YIE (Yes It’s Early) but the Astros reaction to the 2017 World Series championship is about as far from a hangover as possible. A solid 6-1 record has been achieved with top of the heap offense and starting pitching. Not all of the Astros are hitting or pitching at the top but there are so many weapons within A.J. Hinch’s reach that the Astros have been winning as though there has been no off-season.
Today, will be random questions day, because it would be silly to write too positively or negatively after such a small sample.
Random Question #1. Are the Astros reshaping the idea of a closer?
The Astros have won six of their seven games this season. They have zero saves. Ken Giles, who is the designated closer has not had an opportunity to save a game, because he has been used in a couple of games where no save was possible. The one potential save situation, the series finale 3-2 win over the Orioles went away as Hinch kept Brad Peacock in the game for a third shutout inning rather than doing the knee jerk move of bringing in Giles for the ninth. The Astros applied this multi-inning use of bullpen assets to end games in both their ALCS win over the Yankees and the WS win over the Dodgers. Are they going to take this idea to an extreme as they can get multi-innings out of Peacock, Chris Devenski and Collin McHugh from this season’s bullpen?
Random Question #2. Can Dallas Keuchel rebound from this horrendous start?
This is a bit tongue in cheek. Keuchel has given up too many hits and too many walks, but has done a decent job as far as runs go. He has given up 4 ER and 1 HR in 11.0 IP, while St. Justin Verlander has given up 3 ER and 2 HR in 11.2 IP. I don’t think our perception of the situation, especially early, matches the reality of the situation. If the Astros end the season with their “worst” starting pitcher sporting a 3.21 ERA it will be a pretty terrific season.
The thought here is that if Correa wants to take over the mantle of best Astro he will have to “come and get it” as Altuve does not appear to be ready to go quietly into that good night. As good friend of the blog, old pro, pointed out yesterday Correa is off to a great start .474 BA/.522 OBP/1.469 OPS with 2 HR and 8 RBIs in only 19 ABs. Mr. Altuve has had a strong start with .414 BA/.419 OBP /.902 OPS, but with only 3 RBIs. There is no doubt that a healthy Carlos Correa hitting his prime at only 23 could have a transcendent season, if he can stay healthy. This will be a fun competition to follow in 2018.
Random Question #4. Will anyone make the Astros an offer they can’t refuse for Collin McHugh?
It is doubtful that the Astros will do anything with Mr. McHugh until around the trade deadline as they find out how the pitching staff’s health holds. But if McHugh never finds a comfort zone in the bullpen and the starters stay healthy, could the front office resist a solid offer of prospects for this $5 million insurance policy?
Random Question #5. Is Max Stassi angling to be the starting catcher for 2019?
The team has an option to bring Brian McCann (who will be 35 years old) back at $15 million for one year. If McCann is solid and Stassi is solid this season what do they do in 2018? Would they forego the option but try to sign McCann for a couple of seasons as a backup for less?
Random Question #6. Which minor leaguer(s), if any, will come up and help the team in 2018?
To varying degrees the Astros received some positive boosts from Derek Fisher, Tyler White and Francis Martes in 2017. Fisher, of course, scored the winning run of game 5 of the World series, White put up a .279 BA/.328 OBP/.853 OPS slash in 22 games and Martes though struggling out of the bullpen was solid in 4 starts when the Astros rotation was in shambles (2-0, 4.08 ERA). Do White and Martes return for encores? Rogelio Armenteros? David Paulino? Kyle Tucker? Or someone else who assists out of necessity?
Random Question #7. Has A.J. Hinch missed his window for being Manager of the Year?
Manager of the year winners are normally managers who win more games than expected from perceived inferior talent or who lead a team to great improvement over the previous season. Everybody knows the Astros are loaded. Everybody knows the Astros have returned last year’s WS champs with improvements. It is just not likely that they will award an excellent year with this type of talent staring them in the face. It is not fair, but if you ask Hinch he won’t give a flip if he is riding in another parade at the end of the 2018 season.
Where do you land on these questions of not too great import? Do you have random questions of your own?