speaking frankly here, Keuchel would be a bargain next year in his second year of arb, because of the year he’s having. I think I’d rather sink my money into him and shop, instead, Mr. Gregerson, who would have a lot of value at the deadline because of his contract, his performance and the fact he has 1.5 years left on his deal. We still would have Giles,Feliz(who I believe should be a starting pitcher), Gustave. Harris, Hoyt, McCurry and Guduan, all of whom are getting close and all have closer stuff and are all at league minimum!
        A team out of this year’s playoffs does not need two closers and we know Giles is the guy of the future between he and Gregerson. I’m just sayin. A team who needs another closer, even the Rangers, might find Gregerson affordable and desirable in July.
        I believe in Keuchel under a new regime! That’s my opinion. If the Astros made major changes, I believe he would want to stay.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I gotta feeling somebody is gonna lose their job this week……and it looks like Marisnick is either going back to Fresno, or DFA’D. It doesn’t get any easier this next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are computer geeks, and there are baseball people. Those two groups are mutually exclusive. We in Houston, under Crane, are geek-heavy. And the result is the least interesting, and most underachieving team in Astros history.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m gonna be the manager for a few minutes, and these are the things I’m going to do in the club house:
    The football helmets are to be left at home.
    The smoke machine- strobe light- the HUGE boom box will stay in my office until you guys get serious about playing baseball.
    The dinosaur suit goes out the door…..
    *I* will let you know IF OR WHEN you can get anything back, when you can prove to me it’s ok to do so.
    Tell Jeff Luhnow to go look for a new hitting coach…ASAP. And fire Hudgens.
    And if I see you sitting on the bench when we are up to bat……you can sit for the next game… matter WHO you are.
    Get Keuchel to a specialist, because I have a feeling he’s hiding a hurting elbow.
    Whether he wants to or not.

    There!! How’d I do???!!!


    • All good with me Becky. I am not so sure Dallas is hurt. I am afraid the league has adjusted to his pitching style. And that is going to get worse if they change the strike zone. But I would make him shave his beard utility he starts pitching like a Cy Young winner again. I think somebody else on here suggested that in an earlier post.


  6. Maybe it’s time to give Tony D the manager’s job. He should have had it to begin with. And maybe Nolan can become the GM. I’ll say tat JL did a good job of drafting quality players with potential. However he gets a “F” after that by trading away good prospects for marginal and bad has-beens. Anybody remember that we let Dexter Fowler go because they didn’t want to spend the money but we managed to trade a bunch away for Carlos “No Go”-mez. Fowler is current hitting .324 and .992 OPS.
    And I’ll continue to beat the dead horse on why our former players excel after they leave Houston or turn into “Mendoza’s” after they arrive here. On a positive note we should get some good draft choices next year.


  7. All good stuff girls. I too think the league has adjusted to Dallas the fact that the majority of our starting staff has the same pitching style doesn’t help but then McHugh seems to have found himself again. It’s all perplexing. When a team faces the Astros it’s like all the hitters hit with the same style and the same for the pitchers. so they’re easy to figure out.
    And if Hinch has lost the clubhouse I don’t see him turning it around.

    I’m going to have to agree with Mr. Bill. Until we get some good baseball heads in this organization it’s only going to get worse. I have a feeling that is precisely the reason Biggio, Ryan, Bagwell, Clemons, don’t participate in the coaching areas.

    It all seems pretty hopeless right now. Does anyone really think they can turn things around without a major jod shake up? Why should we believe it will be better next year?


    • I don’t think Hinch has “lost” the clubhouse, he just needs to bear down on them, and make them accountable for themselves. Rasmus is as weird as the day is long, but he’s hitting and getting on base. He takes this game more serious than some on this team…..not gonna name names but I think you can figure it out. I think Hinch is a good manager, I know a lot of you dont…..but we can’t go firing every manager we get after only one year. Get serious about baseball or let me show you the door.
      They NEED a new hitting coach!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agree, no need to fire Hinch if they can’t gat a top quality experienced manager, however, you have to admit, he is predictable.


  8. All four milb teams lost today, too. They scored a total of 8 runs in four games. 6 of those 8 runs were by CC, but alas, they had no pitching.


  9. I’m not necessarily advocating firing Hinch but something is just not right in his approach to the game. As Clint Eastwood said in “Heartbreak Ridge”, you improvise, adapt, overcome. We seem to be somewhat lacking in that philosophy.
    Remember the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
    i wish Colby, Altuve or someone would step up and get the guys riled up. They are operating like a ship without a rudder.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Zanuda, I think the problem is bigger than that. Let’s go through this thing.
    Marisnick isn’t hitting.
    Valbuena isn’t hitting.
    Correa isn’t hitting.
    Rasmus is not hitting any better than last year.
    White isn’t hitting.
    Tucker wasn’t hitting.
    Kratz couldn’t hit
    Gattis went to CC and came back hot. How long is that going to last? He’s hitting .244.
    Everyone pretends Castro is back, but Jason is hitting .220.
    Springer hits for a week and disappears. This week he’s not hitting.
    Altuve’s hitting, but he has always hit.
    Gomez is horrible at the plate and
    Marwin is now down to .227
    There is really something haywire with the Astros’ hitting. That has to be fixed. If nobody is hitting, somebody is not doing their job. This is too much of a coincidence.
    It’s one thing for the batting coach to not be doing a good job. But if the players know he can’t help them, then that is why the hitting ship is sinking. Players gotta believe. Do these players believe their hitting coach is helping them? I don’t think so.
    The team BA is the second lowest in baseball, now trailing only San Diego. And the Padres pitchers hit in every NL game, so that means that the Astros are basically, the worst hitting lineup in baseball. If you think that firing the hitting coach for not doing a good job of getting the team to hit is a bad idea, then you better not take the same attitude with your pharmacist, cause you could really be in trouble.
    We have been really unhappy with this team’s hitting for two years. How does that timetable match up with the arrival of the hitting coach.
    I guess I could point out Santana, Villar, Carter, Grossman, Presley, and Singleton as guys who never hit for the Astros in the last two years either.
    Guys are hot when they get here and then they can’t hit any more.


    • Consider the curious case of two guys who spent a good bit of time with the big club recently – Matt Duffy and Preston Tucker. These guys have both always hit. They have been RBI machines. And then they spend a little time with the Astros.

      They go back to the minors and they cannot hit the same pitching they used to tear completely up. At AAA, where he hit .294/.366/.850 with 20 HRs and 104 RBI last year Duffy has struggled to get his BA above the Mendoza line. He is presently at .202/,281/.594 with 2 HR and 10 RBI. And Preston Tucker? The guy who hit .295/.357/.938 last year in half a year at Fresno is, after a stint with the Astros, hitting a miserable .105/.261/.366 with 0 HR and 0 RBI in 19 games.

      What did Hudgens do to these guys?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I feel Luhnow has to go but he will not be replaced until after the season ends. After all, under his leadership, the big club has had ONE month of winning baseball in all of his time here. Currently, the team is on track to lose 100 games once again. Absolutely unacceptable. If this does happen, Crane will lose the entire fanbase and will not be able to regain it for many years.

    Some wish to have Nolan as the GM but he should not touch that at all. His job assignment should be President in charge of baseball affairs. Reid can continue as President of business affairs. It is strange that Luhnow does not answer to the president of the organization.

    Biggio and Clemens have their hands tied by Luhnow. Bagwell??? His life is pretty much a wreck since he has retired because of all of the divorces and relationships he gets into afterwards. He has no desire to coach on a fulltime basis or any length over two weeks for the season. Nolan is on the Astros’ flagship radio station each week and he can immediately point out what the problem is with the pitching staff. But Luhnow does not want to hear from him.

    I feel the players have shut out the coaches. Is it the philosophy of the staff or the type of player? The hitting coach either cannot identify problems or he cannot get the attention of the players. The pitching coach, Strom, had a good two year run but suddenly, he cannot find problems or point out how to fix them. A coach has to have great patience and a diverse personality. Give the player some slack to see if he can fix the problem himself. If not, then gently prod him to look a the problem and make the needed adjustments. Failing that, then step on his toes, get his attention.

    ‘Tis a long season in an empty stadium…


    • I just had an idea as to who would be an ideal hitting coach… Moises Alou! The guy could wake up in the middle of the night and get a hit. Lance Bergman would be another candidate and could teach how to play first base.

      In a previous post, I had wondered, in public, why Mike Scott, who had the wondrous splitter, has not been contacted about joining the staff and teaching the pitch to the players. Roger Craig taught it to him and it turned his career around! Billy Wagner, a firebrand personality, could help with the relievers. The pitching staff needs to add more speed to blow the balls past hitters instead of pitching to contact.

      Bring Jose Cruz back to teach base running and outfield play.

      Which brings up another point of contention… shifts. Players are taught, from little league forward, where to line up to either receive a throw from the outfield and setup for a relay. Then, again, the outfielders are taught to throw the ball to a certain spot (the cutoff man). When shifts are deployed, many of the players are not in the necessary spots and are, instead, put into uncertain and foreign positions on the field. As an example, a ball is hit into the opposite corner while a pull shift is employed in the infield.


  12. It just seems to me like it is time to start playing baseball on the field instead of on the computer. Everybody seems to believe that BA is not the best measure of hitting performance. While that is certainly true when evaluating an individual player’s ability, it is not as true when evaluating/assembling a team. The team has to have the right components, A walk is not the same thing as a hit in regards to the potential to drive in runs. A walk is not going to drive in a run unless the bases are loaded. A strikeout is not the same thing as an out when the ball is put in to play. A strikeout does not advance runners. The players on this team with the exception of Altuve simply do not put the ball in play enough. If I am not mistaken, the concept of Moneyball was made famous by Billy Beane to identify the best cheapest player available because he couldn’t afford the players who were obviously the best. The Astros have ignored the concept of needing a balance of player strengths in the lineup. How about trying for a lineup where 3 excel at getting on base, 3 excel in BA, and 3 can knock the snot out of the ball? Unfortunately, other than Altuve, we have guys that can walk, strikeout, and do knock the snot out of the ball at a decent rate. But those HRs occur less than 5% of their ABs if you figure 600 ABs and 30 HR. So we have 1 that excels in BA, about 4 that can knock the snot out of the ball, and a revolving door of guys filling the other 4 slots that can’t do any of the 3 and simply can not implement situational hitting.

    I think the reason players like Duffy and Tucker get “ruined” in Houston is because their heads get filled with numbers that makes them timid at the plate instead of just trying to put the ball in play to get a hit or at least advance the runner. Based on prior history of except for the top round draft picks Springer and Correa, they know they will be sent down at the first signs of struggle and it makes them try to do too much. So then they get sent down, and their confidence and hopes are destroyed. So, I don’t think the hitting outcomes are going to change until the organization’s input on how they want players to hit changes and how they use players when they are called up. That will require a change in philosophy at the GM level.

    Liked by 1 person

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