Astros’ 2018: Chew on these questions

There is very little going on with the Astros these days as they float towards Spring Training with most holes filled. So, let’s create a little excitement or at least give our fine readers some questions to ponder to fill this dead time.

Who will be the Astros ace?

This is not as easy as just saying “Justin Verlander” and moving onward. It is true that during the last season of the month and through most of the playoffs JV was the Astros ace. But if you look at the most likely pitchers to be in the rotation and their 2017 stats, it is not a slam dunk.

Justin Verlander 15-8 3.36 206 1.175 9.6
Dallas Keuchel 14-5 2.90 145.2 1.119 7.7
Charlie Morton 14-7 3.62 146.2 1.193 10.0
Gerrit Cole 12-12 4.26 203 1.251 8.7
Lance McCullers 7-4 4.25 118.2 1.298 10
Brad Peacock 13-2 3.00 132 1.189 11.0
Collin McHugh 5-2 3.55 63.1 1.295 8.8

We could easily argue that both Dallas Keuchel and Brad Peacock were more effective pitchers in less innings than JV.

It should be noted that Verlander was 10-8 with Detroit a team that was a putrid 64-98, so he easily outpitched his support there.

  • Will JV pick up where he left off, which was a 5-0 record and a 1.06 ERA for the Astros in the regular season?
  • Will Keuchel be affected by a possible mid-season trade hanging over his head? Will he stay healthy?
  • Will Charlie Morton take his clutch pitching in the playoffs – winning game 7 of the ALCS and the WS and turn into the ace?
  • Will Lance McCullers stay healthy and go back to his 2015 and 2016 effectiveness?
  • Will Gerrit Cole get back to the Cy Young competitor he was in 2015?
  • Will Peacock and McHugh step in for whoever falters or gets injured?

Who will be the Astros MVP?

Jose Altuve who led the Astros with a .346 batting average, .410 OBP and .957 OPS was the 2017 MVP for the team as he stayed healthy enough to play in 153 games. His 112 runs scored, 24 HRs and 81 RBIs were very good, but leave an opening for the following:

  • If you factor Carlos Correa up to 153 games from his 109 games played he would have had 115 runs, 34 HRs, and 117 RBIs while still batting well over .300.
  • If you factor George Springer up to 153 games from his 140 played he would have had 122 runs, 37 HRs and 93 RBIs.
  • If you factor Marwin Gonzalez up to 153 games from his 134 played he would have had 77 runs, 26 HRs, and 103 RBIs.
  • If Alex Bregman had performed the whole season as he did in the 71 games after the All Star break, he would have put up 105 runs, 24 HRs, and 96 RBIs.

The best guess here is that Carlos Correa puts a whole season together and takes over the crown of Astro MVP. But there should be a lot of guys grabbing for that crown.

Who will be the biggest addition to the Astros?

  • Will it be Gerrit Cole, who could be anywhere from the 2nd best to 5th best starter?
  • Will it be Joe Smith, who brings his side arm slinging to the bullpen?
  • Will it be Hector Rondon, who has closed for the Cubs previously?
  • Will it be a full season of DH at bats by Evan Gattis?
  • Will it be a full season from a Derek Fisher?
  • Will it be someone not yet signed to help out at DH or LF?

Lots of questions above – what do you think?


57 comments on “Astros’ 2018: Chew on these questions

  1. Astros Ace? Like Andy Petitte, the big game pitchers on our team are Justin Verlander & Dallas Keuchel. I’m hoping that what JV said during exit interviews about pitching through the uncertainty of being traded in DET, he will counsel DK. And that their conversations don’t end with, “well, you do what you have to do.”

    [Keuchel is a bit of an enigma to me. At the beginning of frustration, I wonder if he’s going to show out like the hot-tempered LMJ, or like Morton and absorb it. His confrontational style with umpires got a *little better last season, but what do you expect when the umps are horrid?! Even so, DK has to realize he’s setting the tone if he wants this to be “his team.” Guys like Martes and Whitley could use a great role model. If he could get some endorsements instead of push it with salary demands, then maybe we could retain him. But it seems an impossible situation, unless he pitches lights out, or gets significant injury that other teams won’t pay him. Given all that, I can’t call him our Ace.]

    The thing that makes our rotation special is that any one of the names listed is all that much more ready to be The Guy. You could make an argument on peripherals, on confidence the team has in each one, on experience, or talent.


    • I’m hoping this offseason is the best thing that could happen for the DK negotiations next fall. Arrieta and Darvish not signing ridiculous contracts will hopefully be a sign that DK will also not get one at his age. I apologize to him for writing this, but every player getting an astronomical sum hurts the fans. The owners will balance their budgets to make money or only lose an acceptable amount. They’ll then keep passing the costs onto the average family of four who instead of attending 5 games a year can now only manage to fit one into their own budget.


      • Ace: We have at least two half aces.
        MVP: Altuve until he is unseated.
        Addition: I hope Rondon-Smith.
        And at 5’7” bald, old, and 250 pounds – just can’t get my brain to see ME in Jennifer Lopez clothes. I may have nightmares.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My comment to anyone on our pitching staff who wants to take the designation of our team’s ‘ace’ away from Justin Verlander is: Come and Take it!

    JV ‘came and took it’ away from DK last September and October. That’s the way it works in baseball. What have you done for this team LATELY! So, if someone else besides Kate Upton’s boo wants to be our ‘ace’ in 2018, it will not be because of what they did for us, or any stats they racked up or awards they won in any previous year. It will be what they do in the 162 + games that start March 2, 2018, in Arlington, TX.

    Let the games begin. Let’s just hope we wind up having four aces up our sleeve.


      • Just trying to help you keep the interest of the readership, Dan! But please note that there is no BS anywhere near that ‘Boo’. The kind of ‘Boo’ I am talking about cannot be measured in Tocks – and, of course, it is not a brand of Tea.


  3. I think that Verlander is the Ace of the staff. I also believe there are five guys there in your list that have the stuff to pitch like an Ace. I have never seen an Astros pitching staff this good.
    I am encouraged by the fact that all of our pitchers will get to be with Verlander during spring training. What with Harvey, and then the storm in PR and then the Playoffs and then the parade and The Wedding, there was not a whole lot of time to get to know him. I think going through ST together there will be a lot of observing going on.
    I will add that the World Series success might just be what the doctor ordered for Morton, Peacock and LMJ. Their confidence should be sky high going into this season. I’m really jazzed about our pitching staff.
    I don’t think JV can maintain the pace he set last year. Can any pitcher do that? I think he will pitch like an ace.
    I think Keuchel is due to pitch a whole season.
    I think that at age 24 LMJ is starting to learn how to be a pitcher.
    I believe that Morton and Peacock add incredible depth to the staff and I would keep McHugh and not trade him this offseason.
    I believe Gerritt Cole will find himself this year and pitch like a champ.


      • OP1, I think the World Championship Trophy, and the stacked roster that we still possess, justifies a little ‘Glass Full Guy’ optimism. But ‘wedding planner’? I just can’t see either you, me, ac45, Chip, or Dan doing justice to Jennifer Lopez’ wardrobe!


      • I’m sure that between Mrs. Verlander, Mrs. Springer and and Carlos Correa’s finacee we can find someone to fit J-Lo’s outfit.


  4. MVP? The word is found in the dictionary under Altuve, Jose.

    While I agree that, based upon all baseball rhyme and reason, Carlos Correa – and maybe even Alex Bregman – should be better than Jose Altuve, I do not want to be the one that tries to break that news to Jose. The dude is so driven, and so professional, and so METHODICAL, and so GOOD at what he does, that when the smoke clears even an amazing talent like Carlos Correa and a gritty competitor like Alex Bregman wind up paling in comparison to the wonder that is Josito Nuestos.


    • And he’s not short on humility either. ‘Tuve says the reason he’s so good is on accounta Correa. Not to mention he literally loves Justin Verlander.


  5. Based on experience, how can anyone project a full healthy season for DK or LMJ? He’s still young, so I bet on Cole emerging as the ace. CC for MVP. I look for big breakthrough seasons for Fisher and Bregman, but regressions from Reddick and Marwin. Gattis as DH? Can’t say I’m really sold on that yet.


    • Based on experience, how could anyone have projected what Morton did? Or him being so healthy last season?
      My theory is that after two seasons in a row of physical problems, DK and LMJ are due for a healthy season.
      As for Gattis, his chances of getting hit in the head by a bat and having his season ruined because of it are a lot lower as the DH. I also believe that AJ Hinch is a perfect manager for Evan Gattis and that Gattis is going to surprise a lot of people.


    • Seems like last Spring, we all hoped LMJ would pitch more innings in 2017, but by giving him sufficient rest, it allowed him to throw 24 straight curves to polish off NY, and be effective in the WS.

      This season with no apparent room for Martes Paulino and McHugh, I don’t see the M.O. changing – guys will be encouraged to report lat strains, tendinitis and all manner of the 2017 variety.


  6. Biggest Addition?

    I am going to start in ‘wish’ and ‘hope’ land here. I ‘wish’ and ‘hope’ that the biggest/best addition for 2018 will be a full year of a healthy Collin McHugh, doing long-relief magic for us like Chris Devenski did for us early in 2017 and Brad Peacock did for us in the WS. We did not really have Collin last year – hopefully, we will see him at his best this year.

    Now, beyond ‘wishing and hoping’, and looking at the more realistic possibilities, I say the biggest addition for 2018 should be a full year of a more mature and confident Derek Fisher. LF was our weakest position last year – especially after Nori Aoki tanked. And while I am all for letting Margo try to extend his magic trick from 2017 into 2018, I fully expect us to need a guy like Fisher to be our regular LF, and to need Margo to be the supersub he is so good at being.


    • Another good post, Mr. Bill. I think those are two players who could make the difference for us. McHugh has shown the ability to rise to the occasion. I just hope he does not get relegated to obscurity. I also believe Marwin becomes exposed a bit when he plays everyday. If Fisher can improve on last year’s performance it will give Hinch flexibility to let Marwin be Marwin and provide rest to the other regulars.


  7. I’m going to say the biggest acquisition so far is Joe Smith. His FIP and WHIP from last season are better than even Giles, and in small sample Smith seemed to only improve with a better team behind him (going from TOR to CLE).

    I hope to have some questions answered about Cole, and Rondon after ST.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As far as biggest addition to the Astros is concerned, I’m going to go with Hector Rondon. I believe Strom will help him figure out what happened to his slider and get it back.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lots of good cud to chew on, dan!

    Considering that in the beginning of Game 7 of the WS the announcers posed the question for the series, they still had some Dodgers on the table to consider. It’s such a crapshoot to call this now.

    I agree that Altuve is the MVP of our team; as a self-starter, elite batting talent and speed, and leading by example.

    On sheer athleticism, I’d go with Correa and Springer neck and neck. Correa probably has the best chance, but a healthy Trout and Judge are going to be hard to match. All things equal, Ohtani is intriguing.

    Sadly, currently, we only have one Triple Crown winner: Verlander. Imagining him with 22 wins, a CY and MVP isn’t far-fetched, pitching behind the reigning World Champs.


  10. Ace: Verlander until proven otherwise.
    MVP: Remember last March when people were talking about trading Springer? He showed me in 2015 that even with one arm he could find ways to impact the game and help will the team to victories. If he hadn’t been hurt we may have held onto the division lead and changed the course of that postseason instead of going through the WC and losing to KC. The WS MVP puts the entire world on notice as to his talent and impact.
    Addition: I’m lukewarm on all of them right now. If Boshers is a great LOOGY then he might get the nod. For the 162 game season I’m not optimistic Cole is better than McHugh…who gets pushed to the bullpen if LMJ is healthy enough. to pitch.


  11. When we look at the starting pitching depth – remember that year to year you need quite a few pitchers to make it thru.
    2015 – Had Six pitchers with 11 or more starts / Nine with 7 or more starts
    2016 – Had Six with 10 or more starts / Nine with 5 or more starts
    2017 – Had Seven with 12 or more starts / Nine with 5 or more starts


    • I think this comes down to the catcher position. If Luhnow intends the club to carry McCann, a backup catcher, and Gattis as the DH and emergency guy, it leaves the roster like this:
      13 pitchers
      Backup C
      …which leaves two spots for:

      The first three games are @TEX and then the Orioles come to Houston for a series. The five game Gurriel suspension may give them an extra window to evaluate and decide between Fisher or White. I’m assuming Jake and his salary are on the team.


      • I guess it’s time to think about who takes Gurriel’s place at 1st for the first five games of the season.

        Most likely choice – Margo at 1st [Fisher in LF vs. a RHP, Marsnick vs. a LHP;
        T.Kemp is on the bench for 5 games in case we need a pinch runner];

        A Possibility – T. White at 1st – knowing he’s going back to Fresno on day 6;

        Highly unlikely – A.J. Reed has an ST to die for, and gets the 5-day shot instead of Dave’s nephew.

        Any other possibilities anyone foresees?


      • Mr. Bill – To me it makes the most sense to put White at 1B – that way if someone gets hurt you can put MarGo in their place with no problem. In other words if someone gets hurt or thrown out of the game at SS or 3B, how do you fill that spot if Marwin is at first. Kemp could cover at 2B but I doubt he could cover at 1b, SS or 3B. If Marwin is playing LF and someone needs replacing he just moves over and Kemp or Marisnick go out to LF.


      • I tell you what – these salaries are silly money – beyond real comprehension by us mortals. You know – $65,000 per game for 162 games or $17,500 per at bat for 600 at bats, etc. But if anybody deserves to get paid big bucks it is George Springer, who gives back everything God has given him in effort every game, who is the battery that starts this offensive engine, who seems to have the perfect attitude to merge with the other 24 human beings on this team.


      • The fact the Astros went to arbitration rather than giving Springer exactly what he asked for bothers me. He’s from Connecticut. He played college ball and was forced to stay in AAA longer than necessary so we could save money and delay his Super 2 status. He seems like one of the best team players in the history of the franchise. And finally…he just got married. Luhnow should be delivering his paychecks with a bouquet of roses and box of chocolates every other week…not low balling him in arbitration.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. I think if the seasons starts tomorrow, meaning no more trades, Fisher is the starter in left. Stassi is second catcher. It’s done. The five games at first is for my nephew or the winner of the great spring training sweepstakes.
    I’m still not convinced Luhnow won’t do something significant soon though.

    And will a Luhnow move make the 13 man pitching staff a bit more clear? I think so.1

    Liked by 2 people

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