A few early summer thoughts as Houston hitters fill in the gap and pick up their pitching teammates.
Much of the conversation surrounding the Astros these days is how many players will they put on the All Star team when the teams are announced for the mid-summer gala this weekend. George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa may make up the up-the-middle lineup, but it wouldn’t be surprising if another one or two joined them.
The All Star game may be the conversation now, but when will it become fashionable to talk about the Hall of Fame and Jose Altuve in the same breath?
- Altuve is only 27, yet he’s light years ahead of Houston’s HOF second baseman Craig Biggio in a number of areas, including hits. Of course, Biggio prolonged his career several years and passed the 3,000-hit mark and helped put the Astros on the World Series map along with Jeff Bagwell. Altuve is headed for his fifth All Star Game, Biggio made seven in his career. Altuve is already over a third of the way to Biggio’s 667 two-baggers (227) and more than halfway to Biggio’s 414 stolen bases (213). Most other numbers are similar. Of course, Altuve need only do what he’s doing for another 12-14 seasons maybe. And, therein lies the only concern. While he seems to be a unique specimen, often times shorter, more compact players don’t hold up over the long-term. Will Altuve surpass Biggio as the best Astros’ second baseman of all-time and enter the Hall of Fame?
Oh, those lineups!
- With the increased use of statistical data, many teams have increased their use of different hitting lineups to take advantage of situations and pitching matchups. The Astros are no different, using 69 different lineups this year. However, the difference this season is that the Astros can use different lineups whereas in the past they have been forced to use different lineups. In other words, manager A.J. Hinch has the resources this year to almost pull his lineups out of a hat. In the last two years, Hinch used 151 (2015) and 143 (2016) different lineups, not including pitchers. One difference, for the most part, is that Hinch has his order set for the most part when his players are healthy. For example, Springer hits first, Altuve third and Correa fourth most of the time. Ten different players have hit in each of the eighth and ninth spots, though. What’s your favorite lineup? Would you dare make any changes?
Speaking of A.J. Hinch…
- The Astros’ manager has certainly made you forget the like of Bo Porter, Cecil Cooper, Brad Mills and even Tony DeFrancesco. And he’s moving up the list quickly. With an overall .554 winning percentage in Houston, Hinch trails on Larry Dierker in that category (.556). And, at 224 wins, he’s in 8th place all-time on the Astros’ managerial list and likely to pass and likely to pass Hal Lanier, Bob Lillis and Phil Garner into fifth place with a strong second half. Is Hinch the guy Houston has been looking for since Dierker left or is he just the beneficiary of Jeff Luhnow’s spending?
A few questions for you…
- The Astros have managed to stay well ahead of the pack despite its pitching issues the first half. What has surprised you most about that run?
- If Houston gets Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh back for the second half, does that make the team dominant? Wait, more dominant? Do the Astros run away and hide by the end of August?
- Possibly opening an old would, but do you still burn when you think of the Astros being forced to move to the American League? Or has that simply become an afterthought in this fun season?