Just some thoughts as the Astros head off to their favorite haven – the road – after a 12-1 victory in the last game of a 1-5 homestand.
Who are those guys?
Back on June 24, the Oakland A’s were 40-38 and 11.5 games behind the 52-27 Astros. Since that day, the A’s have been a torrid 32-11 with really only a 3 game sweep by Colorado showing up on the negative side of the ledger. After Wednesday night’s games they were only 2 game behind the 74-47 Astros and on a real roll.
Their offense is 6th in the AL in runs scored and they already have 8 players with double digit HRs. Khris Davis (34 HR and 93 RBIs) and Jed Lowrie (19 HR and 76 RBIs) are the two big producers for an offense that has been a bit better than they were in 2017 when they were 9th in runs scored.
The pitching is where they have made great strides this season. They were 12th in 2017 with a 4.67 ERA, but they have risen to a fine 6th overall with a 3.83 ERA in 2018. The starting rotation has seen solid numbers from Edwin Jackson, Sean Manaea and Trevor Cahill, while closer Blake Treinen has been outstanding for a much improved bullpen.
This team has less injury problems than the Seattle Mariners and look to be in it for the whole of the season.
The Astros were 1-5 on the recent homestand, however they scored 26 runs, just the same as their opponents in those six games. Of course that result was skewed by the 12-1 win in the finale. This is the Astros’ season in a microcosm. They win big and lose close. They are a robust 28-6 in games decided by five runs or more. They are a 98 pound weakling in one run games at 16-21. This is why they have such an excellent 82-39 Pythagorean record (what their run differential should have produced), while reality is a good 74-47 record.
All teams face injuries, but the Astros have been particularly hard hit since the end of June:
- Carlos Correa out June 25 to August 10
- Brian McCann out June 30 to ????
- Jose Altuve out July 25 to ???
- Chris Devenski out July 27 to ???
- Lance McCullers out Aug 4 to ???
- George Springer out Aug 5 to Aug 17 (reportedly)
- Jake Marisnick out Aug 10 to ???
Here is a look at the Astros record and lead at various times during this period
- June 25th 52-28 – 65% win pace 3.5 games up in the division
- July 25th 67-37 – 64% win pace 5 games up
- Aug 4th 71-41 – 63% win pace 5 games up
- Aug 10th 73-44 – 62% win pace 4.5 games up
- Aug 16th 74-47 – 61% win pace 2 games up
Basically the Astros have held up fairly well overall, but the slippage has really occurred in the last couple weeks as the number of bodies on the DL has mounted. These guys were critical parts to this team. Despite bad performance early in the season at the time of Marisnick’s injury he was a critical part because he was playing so well and the fact that Springer was already out.
As the folks come back and get acclimated, the team should improve as they return to their normal spots in the field, lineup, bench and minors.
The injury situation has given Tyler White a lot more consistent ABs at both DH and 1B. If the front office does not continue to give him ABs as the injured return….well like Lucy Ricardo there will be a lot of “Splaining” to do. He is posting a .286 BA / .389 OBP / 1.012 OPS with 7 HRs and 15 RBIs in only 77 ABs. That is the equivalent of 45 HRs and 97 RBIs in 500 ABs. The man needs to lose weight, get in shape, be a better fielder, etc. But the man can hit and this lineup needs that component.
The 5th Spot
McCullers has been out almost 2 weeks, but next Tuesday will be the first day that the Astros play five days in a row. So, Tuesday will be the day they have to make a decision on the 5th spot in the rotation. Do they pick one of the two bullpen guys who started games in 2017, Collin McHugh or Brad Peacock, but probably would top out at 4 innings in a start? This could be paired with the activation of Devenski from the DL. Do they dip into the minors and bring up somebody who might get bombed in the first couple innings? Do they trade a bauble or two for another starter as filler?
One Option that is not an Option
Last season, a top choice to fill that 5th spot in the rotation would have been top prospect Francis Martes, who did do some spot starts for the team last season. However, unfortunately he is headed to Tommy John surgery after an injury plagued 2018. This is bad news this late in the season, because it could basically wipe out most or all of 2019 for the young man.
Your thoughts on these thoughts?