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.