Today we salute two oldies but goodies on the blog.
First is Chip’s traditional Free Blog Weekend. There will be a few conversation starters thrown in here, but you are allowed to go anywhere you want with the post today within reasons of decency and avoiding controversial subjects like religion, the President, sex and Nolan Ryan going into the Hall of Fame as a Ranger.
Second is a salute to that famous comic slacker Alfred E. Neuman and his equally famous quote “What Me Worry?”. The following are ten reasons why we don’t need to worry as Astro fans heading into the 2018 season.
- Been there, done that. The team had one of the most self-affirming seasons in the history of baseball. They are a fire tested bunch like a biblical Daniel and there will be nothing in 2018 and especially the playoffs that should surprise them. (Oh crud – I brought religion in here).
- Facing adversity. They won the title in 2017 despite injuries to almost their whole starting rotation – Collin McHugh, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., and Charlie Morton plus critical injuries to Carlos Correa and George Springer and rarely swooned.
- Facing adversity Part 2. No team in the Astros history proved that they were never out of a game, no matter how big a deficit they faced, how late in the game it was or how critical the game was. Go back to the top 10 games of the year for proof of that. https://chipalatta.com/2017/12/07/astros-2017-recap-the-top-10-games-of-the-year/
- Offensive depth. When hitting on all cylinders, this team was an offensive machine to behold – leading or near the top in nearly every important offensive category in the majors. Beyond that, they have such offensive depth that even when the inevitable individual slump occurs there are many hands left to lift the offensive burden.
- Rotational depth. As they sit right now (and there are rumblings that Jeff Luhnow may be looking to improve this area more) the team is very solid with their starting rotation. With Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Keuchel, recent 18 game winner McHugh, youngster curveball artist McCullers, brilliant additions to the rotation in 2017 Morton and Brad Peacock and with young pitchers like Joe Musgrove, Michael Felix and Francis Martes backing them up – Manager A.J. Hinch has many tools in that toolbox to send out there.
- An active, focused front office. The trade of the year in the majors in 2017 was the last second pickup of Verlander from the Tigers. The front office has also been up front in signing two solid bullpen pieces already in Joe Smith and Hector Rondon early in the off-season and has showed they are not afraid to go out and pursue what this team needs.
- More mature manager. Like any manager, A.J. Hinch was second guessed quite a bit last season, but it is no hyperbole to say that he did the best job of anyone he faced during the playoffs. He did not let his team meltdown no matter the situation, did a brilliant job of using his extra rotation pieces in the bullpen when the bullpen was shaky and did not burn out his pitching staff in tough offensive friendly situations.
- Jose Altuve, MVP, nuff said
- Barely below. While Altuve was the rock and MVP of the team, it would be down right difficult to pick out the second most valuable everyday. Was it Marwin Gonzalez, who along with playing wherever Hinch needed him also led the team in RBIs? Was it George Springer who was the MVP of the World Series, but who also seemed to be the key to the offense? Was it Carlos Correa who we can only salivate when we think of what his 100 game numbers would extrapolate to over 162 games? They are 2A, 2B and 2C on this team. And that does not even get into the importance of Brian McCann to solidifying this team and its pitchers, the career season of Josh Reddick, or the first full seasons of Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel, who both had many key moments during the season and the playoffs.
- Secret weapons. Last season the under the radar moves included signing Morton and the use of Peacock as an uber reliever/6th man in the rotation. In previous years this included picking up MarGo for a song and picking up Will Harris and McHugh off waivers. Will this year be the Rule 5 experiment with Anthony Gose as a lefty fireballer. Stay tuned.
So….why aren’t you worried heading into 2018?