This is kind of like when you teach a child to ride a bicycle. There is all that angst as they fail and fall, wobble and wiggle and finally kind of get it. Astro fans have been burnt so many times before that it is difficult to completely believe in this team that has taken the baseball world by storm in 2017. We are waiting for the next Oops.
So while you are wringing your hands, wrap your hands and your mind around these ten reasons to believe in this season’s team.
- Strength down the middle. Heard it forever….it is so important for a team’s performance to have that strong core at C, 2B, SS and CF. Go back to last week’s post. https://chipalatta.com/2017/07/07/when-you-look-up-offense-in-the-dictionary/ It is pretty certain that CF George Springer, 2B Jose Altuve, SS Carlos Correa and two-headed catcher Brian McCann and Evan Gattis constitute either the first or second best offensive performer at those positions in the AL. This is the best combination up the middle in the majors.
- The top is tops. Going back to that same post – the Astros have had the best performance out of their first three spots in the lineup vs. any other team in the AL. Paired with strength at the end of the lineup this has given the team an impenetrable gauntlet for opposing pitchers to face.
- Resilient as the waist band of my pants. Ignore the fact that their #3 pitcher coming into 2017, Collin McHugh has not thrown a pitch in the majors to date. Ignore the fact that his replacement at #3, Charlie Morton, missed 6 weeks of the season or that both #2 Lance McCullers and #5 Joe Musgrove spent time on the DL. When their best pitcher and one of the best pitchers in baseball, Dallas Keuchel, last pitched on June 2nd, they were 39-16 and 12.5 games up in their division. Since then, heading out of the All Star break, the Astros have been 21-13 (a 100 win pace) and are now 16.5 games up in the division. Resilient!!
- The cavalry is coming. There are always naysayers, but it is hard to picture the Astros being worse after the return of Keuchel, McHugh and Morton (who came back last week). They have Brad Peacock pitching at a high level wherever they choose to use him and they have given major league experience to Francis Martes, who should be better for it whether they keep him up or send him down and call him back later.
- Offensive variety. After several years where it seemed that the Astros’ scoring was tied to the long ball, the team has it all this season, best in hits, best in batting average, doubles, on base percentage and on and on. They still can whack home runs, but they can string four singles in a row, they can knock guys in from 3rd on sacrifice flies and if you screw up and commit an error against them, expect a long inning.
- 2015. Yes, it is a new team, a different team. Yes, they failed in 2015. But just like Mr. Martes has learned from his experiences this year, Altuve, Correa, Springer, Marwin Gonzalez, Evan Gattis, Jake Marisnick, Keuchel, McHugh, and others learned from being in a playoff race and learned from winning a play-in game and taking the eventual World Champs to the brink of elimination.
- Grizzled Grey Hairs. The Astros went out and brought in veterans to help cement this team and they will be even more important in the second half as the first half of the season. McCann, Josh Reddick, Nori Aoki, Carlos Beltran and Charlie Morton are all 30 years old and up and should continue to be the Yodas to the youngsters in this pennant race.
- Look Around. At least when it comes to the division – who is going to put on a charge and catch the Astros? Nope nobody.
- There’s a Killer on the Road. And they are named the Astros. The Astros are a not shabby 27-18 at home, a 97 win pace. They are an insane 33-11 on the road, which is a 121 win pace. Nothing bothers them. They win on the road, at home, with untested rookies and Cy Young candidates pitching for them.
- The GM and the Owner. Jeff Luhnow and the front office have served up the best team in the AL and one of the best in the majors for the 16th highest team salary ($136 million)in the majors according to Spotrac.com. We should trust the mad scientist and his minions a bit at this point. And we should trust that Jim Crane will support the front office with any move they make between now and the deadline as he said he would. He said he would have his front office completely tear this team down and minimize salary and that he would then pony up in a bigger and bigger way each year and he has done that. They have shown you don’t have to spend like the Dodgers ($252 million) to perform like the Dodgers.
Oh and I forgot to mention the great job A.J. Hinch, Brent Strom , Dave Hudgens!!! and the rest of the coaches have done. And Chris Devenski and the rest of the bullpen. And Marwin. And Jake from State Farm and…hey I could have made this 20 reasons to believe in this team.