Houston Astros 2016: The Lazarus Affect


Perhaps calling the Astros latest rise from the dead The Lazarus Effect is a misnomer as that faithful disciple only rose once. Perhaps this team that has been on the brink of ending their season more than a half dozen times in 2016 is really showing symptoms of the Michael Myers Effect or the Jason Voorhees effect.

Their latest flirt with baseball death has included losing their arguably two best starting pitchers (Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr.), their star in the making third baseman (Alex Bregman), their star shortstop’s shoulder (Carlos Correa) and their best player’s swing (Jose Altuve). This all occurred in conjunction with playing 13 straight games against first place teams (Rangers, Indians, Cubs, and Rangers) followed by three games against the hottest team in the league (M’s). They somehow stumbled out of that stretch not totally out of the Wild Card race and after Tuesday night’s 2-1 tenth inning win over the A’s they have scratched out of the grave and within 2 games of the second Wild Card.

The team has been riding good to very good starting pitching by everyone whose name does not rhyme with Sister, a really great effort by their bullpen led by multi-inning death ray Chris Devenski and just enough clutch hitting to win 5 of the last 6 games. They have 7 of their last 11 games at home and 7 of 11 against the last place Los Angeles/Anaheim/Redondo Beach Angels. They still need help to win the second Wild Card, but they are showing signs of holding up their end of the deal by winning a boat load of their own games and seeing where that gets them. (Note – if they go 6-5 the rest of the way they will tie their 86-76 record of 2015).

So…..

  • Do they replace Fister in the rotation?
  • If Keuchel and/or McCullers are able to pitch in the last two weeks do they dare use them?
  • How many times can Devenski come out of the pen with his nasty stuff down the stretch – he has not given up a run in almost a month and has more than 100 innings out of the bullpen for them?
  • Do they dare move Devo into the starting rotation?
  • Will Altuve, Springer and Correa warm up for the stretch run exhausted and physically beat though they may be?
  • Which of their lesser players (e.g. Tony Kemp on Monday night) will come through for them?
  • Can Joseph Musgrove, Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers carry the team to the finish line?
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162 comments on “Houston Astros 2016: The Lazarus Affect

  1. Springer would tell anyone that he misplayed that fly ball into a double. Fister actually should have given up a run over five innings. Again, I’d take that outing. We have to hit and score runs against marginal pitching. That’s been our real issue.

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  2. Bases clearing double……10-6 all 6 runs are Giles runs. Too bad I just knew we were going to hang on tonight. Folks, this just was not our year. They will be spraying champagne in the clubhouse for the team in texas….that I refuse to name. We will have our memories from last year. It was fun wasn’t it.

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    • A bad start combined with injuries to key players down the stretch was just too much to overcome. I think they’ll learn from this and be better next year. That’s a tough way to essentially end their season.

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  3. Hate to see Correa leave the game with hurt shoulder, but might as well shut him down for the rest of this year. He’s too valuable to this team, to risk him having shoulder surgery. Tough break.

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  4. I think what we are witnessing is the Reverse Lazarus effect. The message in the atmosphere is ‘Lazarus, go back into the tomb and lie back down!’

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  5. Hey JL! How’s that Giles trade working out for you? I can see why everyone want’s to get Chapman because for whatever reason Giles ain’t it. Even Brad Lidge at his worst wasn’t this bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, Lidge at his worse was worst. I’m still not a fan of the Giles trade, but he pitched well enough down the stretch. That he blew the save last night seems like it’s the most significant game of the season, but we can play “what if” with so many other games this year.

      …and this may be a tangent, but the problem with the Giles trade, in my opinion, is that management consultant Luhnow didn’t have a gauge on how it would impact chemistry. I really like Gregerson and what he’s brought to the bullpen the last couple years…but if the Giles acquisition (or Kimbrel, or Chapman, etc.) was going to be a problem in the clubhouse they should have moved Gregerson to another team for other players/prospects. Also, I liked Velasquez, but had convinced myself by December he couldn’t pitch in MMP due to his extreme fly ball tendency.

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  6. Is it to late for the best GM in baseball to trade Giles back for the 12 guys we gave the Phillies. I know there is always 2017 and more excuses why we are sitting home again in September. I have said 100 times and Ill say it another 100 , this FO will never get us to a AL championship, and not because we don’t have a lot of good taleneted kids.

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      • It’s never going to happen. Crane realizes he has a good thing going with the current GM and manager. Crane’s too smart to end all the progress the Astros organization is making. Those ’12’ players traded for Giles haven’t done diddly so the Astros are winning that trade, so far.

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      • I’m watching a young team, rife with talent, growing into a winning organization. Unfortunately, key injuries to key players will probably prevent them from making the playoffs this year, but if not for the injuries they would have, more than likely, improved upon 2015. The Angels and White Sox are mediocre. The Astros are good to very good. What are you watching, man?

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  7. If Gregerson had not given a run back in the 8th, Hinch might have given the ball to Devenski in the 9th and Giles might not have ever entered the game. Point is, we can point fingers, but what’s the point at this point?

    Tim, shouldn’t we have learned what we needed for this year last year?

    I think Gurriel and Bregman will help make us a better offensive team next year. I also think we need significant help in several areas. I’m already wondering what our 25 man will look like in 2017. We’ve farted around long enough.

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      • You mean like…if only one of the big name free agent starters had come to Houston? I think Mike Leave was about as good as we had a chance at getting…and he was about as good as Fister. I think we have to hope Musgrove improves, Martes is ready in June, and LMJ is full strength in April.

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      • Unless you wanted to pay $130M for Cueto or $215M for Price there was no one to get. This season derailed primarily to a slow start and injuries to key players down the stretch. Despite this it’s likely they have close to the same record as last year. This team is positioned to be serious contenders for several years. Great job by our front office in rebuilding the farm system and making us competitive again.

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    • What was the one glaring hole that was exposed in the playoffs last year? It was shown that we needed a hard-throwing arm for the bullpen and Luhnow addressed that with the trade for Giles. Other than last night he has been nails since June, but one bad outing late in the season is what everyone will remember. Imagine where this team would be with a healthy Valbuena, Bregman, Keuchel and McCullers. You can make a case we would be leading in the WC chase.

      2 tough losses and, as usual, everyone starts to question everything. No one was saying a word about this Thursday morning.

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  8. I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m not gonna diss on Giles. He had two saves in a row in Oakland that were long and stressful, remember Wednesday?? He’s very young and he’s very good, every closer has a few clunkers, and I know this wasn’t the day or time to lay an egg, but he did. In hind site Hinch probably should have put Devenski in for the 9th, but remember Peacock starts tonight, and Musgrove tomorrow. He may have been thinking that he was probably going to use Devenski tonight or tomorrow. There is only *1* Chris Devenski!!
    Look….”it ain’t over ’till its over”, I’m not giving up until the last out of the last game!

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  9. I’m not dissing on any one playing right now, they all are doing the best to their ability. These are a bunch of good kids trying hard. I just don’t see the FO or Crane being able to make the right moves to compete for a Championship. The right moves does not just mean spending on over priced free agents. It’s promoting and developing the right players, i’ts making a decent trade for a change, It’s going with your eyes and gut, not just analytics, Its developing trust and loyality with our players, Its the art of managing people, developing a winning culture, those intagibles I see when I watch the Rangers, the Cubs, the Cardinals, the Red Sox, The Giants.

    This is my concern long term with my beloved Stros

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    • Kevin……nothing will change until Jim Crane starts spending the money to make this team better. PERIOD. I’m very afraid that we have seen the last of Bregman. Every team Luhnow talked to about a trade for a starting pitcher, Bregman and Musgrove were the first two names they wanted. So…if you guys want a TOR pitcher, those are two of the names that will be gone, plus two or three other top prospects.
      Are you all ready to give up Bregman, Musgrove, Mattes, Kyle Tucker???

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      • Not no but hell no on trading our future away. OK, yes I admit I’m PO’d over us getting so close only to have it become just out of reach. There’s a lot of frustration that’s been building since 1962.

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      • Zanuda you are such a newbie – 54 years is barely half a lifetime lol.
        I think that is where most of us are – we’ve lived through this for so long we are almost numb to it.

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      • I don’t know the answer, I wish I did, but i know Uncle jeff doesn’t either. WE WILL NEVER WIN AN AL CHAMPIONSHIP WITH HIM AT THE HELM. Please he is way better then Wade or Pupura. that is a lame debate. I would rather use the real top ten GM’s in baseball as the baramoter for Uncle Jeff
        Anyway the top ten rated by the NY Post or Bleacher Report

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      • I don’t know the answer, Becky, but I do know we’re much closer to the ultimate prize than we would be under different leadership. This team is about to go on a sustained run of competitive, winning baseball thanks in large part to the shrewd drafting and trades done in the past 5 years.

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  10. Thursday night we had an embarrassing crowd in the park while the Texan’s were playing on national TV. Friday night it was high school football. If I’m a ball player and I come home from a strong finish to a road trip a game off the pace for a wild card game, I’m pumped up until I step out in front of 16,000 fans. Paid attendance will be up by 200,000 plus this year, but still, Houston has not fully bought back into the Astros to this point. Some of those empty seats are indeed paid for, but the season ticket holders can’t find anyone that wants to use them. So what’s it going to take?

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  11. Whether it’s Jeff Luhnow or somebody else, somebody needs a plan to move the Astros up into the next level.
    To do that it will take good baseball sense and sound ideas to get the Astros onto a level on par with the upper echelon of teams, a level that we are not quite at yet. With nine games left we are tied for eleventh as far as winning percentages go for this season.. That means we are probably five wins below what it takes to make a difference and ten wins below what it’s going to take to be in the top five teams.
    Luhnow knows this. He’s not the GM for nothing. He’s got all the information right there in front of him.
    Luhnow knows we are not on a par with the teams who hit the ball well consistently, so he is going to try to find players to make up that ground. He added Gurriel and Bregman to the mix and he knows we need to replace Rasmus with somebody more dependable.
    Luhnow knows that Marwin is dependable in a lot of ways, but he also knows Marwin has not produced the WAR it is going to take at 1B.
    Luhnow knows that he has half of his catching problem solved with Gattis and he knows the team needs the other half of that puzzle.
    Luhnow knows that Devenski and Musgrove are adding into the mix and that LMJ and Keuchel are there for next year. He knows he has to figure out the rest of the starting pitching for next season and then again, for 2018 and beyond. He has Martes, Feliz and Paulino, who show promise, like Musgrove and Devenski did at this time last year. But he knows that one more of these three need to make a jump next year or he’s going to have to look outside of the organization for starting pitching.
    Luhnow knows we have a good bullpen, but he knows that Neshek, Gregerson and Sipp are not long-term assets, because of their age, their contracts and their performances. He know that the organization will need help there.
    He knows he hasn’t fixed the DH problem yet.
    He knows that every guy that leaves this team this offseason will need to be replaced by someone who is better, in order for the Astros to move up into the upper end of the best teams in baseball.
    He knows that is going to take smarts and money.
    Crane knows it’s going to take smarts and money.
    We will see if Luhnow has the smarts and Crane gives him the money.
    If Crane gives him the money, Luhnow better have the smarts to use it correctly.

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    • As usual, I agree with OP. There are some holes to fill and Crane will need to expand the payroll. The key pieces are in place, but we need another strong hitting OFer, starting pitcher and DH/1B. The offensive positions can, and should, be addressed via free agency, but the starting pitcher will need to be acquired via trade unless Crane is comfortable doing what OP suggested and give Rich Hill a 3/$48M contract. This will be a very telling offseason to see how committed Crane is to bringing a World Series winner to Houston.

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  12. I don’t know if this is totally bull, but they say Giles took a ball off his right hand today, and the rest of his season is in doubt. The way this organization makes up fake ingurys, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did this just to let him settle down after a fairly disastrous season. Correa back in the lineup.

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  13. OP Great stuff here . exactly what I have been trying to articulate today.

    “Whether it’s Jeff Luhnow or somebody else, somebody needs a plan to move the Astros up into the next level.
    To do that it will take good baseball sense and sound ideas to get the Astros onto a level on par with the upper echelon of teams, a level that we are not quite at yet.

    If Crane gives him the money, Luhnow better have the smarts to use it correctly.”

    if we don’t make a deep run in the playoffs next year we have the answers

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ken Giles has an ERA of 4.31. He has a WHIP of 1.28. He has a lot of strikeouts, a few too many walks for either a set-up man or a closer, and he has way too many wild pitches [14 in 62.2 IP]. He has not been horrible. Sometimes he has been good enough. He has never been spectacular. And one thing he has definitely not been – even since June – is ‘lights out’. He has a lot to learn, and he can get better. He may make that trade look good in 2 or 3 years, but at this point it doesn’t matter. It’s done, and can’t be undone. Now it is time for Strom or someone to teach the kid how to pitch instead of throw.

    Liked by 1 person

      • It is Billy. People are just frustrated from a tough loss last night and it looks like another tough loss tonight. Giles has been lights out until last night since June.

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    • Yeah, a month and a half of no runs is great, but the season is six months long. So take away that great stretch, and what are his numbers for the rest of the year? I sure hope he’s our long term solution, but erratic does help describe his body of work this season. And an erratic closer is not what we need.

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      • Since he was moved to closer he’s been lights out, sans Friday night. He wasn’t the closer in April, May or June. We saw what the Angels did to everybody else in our bullpen tonight. This wasn’t isolated to Ken Giles. The Angels annihilated our entire bullpen, including the previously unhittable Devenski. I’m not going to call Devenski average after tonight and I won’t call Giles average after last night. Both Giles and Devenski have been our best bullpen arms for the past 3 months.

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      • Tim,

        I stand corrected, he was not the closer throughout the season. But we don’t know yet what we are going to get from this guy on a regular basis. His WHIP is 1.300 since this time last year. 365 days. Regardless of what role he has in the pen, that’s high for a reliever. I like your idea of paying Chapman too much to come and be our closer.

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  15. Marwin needs to move over to shirt and get Correa out of this game. I can’t see how he is swinging g, but from what Robert Ford says, he looks like he’s in pain.
    If our bullpen can hold up, these guys are gonna win this game….so it’s stupid to keep Correa in this game. My opinion only….for what it’s worth.

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  16. I don’t think it is disgusting. It’s obvious what has happened.
    The bullpen is exhausted. The starting rotation has shortchanged them from the second game of the season when McHugh lasted one third of an inning.
    Tonight Peacock could have gone longer but Hinch pulled him and rode his bullpen to death again. Brad was still as good in the fifth as he was in the first.
    Now the Astros have nobody fresh for the next four days.
    Correa is hurt and worn out.
    Bregman is hurt and gone.
    Altuve rehurt that oblique again tonight. Gurriel is exhausted. Springer is exhausted.
    Gattis looked worn out tonight. Castro has looked worn out all year. Marwin’s wrist is still bothering him. Tucker had surgery. Keuchel’s out, LMJ’s out and Giles got hurt.
    I think it’s time to put Moran at 3B, Marwin at SS, Altuve at 2B because of the batting title and Reed at 1B, White at DH, Kemp In LF, Marisnick in CF and Teoscar in RF and Stassi behind the plate and give these youngsters a chance to play and let the team rest a few days.
    It’s over. They gave it everything they had. Let’s not get anybody hurt bad from being tired and tearing something.
    From this point on, it’s 2017.

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  17. Yeah….OP you are 1000% right. Rest everyone who needs to rest, tell Rasmus to get off his butt and get a glove.Let Brady Rodgers tandem with Feliz or Paulino, tell Correa we don’t need any more heros, go sit down. Let Altuve tell Hinch if he’s well enough to finish the season….you KNOW he will say yes. There are 7 games left, let everybody play that you brought up…..they NEED to be rewarded for their effort in AAA. Last year we were in the playoffs, and the minor league guys didn’t really get to play. We need to see those guys play!! Interesting fact I learned tonight, Gurriel never played more than 3 days in a row in Cuba, and their seadon is only 90 games long.
    I still love my Chris Devenski…..you know how bad he felt tonight.

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  18. I sure like the chemistry these guys seem to have together. Hinch, who I quietly remain on the fence about, deserves some credit for that. Luhnow deserves some of that credit too, for bringing a batch of good guys together. We know we’ve got something to work with. I don’t want to dog anyone at this point, not Giles either. Tim, don’t misconstrue my points. I think we all know who should be gone. Becky, Rasmus is very likely in that group. But I think he’s got some real and continuing ear issues, and if it’s something like vertigo, then he’s got no business on the field. I don’t think he’s been mailing it in.

    The eleplant in the room remains our rotation. A good one will account for the health and well being of half this club. Last year our pen was gassed in the post season. This year our pen is gassed, even with a big batch of September reinforcements. I don’t want to be a wild card team in 2017, scratching and clawing our way to the playoffs.

    I want to be like the Cubs or the Rangers. I want our rotation and pen to be rested and ready for October baseball. And I want our September call ups to provide rest to our starters so they too will be ready to rock in the post season. Again, it’s time to become the elite team we’re supposed to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The tough thing is that guys like Valbuena obviously improve the team chemistry, but can you find a spot on the roster and will Crane agree to pay a backup that kind of money? It’s kind of the same with Marwin – from the outside it feels like losing him would hurt more than the advanced stats indicate.

      I don’t know how to fix the rotation. Most teams have injuries. I think a healthy Keuchel comes back motivated to be better. I hope LMJ comes back healthy. I think Peacock can give you what Fister did in terms of results. I hope Musgrove, Feliz, or Devenski can step up. If Fiers can continue his consistent inconsistency we can probably live with it.

      We can’t play stupid baseball, though. It may shock Tim, but I like Luhnow and Hinch. I need to see them improve though. Spring Training was obviously not what this team needed to come into the season prepared. They better spend the next five months figuring out a real plan. I can refer them to some retired folk in the Houston area who can assist in this matter if they so desire…

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      • Devin, I agree with you and what Dave said above. I think Hinch and Luhnow are still growing as a team and will learn from mistakes, which both have made. I wonder where this team would be right now if not for the injuries to VB, Bregman, Keuchel and LMJ. It’s probably a safe assumption they would’ve finished with a better record than in 2015. I’m still very excited about this team, but concerned if Crane will make the financial commitment to get them where they need to be. The Astros don’t need an overhaul, but just some additions to a few spots and I think they are legitimate WS contenders.

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  19. Man just read the article Jose Fernandez. So sad, it reads like him and 2 other people were in a boat after dark that slammed into a jetty, all 3 Killed. Life is so precious and baseball is a game.

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  20. Valbuena is likely too expensive at this point. I could see Luhnow trying to work a deal that would make him our first baseman, at least against righties, if the price was modest enough. I’m concerned that he showed us his career year though. But yes, I’d sure take him over a platoon of Reed/White. And I hope White gets a chance to play against both lefties and righties these last few games. He’s raised his stock a bit.

    I also don’t know how to fix the rotation. There will be question marks regardless of who takes the five slots. We need at least a couple of guys near the top of the rotation that can give us 200 innings. Who are they?

    Dumb baseball. Especially on the bases. That’s the manager’s job to fix. Unfortunately, so much of what happens on the bases is intuitive. Good base runners have been good base runners since they were kids. That’s not something they are going to learn in their mid 20’s. Maybe the automatic green light goes away. Maybe the third base coach goes away.

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