All Things Astros and a whole lot more
No matter how you slice it, 209 + 50 does not = 16.5. But that’s exactly where the Astros find themselves in mid-July, just days before Jeff Luhnow’s deadline to secure the best season in franchise history.
Key starters — including Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton and others — have missed a total of 209 games on the disabled list. Carlos Correa is likely to miss 50 before returning in September to warm up for the playoffs.
Yet, the Astros enter today’s games with a 16.5 game lead with the best record in the American League.
Luhnow and A.J. Hinch have pieced together a deep roster that has allowed Houston to be cautious with its fragile rotation and has one of the best benches in the game today (read: Marlin Gonzalez). But as the team goes deeper into the summer, that fragility may fracture an otherwise strong position.
The Correa injury demonstrates what losing a key part of the cog can do. While Gonzalez and others may fill in admirably, Houston needs to be on full-on status down the stretch.
What does that mean for the next 10 days or so?
Luhnow is now in a position where he must add a strong, key pitcher. Keuchel and Collin McHugh are coming back and, while they will likely be strong down the stretch, there are no guarantees.
An ace to go alongside Keuchel is the recommended prescription and that will be costly, especially at this late date in the trade zone. Yes, Brad Peacock has done nicely (8-1 record), though it’s hard not to do well when your team provides 8.77 runs/game while you’re on the mound as a starter. Yes, the bullpen has done well, but that may wane in the hot summer days after being taxed with a rotation that hasn’t gone deep most of the season.
If you were in doubt about a trade, the Correa injury almost guarantees it. It’s just a matter of whether Luhnow finds the best trade partner fit for a strong reliever or key starter. Note: With Peacock headed back to his original role in the pen, Houston may have already made its best possible acquisition there.
Make no mistake though: It’s too early to start talking magic number, but Houston will still win the division, probably handily. They will lose a little flexibility since the injury forces Marwin into a fixed position, rather than filling in all around the diamond. But that’s about it.