The next five weeks: True test for the Astros


The Astros have played very good ball up to now in the 2018 season. There have been some ups and downs, bumps here and there, some injuries (Carlos Correa and Brian McCann)  and even a few personnel “situations” (Ken Giles).  But the Astros are still on pace to win more games than they have ever won in any regular season. However, the next five weeks look especially tough and should give the Astros a true test of where they may be headed this season.

Since June 7 the Astros have been fed a steady diet of mostly teams they were expected to handle. They put up a strong 28-11 record in that time at the expense of teams like the Royals, Tigers, Rangers, Blue Jays and White Sox. But the next five weeks will be a tougher test for the team. Last season, the Astros swooned a bit during the month of August, but they had such a huge lead in the division it did not matter. This season a similar swoon could easily threaten their current five-game lead in the AL West.

The Astros will play 33 games (19 road and 14 home) between now and August 31. The opponents will be:

  • Rockies (53-46) – 2 Road + 2 Home
  • Rangers (42-59) – 3 Home
  • Mariners (60-40) – 6 Road + 4 Home
  • Dodgers (56-44) – 3 Road
  • Giants (51-50) – 2 Road
  • A’s (58-43) – 3 Road + 3 Home
  • Angels (50-51) – 3 Road + 2 Home

The only bad team in the bunch is the Rangers, who sometimes ignore the fact they are bad when playing the Astros. The 10 games against the Mariner and the 6 games against the A’s (about 1/2 of the total 33 games in this time period) may have the greatest influence on whether the Astros moonwalk to the AL West title or are in a death match to the end of the season. The M’s are the best team the Astros will play, while the A’s are one of the hottest and the Dodgers have been on a steady rise since a slow start to the season.

Playing more games on the road than at home would be a challenge to most teams, but just like in 2017, the 2018 Astros are huge Road Warriors. Their home record of 32-21 is very good and on a pace for the equivalent of 98 wins. Their road record is a phenomenal 34-15 which is on a pace for 112 wins.

So…. here are your questions for today:

  • What will the Astros record be during these 33 games?
  • How many of the 10 games will they win against the M’s? How many of the 6 games will they win against the A’s?
  • How far ahead will they be in their division on August 31 (if any)?
  • How big a lead do they need at the end of August to coast to the end of the season?
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85 comments on “The next five weeks: True test for the Astros

  1. And I need to point out that this was obviously written before last night’s 10 inning win over the Rockies. So – already 1-0 on this critical 33 game sector of the season.

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  2. Last night I was too lazy to watch the (real) game on my phone and accepted the Dodgers-Phillies game that was already on TV. I probably would have switched away but the Phillies had a chance to end it in the ninth. Short version – they failed and the game eventually went into the 16th inning where former Astros prospect Kike Hernandez came in to pitch. He didn’t quite have the magic and ended up giving up a game ending home run. What was interesting to me, though, was how over matched the Phillies were in the game, yet they played just as hard and eventually won. I think that’s relevant looking at the list of teams in this 33 game stretch. On paper the only team in the Astros league is the Dodgers, but it’s likely every one of them will scratch and claw for any wins that can get. I still think we’re the best and will predict a record of 19-14 over this tough stretch.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I know it is a cliché and it probably doesn’t promote the purpose of the blog, but the Houston Astros have the best team in all of baseball and if they play up to their potential, there isn’t a team coming up before August 31st that can stay with them.
    That said, my biggest complaint about them all season is that they haven’t yet played up to their potential for a full month. In other words, they are due to go on a run.

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    • old pro
      Back on June 5th the Astros were 37-25 and 2 games back of the M’s. Since then they have been 30-11 (a pace for 118 wins) and are now 6 games up. To me that is a run.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My point is that the Astros got that record playing against bad teams. I don’t consider that a run.
        Oakland made a run. They went on a tear against good and bad teams, including us.
        To me, a run for the Astros is to win 15 out of the next 20 against a variety of pretty good teams and establishing themselves as a team that is ready to take on and beat good teams. The teams that the Astros beat were lousy teams and the Astros won’t see lousy teams in the playoffs.
        During that run, the Tigers whooped our ace in our house and that is crap. That is not making a run. Making a run, when you are supposed to be one of the elite, does not mean letting Oakland come in and beat the heck out of you at home, while the only win you get over them is a gift.
        When you have the best pitching in baseball and, supposedly, one of the best offenses, a run is 10 in a row, included in a 15 out of 20 run against teams that are trying to somehow keep up with you. That’s what these games for the next five weeks are supposed to look like.
        I have read more than one national article in the last week that said if the Astros stop underperforming, look out. I agree with that assessment.

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      • I guess we will agree to disagree because winning more than 70% of your games over a quarter of the schedule including a 12 game winning streak and a 6 game winning streak is good ball. And the other teams get paid to play and even the worst of them (not named the Orioles) are going to win 30-40+% of their games.
        Last season their longest win streak was 11 games against Detroit, Baltimore, Minnesota, Texas, and KC – which was no murderer’s row. I don’t think they need to go on some super roll to prove anything, but I would like them to play solidly through the rest of the season.

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      • Looking at the last month of games there are two series that stand out: losing 3/4 to Tampa and 3/4 to Oakland. It’s likely both of those teams miss the playoffs – especially with Tampa selling, but it’s also possible they both play spoiler. Regardless, the team is going to have tough games for the rest of this month and most of August. Better win now and create a cushion.

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  4. I don’t know how many games they will win against whom between now and the end of August, but I do think they’ll be up by at least 10 games. I don’t know about coasting though. Sure, they’ll want to get guys rested, and the roster will be expanded, but if the Sox finally have a slump, there might be the opportunity for the best record. Home field is not essential with this group, but it is the best way to enter post season play. And it does not hurt revenues either.

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  5. There was a little chatter on the last post, but the Yankees getting Britton is significant and shouldn’t be downplayed. Their bullpen is pretty ridiculous and they have some starting pitchers who have given Houston lots of trouble. I think it shows a difference between Cashman and Luhnow – the Yankees didn’t really need Britton, but getting him serves two purposes. First, it lessons the weakness of their starting rotation depth. Second, it deprives Houston from acquiring him. I don’t want to say that Britton, Hand, Herrera, or Familia was the guy that Houston needed…but this feels eerily similar to 2016 to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What encourages me is that we are 30-14 against the division. I don’t see that trend changing appreciably, especially when we get Correa back. I don’t expect him to be a savior offensively(he was pretty weak when he came off the DL last year) but his defense will make the pitching even better. I don’t see us making an August swoon. I do see the Mariners and Angels fading and the A’s ascending. At this point I expect the A’s to overtake the Mariners and pretty soon. I also think they will be a scary opponent for the Yankees in the wild card game. The way things look now Cleveland is headed our way. I don’t expect us to overtake the Red Sox for best overall record.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Not acquiring an elite bullpen piece may come back to haunt Luhnow.
    How many games has to bullpen handed to our opponents.
    Catching is still a concern as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You can count on the Ms, As, & Angles coming at us with all guns blazing.
      If we get through August with the lead I like our chances.

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  8. 1. To win the World Series, you need one more win than the other guys. So how about 17-16. 2. Tough, so 5-5 and 3-3. 3. At least 4. 4. Please don’t coast. (When September 1 comes around, remember to grade on the curve.)

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  9. Josh Reddick is the only Astro with an official AB against the Rockies pitcher Jon Gray and he is 1 for 7. Looks like Federowicz might have walked against him.
    He’s not having a good season with a 5.44 ERA, but of course we seem to struggle against pitchers we have not seen

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  10. I realize that statistics normally tell us what we want to know. But I don’t see the current Zach Britton being an upgrade on our bullpen. His career WHIP is 1.266. This year is 1.340, and 2017 is 1.527. Not saying he is bad, but I can see why JL would be hesitant to spend very many prospects on him. If he returns to form of 2016, he would be a huge upgrade. But if DK returns to 2015 form, we don’t need a bullpen for his starts (232 innings with WHIP of 1.017)

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  11. I just hope we play between .600 and .650 the rest of the season and we’ll be ok. As far as catcher goes I would think we have a fifty/fifty chance of acquiring one and 85% of doing an off season deal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If we win 6 out of 10 the rest of the way, this club will be underachieving.

      Maybe a bit of a lofty goal, but I’d like to see us catch the Sox, hold off the Yanks and end up with the best record.

      I don’t like the idea of a fully healthy and functioning Britton in the Yankee pen. At first glance, I’d have given the O’s our 9 and 15 guys, but who knows exactly what they wanted from us.

      As I suggested last night, the Yankees may well have made this deal so that we could not.

      Luhnow has almost a week before the deadline. I’ll be surprised if he does not do something and I still think it might be significant.

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      • Point made but that should be good enough to win the division. Do I think we’re capable to play better and do better than this, yes. My comment was more or less the minimum requirement.

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  12. My 2 cents , The bullpen is rated #2 in baseball , every teams BP blows some games, the other teams is getting paid to win also. In the playoffs either DK or LMJ will be in the pen also. My concern is can we upgrade our hitting behind the plate and DH, that would be a huge win, with a rotation of JV, Cole and Salty.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. 18-15 record
    6-4 with m’s, 3-3 with a’s
    6.5 games ahead at 8/31
    i dont think they will get to coast until the last 10 or so games of the season.

    now this is pretty conservative and made with no influence of a trade. if they make a good helping trade, all positive numbers go up somewhat.

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  14. A bloop hit, walk, and bloop hit load the bases for the Rockies – JD Davis makes a great play catching a pop up falling into the dugout but runner on 3 rd scores when he can’t get straight and make a good throw home

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  15. Came in on the game in the 7th inning, looked at the box scores and gagged at all the zeros I saw in the hit column, ugggg

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  16. Seattle won and since the Rangers can’t hold a lead it looks like we’ll drop a game in the standings tonight. After looking at the standings I’ll revised my comment on how we need to play from here on out . 650+ is the minimum as Seattle and Oakland are not going to lie down. Since 6/25 we are 15 – 10 (.600). That probably won’t cut the mustard. Time for a sustained winning streak.

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  17. VERY stage game tonight, and we know how these guys play the day after they are off. BUT….I hAve no idea who teaches baserunning, but this has to STOP😠

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  18. The fan interference was as blatant a violation as you will see. He stuck his glove out over the wall and disrupted the outfielders view and actually touched the ball as it was falling onto the field of play. That is a perfect example of why the rule is there. Bregman’s expletive-laced tirade is the rant of a boy. Don’t blame it on the umpire. Put your anger where it belongs: on the fan who interfered.
    Would getting one hit all night against a starter with a 5.54 ERA and the second worst bullpen in baseball qualify as underperforming?
    I should probably not be allowed to comment after a performance like the one I had to watch last night. I should just settle for a split, like my team does.

    Liked by 1 person

    • – The only part of Bregman’s tirade that I agree with is that it was no sure thing the guy was going to catch the ball. But that made this worse because there is no way you can rule that the fan did not hinder the opportunity to catch it. The rule is really tied to the interference, not the surety of catching the ball. He reached so far over it was blatant as you say and totally avoidable on the fan’s part.
      – I did think Bregman had a legitimate complaint on the check swing that should have been a walk leading off the 9th
      – Really weird that a team that has been so good on the road and so good at hitting and scoring on the road – struggled mightily to score at a place that is easy to score at.
      – Gray had a 5.54 ERA but oddly had pitched very well in his wins including a couple top notch wins against the Cubs and the M’s.
      – I kept thinking that if Altuve had not left the game, that Bregman would have been playing 3rd instead of Davis and Bregman is so much faster that he could have got there stopped and caught it instead of Davis’ head long run and dive into the dugout.
      – The guys come home against the Rangers and hopefully they take advantage of the next 3 games

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      • Calls on checked swings stood out to me all night. I just couldn’t get too mad about the one on Bregman when we benefitted from same several times earlier in the game.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bregman doesn’t show a ton of emotion on the field but I’m giving him a partial pass for last night. He may not have known that the fan blatantly interfered with the catch but he can’t exactly be waiting for the stupid fan after the game and open a can of whoop-ass on him. I suspect that the check swing was just icing on the cake so yes he was frustrated. We’ve seen Springer , Correa, Reddick, Marwin, and Altuve get emotional when they feel wronged. It’s part of life. I doubt any of us are so disciplined that we haven’t “lost their cool” a time or two. Life is like that. I suspect he’ll look at it, analyze it, and move on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I doubt Bregman had seen a replay or watched it a few dozen times like we did in slow motion prior to being interviewed. I agree with oldpro on it though – he needs to show a little more maturity. He’s going to get fined and it will hurt him a bit more since he’s not making seven figures.

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  19. Saw a note in Jayne Hansen’s blog (What the Heck Bobby) where the Astros signed two Brazilians (HP Heitor Tokar and 3B Victor Coutinho, best hitter in ). Brazil must be in its infancy in baseball, because only 5 players have made the majors out of that large country and the first one was Yan Gomes in 2012. The only other name I recognized was OF Paolo Orlando of the Royals.
    I’m betting we will continue to see the Astros looking in new and odd places for talent to get any edge possible.

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  20. Yeah a rental that we might not need …. of course we have so many darned pitchers in the way that are not getting a shot at the majors…

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  21. i think he’ll play immediately, replacing federowicz as mentioned above by zanuda. lets mccann take it cautiously getting back with no setback along the way. (hopefully) and maybe is also an audition for next year when mccann is likely gone.

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  22. I love, love and LOVE the move for Maldanado! The Astros got one of the best defensive catchers in baseball; a gold glove winner with an absolute canon for an arm who is highly regarded for his ability to handle pitchers. He will immediately assume the everyday role and move Stassi back to the backup role. I never thought they could get him for so little of a return.

    I think this move says three things:

    1. The Astros have concerns about McCann’s ability to return to full strength this season.

    2. They saw the same things I did regarding Stassi’s ability to handle the staff. Verlander, Keuchel and Morton (last night) have all had issues with being on the same page as Stassi regarding signs and pitch selection.

    3. Realmuto is either off of the market or the price is way too high.

    Trust me, this move just made the team much better.

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    • I was shocked to discover that he did, in fact, win a gold glove last year. I do love the fact he has thrown out so many runners. I don’t expect that rate to stay as high given Houston’s staff, but it is a huge asset to the team nonetheless.

      How excited are you for the days where Hinch decides to play Maldonado and Marisnick while giving Altuve the day off?!?!

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      • Still excited (well maybe not about having Marisnick in the lineup). He will save more runs than our other options would create. He’ll produce offensively about the same as Stassi, who after a hot start is hitting .186 over past 30 games.

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  23. Yankees get Happ. So now instead of having a #1, a #3, a #5 and two spot starters they have a #1, a #3, a #4, a #5 and a spot starter. Doesn’t really impress me. I would rather have McHugh or Peacock than Happ. Good thing they loaded up their bullpen. They are going to need it.

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  24. Soria to the Brewers takes one more arm off of the market.

    Nationals indicating they will be sellers putting Herrera back in the mix.

    Adam Conley is still with the Marlins and I haven’t seen any rumors about potential trades. He remains the plum of the market. Great numbers and controllable.

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  25. OP….that’s a talented bunch we have!! Now if Luhnow would QUIT trading good pitching prospects, I’d be a happy girl!
    I’ve been going back and forth with a friend of mine about Breman, and if he will get fined and suspended for saying that ugly word. He said he thinks the right approach would fine him $10,000 and suspend him for 5 games.
    My opinion is, fine him…..but suspending him for *5* games is WAAY over the top. I’m sure he’s had an ear full from Hinch AND Luhnow, and if he gets fined so be it, but I’m voting no on any suspension of any games. Just my thoughts.
    If the Nationals ever make up their minds whether or not they are going to stay in the hunt, or throw in the towel we could take a look at their relievers.
    The Cubs are in hot and heavy talks with Hamels, and looks like they are close to a deal. He wanted to go back to the NL, so maybe a change of scenery will do him good, because he looks lost on the mound now.
    I’m going to put an idea out for suggestions: If he would take a lower salary, how would you like to hire Beltre for down the stretch. He’s so respected and a reaL good clubhouse guy, he could be our “Beltran” in the clubhouse.
    Just a thought, he wants to go to a contender and he knows time is not on his side. He wants one of those “rings”!

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  26. The Yankees needed a starter. They got a pretty good one who will likely turn it up a notch. And if Britton is effective, NY has made their team significantly stronger.

    Unless McCann can’t play, Stassi will not be on a post season roster. I’m sure he understands that. It will be interesting to see how he reacts.

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      • Becky, I’m sure his mom is thinking the same thing. Unfortunately, it does not seem that his pitchers like throwing to him. Unless McCann has had a setback, he’s the odd man out.

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      • Dave-

        They liked him earlier in the season. Not sure what changed as before it was just Lance who had an issue

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      • Billy, I’ve seen visual frustration from Verlander, Morton and Keuchel. That’s pretty unusual. And right or wrong, Verlander probably has a say in things.

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      • In response to Billy’s comment, it seems that LMJ has an issue with just about everybody at one time or another. Or maybe I’m wrong.

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  27. Done deal, Hamels to the Cubs. The Pirates in talks with the rangers, about Keona Kela who is at the moment their “closer”.
    The Rays and the arlington little league have traded nearly their entire starting pitching rotation. It’s a bit early to fold up your tent don’t you think??
    I feel sorry for both of these teams…..the rest of the guys on their team are pretty deflated.

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