King of the hill: Easier to get there than stay there


It’s easier to get to the top than to stay on the top. And that’s what Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch are learning in 2016.

Yes, Luhnow made some significant changes to the framework of the roster over the winter, but it’s a continual process. The scary part of the process at present is this: For the Astros to improve in 2016, it will likely require a trade or two. And that is not Luhnow’s strength. In fact, it’s proving to be a weak area where he gives up more than necessary to get, at times, parts that can’t or don’t contribute.

Here are a few Sunday morning thoughts and notes for your consideration.

Some things will be fine.

  • Don’t focus on Dallas Keuchel. He’ll be fine. He set a very high bar in 2015 and he may never consistently be that pitcher. The good news is that he doesn’t have to be — or shouldn’t have to be — if the other pieces of the puzzle fit and carry their load.
  • Carlos Correa is still the wrecking-ball-in-waiting. Yes, Jose Altuve is still the king of the hill of sorts, often carrying the team. As soon as he breaks the sophomore jinx, Correa will join George Springer and Altuve as one of the most potent 1-2-3 punches in the league (if they aren’t already there).

Some things never change.

  • Jason Castro will not be a significant contributor at the plate. He hasn’t lived up to that forecast and will likely never match the first round (#10) pick the Astros used in that draft.
  • Luis Valbuena ain’t the answer. In fact, it’s somewhat difficult to figure out the question on him. At 30, is he past the late-blooming window?
  • Will Harris is just a machine. Wind him up and point him in the right direction. Boom!
  • Ditto Altuve. Is it time to start drawing analogies to Craig Biggio?

Some things won’t change without change.

  • Hitting. Yep, something has to give.
    • Why don’t the Astros hit in crucial situations?
    • A 7-10 record in one-run games doesn’t bode well for a team hoping to contend.
    • Third in extra base hits in the league doesn’t help much if you’re last in the league in batting average (.239).
    • Will the Astros wait until the break to make a change?
  • Too many holes. The corners are still a problem. After the top three, the drop-off is of cliff proportions. But which of the holes do you try to fix now with limited resources?
  • Even is Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers Jr. get “right”, what to do with the rest of the rotation?
    • Can’t expect all five or six of the current staff to suddenly fall into line.
    • Is Keuchel really the long-term #1? Ummm, didn’t expect that question?
  • Time to fish or cut bait? I’ll just throw out a few names.
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136 comments on “King of the hill: Easier to get there than stay there

      • Yeah, White is fighting it too much. But OP, before today, he’s hit .255 with a .367 OPS and an .818 OPS over the past month. I still think he’s doing a pretty good job of struggling though his rookie season. We’ve had a batch of guys over there who have done far worse. Need to keep getting more selective and take the base on balls.

        I’m just worried someone will decide to put Gomez over there with Jake hitting the ball so well.

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      • I just noticed hat he’s been terrible at home and very good on the road. I’m going to take that as a good sign. .208 BABIP. Doesn’t that mean he’s due for a double reverse regression factor?

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  1. This team is hitting like crazy. Marisnick is very streaky so they have to ride this hot streak and continue letting him play. Gomez and Rasmus can platoon until Jake returns to being Jake.

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  2. Uh oh……..Feldman lost his MOJO in the 9th. Can’t lt these guys climb back from a 6 run deficit. Crossing my fingers and toes.

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  3. Maybe our guys can whip up on them again tomorrow and Wednesday. They need all the confidence they can muster for the series against the unmentionable ones up north.

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  4. OK gang. I have missed the last two games because I am in NYC. If anybody wants to chip in to cover my expenses, I will stay here until after the Rangers series is over. Sure would enjoy the extra time with my son. Is it coincidence that the bats heated up right when ai left town???

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    • Just a coincidence Nance!! But if you can stay up there for the next 3-4 months then by all means do!! Just joking with you, but it looks like the guys are FINALLY clicking on all cylinders and I’m sooo excited for them!

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  5. I am watching part of the re-run of today’s game now that I am home. (It is either that or watching summer fare on the TV, like America’s Got No Talent)
    – Gattis is a good solid catcher. Again blocking a lot of pitches, well and just made a sweet throw to 2nd right on the bag.
    – Springer is so zoned in – it reminds me of that time a couple seasons ago when he carried the whole team for weeks. His HR was a beautiful hit the other way
    – Gomez’s 2nd inning strike out looked worse on TV than on Game Day. Bad swing at a bad pitch
    – LMJ on the other hand hit a nice inside out swing for an opposite field single in the same inning.

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      • YES!! He might be too “proud” to wear them…..but dang it, if he wore glasses in Corpus and got hits….wear them up with the Astros!! It might save him from being traded or worse, released. I was in the dentist chair for nearly 2hrs this afternoon so I didn’t get to catch the game until the 7th inning! The 9th was a little too intense for me!

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      • I don’t understand why some players refuse to do things that would help their game, like wear glasses, take batting practice, exercise, ect. Man, for the money Gomez is making, I’d wear glasses, dress, anything short of a Dallas Cowboys jersey.

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  6. Don’t like glasses? That’s why they invented contact lenses. I wish it were that simple. I still believe the Mets knew something our Fao didn’t.

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  7. Well, every team won in the AL West again yesterday. The good news is that the Astros are gaining in the WC chase and I think that is their best bet to make the playoffs. I feel the teams leading each division are going to be the eventual division champs. They are just too strong, but the rest of the teams don’t really scare me and I think the Astros, if they continue playing like they are, have a decent shot to be a WC team. They are currently 5.5 games behind the 2nd WC team (Baltimore).

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    • I’m more optimisticthan that. The AL West teams will beat up on each other. If Houston can shake the monkey and start beating their Northern cousins they will have opportunity to gain ground. As I’ve said before, we are losing close games in stupid ways. Fix that and we flip the script.

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      • They have 13 games remaining against the Rangers and 12 against the Mariners. There is still a great opportunity here!

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      • If, and this is a big IF, we can beat the Rangers then, yes, we can still win the division. I just look at that Texas team, that now has Darvish back in the rotation and tons of depth elsewhere, and see them as the best team in the division. Their lone weakness is the back end of the bullpen. I am guessing the Yankees put either Miller or Chapman on the block near the deadline and the Rangers definitely have the assets to acquire one of those players. If you put Miller or Chapman on the Rangers then they are, in my opinion, the best team in the division, if not the best team in the A.L. They will be stacked. Heck, Odor sits out for 7 games and they just plug in Profar and lose very little. They will still get Choo back soon, but have OF depth to counter his absence. This pains me to say it, but the Rangers are a legitimate World Series contender, especially if they acquire a top level closer.

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  8. So, we face Robbie Ray tonight. What do the stats show us?
    1. In his career stats we see that patience is not a virtue against Ray. If you go after his first pitch or a 1-0, he gives up a lot of hits. If you wait him out and fall behind, he has a putaway pitch. First pitch swings have netted a .405 BA against in his career and that figure is .467 this year.
    2. Righties hit him better than lefties but it is closer than with most pitchers.
    3 He is usually pretty sharp in the first two innings but gives it up in the next three innings. In his short career, if he’s good for the first five he’s usually good in the sixth. He’s only gone seven innings once this year.
    4. He throws a lot of pitches. He’s averaged 18.2 pitches per inning in his career and that figure is at 19 per inning this season
    5. Castro has three hits and 5 Ks in 8 ABs against him
    6. Rasmus is 0-2 in 2 ABs with both being Ks
    7. Our top 3 hitters have hit him well.
    8. According to the D’backs depth chart, they have only one lefty in their pen, and we saw him that first game. Their pen has been busy the last two games.
    9. Don’t be surprised if Marwin plays tonight as he was 2-4 against Ray last year.
    10. Ray gave up 9 hits and 5 ERs in 5 innings his last outing against the Padres. The Astros need to jump on him early and often.

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  9. I know it’s hard for Uncle Jeff to admit a mistake, which is one of the reason I will never like the arrogant weasel no matter if we win the World Series. However I would have a bit of respect if he would Man/ Woman up. Kick Gomez to the curb, move on from a mistake, we all make them. We wont get crap for him or Friers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Last year the Astros got 1.5 War from Fiers and Gomez combined and the Brewers got .5 WAR from Santana.
      This year the Astros have gotten -.2 WAR from Fiers and Gomez and the Brewers have gotten a -.4 from Santana.
      So far, the Astros are ahead in that trade, no matter how you look at it.
      We can reassess a year from now.
      Personal feelings do not factor into a trade. Production matters.
      The Villar trade has been a win for the Brewers, so far. Production matters and Villar has delivered.

      Liked by 1 person

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