The Astros’ marathon begins, but what does it mean?

If a baseball season was a marathon, which it is, one game would be like running 850 feet. That is not nothing, and in fact for most of the seasoned folks on this blog that would be a nice little 280+ yard dash. But compared to the 6 month death march of a season the first few games barely move the needle towards October.

One of the joys of the first week of the season is writing about real happenings, rather than the mental imaginings that are ground through in the off-season. It is no longer speculation about who will be retained from the season before, who will be released, who will be protected, who will be traded, who will be signed as a free agent, or who will make the team in spring training.

However, the trap of early season musings is finding things to write about that won’t seem ridiculous. The moment one complains about the lack of hitting, the team busts loose. Praise the pitchers and they immediately lay an egg. And then there is the eternal problem of “jinxing” the home team by being overly optimistic about them.

But going back to a term invented here (talk about hyperbole), YIE – Yes It’s Early, but the first 3 days of the season went about as well as could be expected for the Astros.

Consider this:

  1. The biggest concern coming into the season was Dallas Keuchel‘s Cy Old performance in 2016. He was Cy Young brilliant in the 3-0 opener against the Mariners.
  2. The second biggest concern was having a healthy Lance McCullers Jr. to start the season after beginning and ending 2016 on the DL. He was barely a notch below Keuchel in a very strong showing in the Astros 2-1 “beat down” of the M’s.
  3. The third biggest concern was – who the heck is Charlie Morton and why did the Astros give all that money to a guy with a terrible career record and ERA. Boom – Charlie and his newly acquired fastball were one pitch short of brilliant to start off the Astros’ 13 inning walk-off 5-3 win on Wednesday.
  4. Chris Devenski looked shaky all spring and then turns in a no-hit, 7 K, 4 inning masterpiece to bridge the Astros towards that 13 inning win.
  5. Ken Giles was a mess last April, but already has two strong saves this season.
  6. The Astros are 3 games up on their supposed closest competitors in the division, the Rangers and the M’s after 3 games.
  7. Last season, the Astros did not win their first game where they scored only 2 runs until May 1st and they have already won 2 games where they only scored 2 runs in the first 9 innings. In fact in 2016 the Astros lost 11 of the first 12 games where they only scored 2 runs.
  8. The Astros won Wednesday, coming back in the 7th to tie it, having Brad Peacock get out of a bases loaded no out jam not of his making to give up only one run and getting 2 out, 2 strike heroics from Nori Aoki and especially George Springer on a walk-off dinger to set the clubhouse dancing.
  9. The Rangers were an unsustainable 36-11 in one run games in 2016 and are 0-1 to start the season.
  10. Sam Dyson the Rangers closer saved 53 out of 58 opportunities in 2016. He is 0 for 2 in 2017 as the Indians have rallied twice against him in winning the first 3 games of the season.
  11. The Astros burned a bunch of pitchers Wednesday night, but….Luke Gregerson and Ken Giles got the night off and Feliz, Peacock, Gustave and Sipp are all available for Thursday’s game.
  12. The Astros have done this with sporadic offensive contributions by most of the team. But there have been signs, especially in Wednesday’s game that the end of the lineup is no longer a black hole and is able to sustain innings and flip the lineup over to Springer who responded with all 5 RBIs.

So, YIE, but the team and the fans are all feeling good about themselves in the first series of the season.


150 comments on “The Astros’ marathon begins, but what does it mean?

  1. Being truthful on the two base running plays I saw- Reddick beat the throw but came off a millimeter for a millisecond.
    Correa had the throw beat just slid right into Moustakas’ foot
    At least it looks like Altuve is starting to get his stroke back. Proud of how Gattis is walking along with hitting

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was a nice win. I still agree with Dave and think we’ll see the hitting take off on this road trip.

    I know the outs on the bases are frustrating, but the Astros are committed to being an aggressive team on the bases. As Dan pointed out both Reddick and Correa would have been safe in most cases. I would rather be aggressive than passive on the bases. I remember the 2002 Angels squad was one of the most aggressive teams I have ever seen running the bases. They would go from 1st to 3rd on singles so often and, on occasion, they would get burned, but that year ended very well for them. I stay stick with the plan and take your lumps as the aggressiveness will pay off more than it won’t, in my opinion.

    Also, this team could very easily be 2-5 without Devo. Luckily, Jake bailed him out with that Crawford Boxes special in the bottom of the 9th, but he has been dominating and there is a good chance we lose both this game and Wednesday’s game if he doesn’t shut down the opponent for 4 innings. While I think he would make a fine starter, or even a closer, I like that weapon of using him for multiple innings in a very close game. The Dragon is a true weapon for us.


    • First to third isn’t something you should do with 2 outs. Running on contact a hitter is still 85%+ likely to score on a hit from second. The only thing getting to third does for you is score on an error, passed ball/wild pitch, or infield hit, all of which happen at low percentages.

      I agree with being aggressive. They had a bad series on the basepaths overall. Marisnick running on movement, stolen bases that ended up not being stolen bases, players getting gunned down trying to extend. Next series they may stay aggressive and get 3 extra bases out of it, which could be the swing between 2-1 or 1-2, I just hope they are bit more selective with their aggressiveness. Its an old adage, but I think still a good one, never make the 1st or 3rd outs at 3rd base.


  3. Devin, I heard Luhnow today pregame on the radio, was asked about Trent Thornton – he said they, “Love him!” He and Martes they’re hoping to get contribution from this season.

    They also asked him, which is the most stacked minor league team? And he said this will surprise you – extended Spring is! He mentioned Cionel Perez and Alvarez. Saying it’s never been this loaded.

    Franklin Perez threw a one-hitter today in 5 2/3.


    • So, is he going to go back and give Cionel Perez some of the bonus money they took away due to the medical concerns? Haha – just a bad joke here.
      So, Gov – is he acting like Thornton might get here before Martes? He’s a couple years older.


  4. Also, did anyone notice how the Angels beat the M’s today?! 7 in the 9th against Fein (understandable) and Diaz (surprising)! Scary.

    Just looking at the box score, seems pretty obvious they should’ve left Altavilla in the game, but we wore their bullpen out in our series alone. That guy was untouchable, and Angels erased a great outing by Iwakuma.

    LAA plays TEX next.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Over the first seven games:
    1. Astros have gotten only 6 runs from their usual 1-3 hitters combined [4 of those coming on Springer solo HRs];
    2. Astros have one run scored, zero RBIs, and 2 GIDPs from our #2 hitter;
    3. Astros have zero runs scored, zero RBIs, and 3 GIDPs from our #3 hitter;
    4. Astros have only one player with more than one double;
    5. Astros are 2 for 6 in attempted steals;
    6. Astros are last in the league in BA with runners on base [.183].

    Our pitching is carrying us. When it falters – see the roster under ‘G’ – i.e. Gustave [4.80 WHIP], Gregerson, [2.70 WHIP] & Giles [1.67 WHIP] – we have had no answer.


    • Trying to tie-in and responding to bad hitting in big situations (e.g. GIDP’s), and what it’s attributable to – having watched all the games sometimes twice, I can see where we “should have” tried to lift the ball/get it out of the infield, instead of a regular approach you paracticed all off season, or in preparation for that series. But I can also see the design behind pitching and executing well against our guys. So, the question becomes more: did we let them get away with “mistakes” (bad pitches) instead of punishing them; or did *some philosophy (like taking more pitches, as in Gattis’ case laying off sharp breaking stuff, or only swinging at strikes nothing borderline, or adjusting launch angles in follow thru) prevent us from capitalizing?

      I did see Springer give Alonzo Powell a biiig hug after his walk off. I’m sure these guys are all working on phases of their hitting, in constant talks with colleagues and coaches alike.

      What do I make of all these poor AB’s? I mean, Gurriel has hit the ball sharply at times. The other day you said “unnecessary at-bats for Marisnick”, who actually hit one to the wall opposite field. There’s evidence we’re powdering the baseball …. right to the opposingly well-positioned team. And everyone in America knows Altuve won’t stay in a slump. That sort of thing.

      I’m willing to be open-minded about a coach doing harm to a lineup, but as the reasoning goes, a player jeopardizes his earnings if he doesn’t adjust on his own.

      Of the players mentioned how do I explain it?
      Gomez – dogged it in Houston! but could find consistent swing (irrespective of an organization’s paid staff) somewhere else, and commanded salary from his big 2014 WAR number. They’ve discussed thoroughly on Rangers telecast exactly what swing chgs he made.
      Aoki – came in as a vet and knows how to hit, doesn’t need wholesale, hitting 282 or so every yr without respect to different staffs.
      White – I don’t know? Was player of the Week, was the week after when Hudgens got ahold of him? – HaHa bad joke😋
      Reed – hitting better due to offseason specific instruction. Small sample, but he’s a comer!
      Rasmus – was run out of TOR for using his dad over their hitting staff, so how do we explain coming to HOU hitting so well in the playoffs? Expressly, not Hudgens? Unlikely. And his hitting terribly later? Probably the equilibrium thing, and flailing at low and outside?

      The problem is it’s not quantifiable to blame Hudgens, to flash stats which show our guys not performing. It’s too results-oriented, and not always a clear picture of history. If someone throws an “unhittable pitch” and the other guy clocks it [enter Moss vs Devenski], exactly who is responsible for that? Devo *may not have thrown it perfectly, Moss *may have been sitting on it (as if every player for SEA wasn’t sitting on it?). It turns out, the murderous row of Cano Cruz and Seager, we minimized as a pitching unit. If M’s continue to lose, firing their hitting coach might eleviate some frustration, but those players & coaches better get it figured out right quick with HOU pitching the ball so well.


  6. Should be interesting day for watching our pitching prospects. Francis Martes, Forrest Whitley, and Framber Valdez all make their first starts of the year.


      • We need McCullers AND another TOR pitcher to expect to compete this year. Have you seen the Tribe’s pitching staff? Did you notice that McHugh has elbow troubles? Have you read that TB is shopping Archer? Do you realize that after this season the Stros’ payroll will get out-of-hand? NOW is the time to buck up!

        Please trade for Chris Archer.

        And please don’t tell me “anything can happen in the playoffs…”. The reality is that we need one more solid arm to shore up our chances.


      • C’mon oldpro. I know you see the bigger picture… and I know YOU know there is enough offense and defense to compete. We only need one more piece, and to stay healthy.


      • Luhnow already offered the Rays Martes, KTuck and Reed among a few others from our minor league system. The Rays turned it down. The Rays are off to a decent start so they’re not trading Archer any time soon. Right now, pitching is the least of our concerns.


    • Well, I’d rather have him than Sterling Archer, but don’t see the Rays giving him away for a fair price. In case no one noticed, they’re off to a 5-2 start and have a really strong defense. They do, however, have some good arms in the minors that may make Archer expendable once they fall out of it. That division is going to be brutal, but if they stay healthy they may still be in the race for a WC come July.


      • We ran into Kevin Brown and Jim Leyritz, who had something to say about newly acquired Randy Johnson.

        Going to the team aspect and filling in the clutch players, then you have to hit the 2005 CWS starters, and offset Dye Podsednik Konerko Crede at the plate. This year’s version is Mazara Odor, and Trout Pujols et al.

        Stros are doing it the right way organically and in-house, but the thing to realize is money management in middle market. We have to fill the seats (so far sort of ho/hum compared to costs of renovation), then you have the international exceeded budget, new Spring stadium and accommodations. Don’t forget 5 of the top 91 draft picks will be expensive, and we have our eyes on the 16-yr old Cuban.

        Stuff’s about to get real expensive if we don’t change thinking about parlaying some farm pieces. Soon we have to decide on paying Altuve and his agent, Springer, DK, keep Correa happy, replace Beltran. The list goes on…

        Basically, we have ongoing debate (Mgrs, Scouts Goldstein/Campo and staff, Owner) all trying to figure out whether Kemp can replace Marwin, can Reed hit his way on, will Martes be filthy and force out McHugh, will Fisher replace Reddick then is the ladder tradeable if Teoscar or Garcia or Straw or Ferguson or Laureano. We’re so deep with B-/C+ prospects that I wonder how to work this equation 1 for 5? It’s a tough pill to swallow for both teams.

        That “player that pushes us over the top,” like the lottery is an intriguing debate, but it’s usually about a team gelling together. The thing about the Tribe is they’re the most homegrown team in baseball (we rank #3). It’s taken awhile, not overnight, to get right.


  7. I don’t know what anybody else saw, but I saw the return of 2015 Dallas Keuchel in his first two starts. Actually – I’ve seen 7 games where the starters were as good as could be expected from #1 to #5.
    I think we should wait and see what we need a little farther into the season. We might need something that has not floated to the surface yet and we would certainly know what will happen with McHugh (which I fear could end up under the knife).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Re McHugh, you might recall I mentioned in Dec. somebody is going to have to hit the IR/DL to make room for starting depth. Paulino is one. At first, Collin was diagnosed with dead arm, but the prescription for that is to pitch through it in some cases, which we tried.

    Now, we’re reading its rest that’s needed and non-surgical. Structurally sound.

    I wonder if this isn’t in some way orchestrated? Like ‘hey Collin, just in case you throw a few beach balls on the back fields, and complain of fatigue, you still make $3.85M, and make room for Peacock, especially since the existing starters are outperforming expectation. It all seems too perfectly planned that a few needed to go down for awhile.

    Meanwhile, the shelved stable is ready for a look-see.


  9. One player will not push us over the top. Heck, two or three wouldn’t. So I don’t care if suddenly we woke up with a rotation of Kershaw, Bumgarner, Archer, Hamels and Arrieta, with Quintana and Syndergaard as our long relief guys. We would still have to find some way to score runs [well, maybe we let Bumgarner hit?]. You don’t win consistently in this league, even with WOW pitching, if your offense averages 3 runs or less per game.

    The good news is that we already have plenty of very, very talented players. Our talent pool – in the majors right now – is as good any team in the league. What we do NOT have yet is a very good TEAM. They don’t pick each other up – yet. They don’t synergize and catalyze and motivate each other – yet. They are a bunch of World Baseball Classic homeland superstars and high-priced FAs who just haven’t made the transition into a functional entity of Houston Astros yet this year. This club can be – hopefully will be – better. But the players we have are going to have to rise to the challenge as a team. Maybe on this or some other road trip someone in another city will do something crass or dirty to one of our guys that will awaken the ‘I’ve got your back’ and “I’ll pick you up’ mentality. Until then, I seem to hear a lot of Julius Campbell’s line ‘I’m s’posed to look out for the TEAM? WHAT TEAM? No. No. What I’m gonna do is look out for myself – and I gonna get mine.”


    • “Attitude reflects leadership.”
      -Julius Campbell OLB
      Remember the Titans

      Astros. I like ours.

      Bill, good hitters are like Novacaine

      “always works, just give it time.”
      -Coach Herman Boone


      • To be honest, the games this team has played this year – even when we have won – have become so painful to watch that, after over 50 years of being a hardcore Astro fan, I am finally content to just check the box score and watch the highlight vids when the game is over. This team plays so many light years beneath its talent level, and is so boring and mechanical offensively, that I have decided that actually watching games – much less paying good money to watch them – is for a much younger breed of masochists than me. I hung in there through the rebuild. Now we have the rebuild, and the payroll, and the talent – and we still can’t hit lefthanded pitching or keep a rally going. So bring on the novacaine!


    • They have faced pretty good pitchers so far. Karns and Duffy are both high velocity/good command guys. I would love to get either. Good pitching almost always shuts down good hitting. The Braves of the 90s always had great pitching and more situational hitting versus vaunted offenses.

      They will come around. Things are going to get a little easier for the hitters after this series – A’s/Angels/Rays. A few games against some legitimately placed bottom rotation guys will feed their confidence.

      At least I hope.


  10. I just feel this is the best attitude about bad hitting, etc. — win/lose together.

    “It’s a really tough one,” Cano told the Seattle Times. “The thing is, nothing is going our way. We’ve just got to keep fighting. The last thing you want is to hang your head and start thinking about what happened the first seven games. You can’t blame any one person. You win as a team. You lose as a team.”


  11. One team that has not been boring – or playing below its talent level – is the Buis Creek Astros. So far they are 4-0. They have five hitters hitting over .300. They have four players with OPS over 1.000. They’ve scored 21 runs over their four games [we have the same total over seven] – and they’ve only hit two home runs. Meanwhile, they have seven pitchers with WHIPs under 1.00. They have eight pitchers with ERAs of 0.00. And their staff has racked up 43 Ks in 36 IPs.


    • Nice “fan job” by Bregman waving at the ball with his glove down the line. I hate my life watching that kid play D… sigh!

      So I don’t step on more toes, I’ll come back to Chipalatta when Reed gets called up.


      • It’s totally fair to question his spotty fielding and hitting so far – the hope is it improves, but he just may not be a 3B


  12. So Gattis and Beltran decided to create a new stat tonight – SODP – strike out into a double play.

    The base running wonders continue.


  13. Cynic here, cautioning the faithful not to overreact and bail. Bregman might be best in left. Gurriel might not hit major league pitching. Sipp does suck. I think Salty is a back of rotation guy, if he remains healthy. But our guys will start hitting better. And when they are not pressing so much, they’ll be better on the bases too. I think we also have real solutions for first base. And when Jake stops hitting and Reddick does not hit lefties, I think we’ve got an answer for that too. Not sure what to do about our lefty problem, but we do have other quality pitching options close by. Luhnow is going to have a shorter leash on some guys. 2017 is no longer a time to let guys get their feet wet. And f this club wins three in a row, everyone is happy again.


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