Yes, the Astros have the best record in the American League and the second-best record in baseball. Just doesn’t seem like it some days.
Yes, the Astros have a 15-game lead in the AL West and the other four teams in the league are looking like “wait ’til next year”. But on some days, it seems like the most precarious 15-game lead in history.
Yes, the Astros have the best batting average (by 15 points), the best OBP, the best slugging percentage and even the best OPS (the next closest team is .47 behind Houston!). Not only in the AL, but in all of baseball! Some days though, that just doesn’t seem like enough. Heck, some days, that is not enough!
The ship seems so easy to right. Get Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh (and Lance McCullers Jr.) back in shape by September. Hope Will Harris can get back. Hang on until Carlos Correa and George Springer get back in the lineup!
But is the ship really off course? Or is this just a late summer diversion that is giving the stars some down time that will actually keep them fresh in the long run?
Yes, the American League pennant can still go through Houston, that’s for sure. But Houston is still eight games behind the National League juggernaut Dodgers too!
In fact, compare the lineup April 3 with Sunday’s makeshift card. It’s not that Derek Fisher, Marwin Gonzalez, Josh Reddick and others aren’t good players. In fact, each in their own right is quite good. But that April 3 lineup was killer. Springer is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. As the Astros have discovered, you can’t replace Correa. Yuli Gurriel is a better seven-hole hitter than cleanup hitter. Marwin is the best reserve player in the game today.
|April 3||August 6|
When each player can settle into his particular role, his just-right spot, he performs better. That’s why the best teams are the best teams. Not because they necessarily have all the best players, but because they’re able to play each player in the place he performs best. And there are no holes.
Can you imagine how Fisher will perform when Springer and Correa return and he can move to the spot in the lineup where he can truly shine?
Right now though, the Astros are being forced to play day in and day out with a patchwork lineup that — even at its worst — is better than many teams’ best lineups! That explains four straight winning months, great offensive numbers and a 15-game lead.
The big questions, however, are how long can they keep this up, and can Luhnow and A.J. Hinch turn this around? Because — yes, let’s face it — the ship is taking on water fast. The injury demons that hit the pitching staff early on have now infested the lineup (Correa, Gattis, Springer, McCann et al).
Houston should coast to the West Division title simply because the rest of the division is lacking. After that, though, tough questions abound.
- Is it possible the team will implode and give up the biggest lead in major league history?
- Is it as bad as all that? Or is this just simply a summer solstice in need of a major Return of the Jedi in September?
- Who does this team miss more: Correa, Keuchel, Springer or someone else?
- You’re writing the prescription: What is the antidote?