Questions to chew on with the first place Astros

There is a lot less than usual to complain about with the Astros right now, so here are just some random questions to chew on and/or ponder.

1) Did Justin Verlander have a shot at a 25 win season except for his team’s non-support?

Growing up, the Great White Whale for pitcher’s wins in a season was 30 wins, which Denny McLain caught with his 31 win season in 1968 for the Tigers. These days with 5 man rotations and pitchers maxing out at 35 starts in a season, 25 wins seems to be a very difficult goal and 30 wins as archaic as ball parks without lights. There has not been a pitcher with 25 or more wins since Bob Welch reeled in 27 wins for the A’s back in 1990. And I thought he was too busy cranking out pop hits after leaving Fleetwood Mac. Before that it was Steve Stone (yes that Steve Stone WGN fans) with 25 wins in 1980. Since 1990, the most wins in a season has been 24 by John Smoltz (1996), Randy Johnson (2002) and….. Justin Verlander (2011).

JV has 9 wins with one more start left in the first half of the season, but it is not difficult to squint at the 2 losses and the 5 no decisions he has suffered and see a few more wins with just a little support. His 2 losses were both 6 innings with one earned run allowed. His no decisions include an eight inning – no runs allowed start, eight innings – one run allowed, 6.2 innings – one run allowed, and 6 innings – 2 runs allowed. And before you start talking about how his offense saved his bad pitching bacon in some of his wins, his “worst” start in a win was 6 innings – 3 runs.

It is not far fetched to say he could easily be 12-0 or 13-0 at this point in the season. Of course, all of this points to how pointless it is to value wins in looking at pitchers. How many wins do you think JV will finish with this season? Did his teammates cost him a huge win total in 2018?

2) Would you give up Kyle Tucker to bring in J.T. Realmuto?

In a recent mlbtraderumors live Q&A – one of the posters asked the host if he would deal Tucker for Realmuto (the Marlins fine catcher) straight up. The host liked the trade. How about you?

Realmuto is a 27-year-old catcher who is just entering his prime and is one of the best out there. He is throwing out 42% of runners and currently is hitting .297/. 355/.879 with 9 HRs and 27 RBIs. He would cost about $2 million for the rest of this season, but would only have two arbitration years to go, which would undoubtedly be tied to fairly large raises and free agency heading into 2021.

Tucker is a 21 y.o. who is tearing up AAA (.303/.375/.881 with 10 HR and 56 RBIs with 12 SBs) and is considered a top 10 prospect in all of baseball. He obviously plays at an easier position in the OF vs. a catcher. Depending on when he gets called up – Tucker would be under team control including arbitration for between 6 or 7 years.

While Realmuto is at the more “skilled” position, the years of control have to weigh heavily in Tucker’s favor especially with Max Stassi‘s solid season. Any chance you would go for this? Or any chance the team would?

3) If the Astros do not hit the 3 million mark in attendance is that a disappointment?

Coming off their first World Series win in history, the idea of an immediate jump to the 3 million mark was considered a reasonable goal – something the team last reached in 2006 and 2007 after their previous WS appearance in 2005.

But note the following:

  • The Astros were already at 2.8 million attendance when they increased 9% to 3 million back in ’06.
  • The Astros drew 2.4 million last season and are on a pace for a little under 2.9 million currently. That is a 20% increase in attendance.
  • They are swimming upstream – baseball attendance on a whole has been on a decline and is down approximately 6% this season
  • They are currently 3rd in AL attendance after finishing 6th in 2017. The Astros are drawing about 35,600 per game as opposed to the Angels (36,900 per game) and the Yankees (42,150).
  • Note that the Astros are drawing to approx. 86% of stadium capacity, while the Angels are at 82% and the Yanks at 77%.

It would be nice if the Astros bumped that attendance up over the course of a contending summer, but they might not quite get to 3 million this season. Is that a disappointment?

4) Who has meant more to the recent Astros surge: Tony Kemp or Evan Gattis?

One of the keys to the Astros huge offense in 2017 was the ability to flip the lineup. With a tail end of the lineup manned by Jake Marisnick and Derek Fisher in early 2018, the only thing that was flipped was a wall that flipped up and put an end to all rallies.

Since Kemp came up on May 15th and added his .313 BA / .383 OBP / .805 OPS to the back end of the lineup the Astros offense has gone from 4.9 runs per game to 5.59 runs per game. But much more importantly they have done a much better job of consistently scoring. Before Tony came up in the first 44 games of the season, the Astros were shut out 4 times and were held to one run a shocking 9 times! In the 32 games since his call-up, they have not been shut out and have been held to one run only two times. The Astros are 21-8 in games Kemp plays in and 21-6 in games he starts.

Since around the same time that Kemp came up, Gattis has been on fire. In the 29 games, he has played in since May 15th he has 11 HRs and 35 RBIs. In that time, the Astros are 12-2 in games Gattis plays in and has an RBI and 8-7 in games he plays in and has no RBI. Gattis’ RBIs have been critical in those 12 wins – often the difference in the game or the RBIs that kick-started the offense.

The Astros were really struggling in the first month and a half with only the catcher spot hitting towards the end of the lineup. Gattis and Kemp have really solidified the back end and with Marwin Gonzalez getting hot in June, the team looks a lot more like 2017 lately.

Who has been more important to the Astros resurgence the last 5 weeks…Gattis or Kemp?

Are there any questions you want to add to the pool here today?


111 comments on “Questions to chew on with the first place Astros

  1. The attendance is terrific and it will probably come in just short of 3 mil, but it won’t matter. If they win the division they will be fine financially.
    I can’t choose between Kemp and Gattis. In their own ways they have lifted up the Astros equally this month.
    I don’t want Hamels. I want another dominating reliever or two and I don’t care where we get them from. I have mentioned Ferrell from our own system and I am still high on him. I have a different stat on Ferrell than I gave you previously. In his first eight 2018 appearances Ferrell walked 16 batters. In his last 13 appearances he has walked 2. His control has always held him back. What has happened to change him? He has always been a closer. Now he is dominating as a closer in CC. I’m happy about it and I don’t have a clue as to why it has happened. The Astros have to be ecstatic because they do know what is responsible for the change.


  2. Kemp has been a spark plug for us, a real shot in the arm.

    I’d trade DK but we may need him for insurance in case of an injury

    I’d start looking to see what we can get for our AAAA guys like Reed too.


  3. With the terrific attendance I hope the team starts to sense the need to perform at home. Ticket prices are up and availability is down and folks shouldn’t be subjected to performances like Friday night. My wife and I decided to indulge ourselves and went to today’s game as well. Took the bad taste of Friday out of my mouth.

    It’s great to have a 4.5 game lead over the M’s and to be tied with the Red Sox for second best record in the AL. I really expect us to have home field advantage as the Yankees and Sox will be beating each other up and Toronto and Tampa Bay are competent. We should dominate the West. Before the season started I expected the Indians would come in with the best record just because the Central stinks but looks like they’re headed to playing the Yankees or Red Sox. Of course we could and probably will face whichever one of them gets the wild card unless the M’s take them down in the wild card game.

    I know this is a praying group so I would covet your prayers in the next few days. I’m having a hip replacement tomorrow. I had my first ten years ago and it was a veritable breeze but I’m now ten years older so this one may be tougher despite advanced surgical techniques. I hope my stint on the DL will be short. I’m discovering first hand that it’s a lot more fun being the doctor than the patient!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. -In the very first inning Cole walks two and they both steal a base on consecutive pitches, Then Dozier hits a bad slider right on the screws, and right at Alex Bregman.
    -Almonte triples and then tries to score on a ball hit ten feet down the 3B line. That play reminded me so much of Astros baserunning.
    -Then the catcher’s interference just seems to blow up Hammels and the next thing you know he gives up 8 runs.
    – Bregman obviously gets hit on the hand but he won’t admit it and ends up not getting the call. Then, after he costs the team the replay he shows Perez where he got hit and then flies out and gets mad and goes and shaves off his ‘stache. Weird.
    -While Bregman is shaving, the Astros are scoring as the result of some strange fielding by the Royals.
    -In the seventh Bregman throws out a runner who is out but isn’t out. When the call is rightly overturned, Bregman gets an error, his 11th.
    -The biggest guy on the team pinch hits for the 5’6″ MVP and homers. Of course he did!
    -The last pitch of the game is called strike 3 on Gordon and it should have been ball 4, but the umpire doesn’t care and Gordon doesn’t care either. The Royals are ready to get out of town.
    This was a very interesting and entertaining 3-game series. And George Springer pretty much forgot to show up for it.


      • Maybe if they would stop trying to hit it up on the train tracks every time and do what Correa did (finally) in the walk off of Saturday’s game the stroke might come back. Good thing we’ve got others to pick up the team.
        Agree on some of these 4A prospects. Time to unload them for an additional piece or more prospects to strengthen the pool. Blummer and TK both commented that Bregman expects to get a hit every time he comes to the plate. He has the best plate discipline of anybody on the team. Yes, he got PO’d but he’s mature enough to be in control of it. I’ve noticed a few of our guys getting upset when they miss a pitch that’s ripe for the picking. Aside from the Saturday stinker I’m OK with the home stand thus far. Also we definitely need to get some of these MILB types up for a look see prior to the trade deadlines to see what they can do for us.


      • Zanuda, so who do you bring up and who do you send down? Don’t say Jake, because I don’t think that’s even a consideration at this point.

        As far as the “AAAA” guys are concerned, everyone has essentially the same scouting information. You’d think a team like KC would be clamoring for an 18 homer guy like Reed right now, seeing as they really don’t even have a first baseman at the ML level. But maybe nobody really wants him bad enough to offer anything of real value.

        We’ve got Yuli, Marwin and White on the first base depth chart with the Astros. Then Davis. So do we need Reed, an eventual DH at best, around for more depth? But we’ve also got a guy in CC that looks ready to play first now in Fresno. It’s a conundrum. Where do those 4 A guys go?


  5. Two years before the Astros won the World Series, the Royals won. So in 2 and 1/2 years they now are in last place in AL Central. (23-54). Gone from that team are Hosmer, Infante, Cain, Rios, Morales, Zobrist, Dyson, Volquez, Ventura, the entire effective bullpen, etc. Now is when Luhnow earns every penny of his money and Crane has to keep spending. Else, we will suffer the same fate. Houston is a much better market, better and more fans, etc. But we just saw a “defeated” team play this weekend.


  6. -Forrest Whitley got lit up like a community Christmas tree Sunday, in the last game before the Texas League All-Star break. He gave up 7 runs on 5 hits, 3 walks and a hit batsman. He left with the bases loaded and all three of those runners scored. Whitley will have this to chew on during the break.
    I almost am glad to see this happen, because it’s better to experience the downs as well as the ups. He will have to learn all about pitching and losing is part of it. If pitching were easy, baseball would certainly be boring.
    – OK, I am a soccer ignoramus. But I started to watch the Poland- Columbia match yesterday and from the very beginning I saw that one team, Poland, loved to fall back on virtually every pass and their favorite play was kicking the ball back to their own goalie. The other team’s mission was to push the ball down the field relentlessly and pressure the other team’s goal every chance they could. The outcome was never in doubt and I turned the game off as soon as the Astros came on. Looked up the score this morning and Columbia had won, 3-0.
    -Saw where Bubba Watson won the PGA event yesterday. Glad he is back.
    -I know that the Astros have their own ideas about their needs for this season as well as next. But, I wonder if the Astros would consider strengthening their bullpen by trading for a starter for next year. For example, the Astros would have to give up a lot to get Chris Archer, but they could get him and rest him up and use him however they see fit in the postseason. He gives the Astros the option to move LMJ to the bullpen in the playoffs, where he excelled last year, and then they both return as a top of the line starters for the next three years, as the Astros lose pitchers to free agency. It’s just a thought as an alternative to giving up players for a rental reliever or giving up top prospects for an expensive reliever.
    This type of move solves this year’s reliever dilemma and next year’s starter dilemma, with Morton and Keuchel possibly leaving through free agency.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally agree that Sunday’s game was the perfect medicine for Forrest. We have seen what success does for him; now we will see how he handles adversity – and rebounds from games in which nothing goes right for him and his pitches suddenly stink to high heaven. If he’s going to be an ace for us one day, he needs to be a tough-as-nails, stay on track and in your face Joe Frazier bulldog as well as a rope-a-doping super talented Mohammed Ali doberman.


    • I still think Luhnow will do something(s) that we did not necessarily see coming. OP, Lance obviously has a playoff pen resume. I think our pen will look quite a bit different than it does now.


  7. I really like George Springer. His talent – and his contagious joy- are a tremendous asset for this team. But lately . . . . Well, forgive me if I hope out loud that the next time he surfs the net he stumbles across hours of videos of Randy Cesar actually taking a hitter’s approach, and smacking the ball around for a ton of base hits, extra base hits, and home runs consistently for 41 straight games.


    • Bill, George did all that in AAA ball, maybe not for 41 games, but I don’t think he’s going to learn anything from Randy Cesar. But, the home/road thing must be a combination of things. And our parks attractive left field dimensions are probably a legitimate factor, most especially with George. Carlos too. Those two guys, when really tuned in, are really beautiful to watch hit. I think we’ll see it from both guys in the second half.


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