5 things the 2019 Astros need to do better


The Astros were a very good team in 2018. But there were areas that they excelled in 2017 when they were the team that won the whole enchilada that they need to improve upon heading into 2019.

Runs

They were not bad at scoring in 2018 when they scored 4.92 runs/game, which was good for 5th in the AL and sixth in the majors. But this was a big step down from 2017 when they led all of baseball with 5.53 runs/game. The team that led all of baseball in runs scored in 2018? The Boston Red Sox (5.41 runs/game) who just happened to send the Astros home before the World Series.

Extra Base Hits

The Astros were down in each extra base category in 2018 from 2017 — in doubles (346 down to 278), triples (20 down to 18) and home runs (238 down to 205). They were hitting .63 less XBHs per game and this was a key factor in their offense being down for the season.

Clutch Hitting

In 2017, the Astros hit .282 BA/ .380 OBP/ .871 OPS with runners in scoring position and two outs. This resulted in 290 runs scored, which was tops in the majors.

In 2018, in the same situations the Astros hit .242 BA/ .332 OBP/ .762 OPS. This resulted in 199 runs scored for 18th in the majors.

Another area that handicapped the team’s offense badly.

Saves

Truth in advertising here – your loyal scribe was struggling to find a place requiring improvement for the pitching, which was the strength of the club in 2018. Anyways, the Astros had a save percentage in 2018 that was slightly above that of 2017, but they went from fourth in the majors to 8th in the majors in save percentage. This is an area where improvement ends up directly in more wins.

Positional Improvement

In 2017, the Astros catchers (Mostly Brian McCann and Evan Gattis) were first or second in the majors in runs scored (87), HRs (33) and RBIs (103).  In 2018, the 66 runs 19 HRs and 62 RBIs by mostly Max Stassi, Brian McCann and Martin Maldonado ranked them 8th, 10th and  21st respectively.

In 2017 the Astros SSs (mostly Carlos Correa with some Marwin Gonzalez tossed in there) led the majors with a .314 BA .390 OBP .907 OPS and 112 RBIs and were 2nd with 111 runs and 3rd with 27 HRs. In 2018, with again mostly Carlos Correa and MarGo, the SS spot was much worse: .231 BA (28th),  .316 OBP (17th), .706 OPS (19th), 84 runs (16th), 21 HRs (10th) 87 RBIs (8th).

There are other areas that require improvement, but a shot in the arm at these two spots would be a big lift to the offense.

So… what do you believe requires improvement as the team shifts towards 2019?

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53 comments on “5 things the 2019 Astros need to do better

  1. Five things the 2019 Astros need to do better:
    1. Win at home.
    2. Hit much better at MMP. Their pitching was actually better at home than on the road, as far as ERA was concerned.
    3. Play better after days off.
    4. Stop grounding into double plays. This probably should have been #2.
    5. Do better finishing off series. They seem to let up on teams when they have a series won. I have no stats to back this up. It just seemed to me they didn’t keep their foot on the gas. I might just be still steaming from getting 1-hit by the Orioles on closing day after dominating them in the first three games. Astros hitters just decided not to show up that day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OK – I went and figured it out for you op
      The Astros had 20 chances to sweep a series and were 14-6 in those 20 games (this included some 2 game series and some 4 game series).
      They actually were successful the first 9 times they had this opportunity in 2018 and then went 5-6 in the next 11 tries.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Follow up from last post….
    I was not referring to Zanuda’s comment when I was talking about boring. I’m pretty bored myself waiting for something to happen. This is the toughest time for baseball – post season and award season is over and free agency and trades are very slow rolling. Things should pick up during the winter meetings in Mid-Dec and especially in January and then we just have to stretch out to February and Spring Training.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. All of the things OP mentions would certainly improve the team. Items 1,2,3,and 5 are very much intangible and fall more in the realm of psychology and motivation, so maybe those are management issues? #4 is something within the control of the hitters. I see plate discipline as the biggest issue the players can address, which would address OP’s #4 and all of Dan’s offense-related issues. This is something the Astros were very good at in 2017…and the Red Sox excelled at in 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I thought it was interesting to hear the team talk about how various players who rehabbed in Corpus Christi came back raving about Troy Snitker, the Hooks’ hitting coach. And here he is.
        Again, I wonder about Brian McCann scouting the Astros minor leagues with his rehab assignment.

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      • Well Troy’s brother, Brian, was named NL Manager of the Year – so hopefully they are two peas from the same pod quality-wise…..

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      • Dan, Troy Snitker is Brian’s son, not his brother. He is a young coach, who the Astros hope will be able to do good work with young players.

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  4. The Astros need to move runners better in 2018. The 2018 team got on base at a good rate; not as quite as good as 2017 (OBP down from .346 to .329) but still pretty close to the best in the league. They did a much poorer job of moving runners.

    * Stolen bases were down by 27 (89 to 71). That is huge; 27 fewer total bases just from the drop in SB and a lot more situations where GIDP is a possible outcome.
    * The middle of the order did not produce. When SLG % drops in the middle of the order the bases get clogged up really fast and the rest of the order starts seeing fewer pitched to hit.
    – Altuve OPS .957 to .837 / HR 24 to 13
    – Correa OPS .941 to .728 / HR 24 to 15
    – Reddick OPS .847 to .718 / RBI 82 to 47
    * As 1OP pointed out, the team did not hit at home. The drop in production was largely driven by home/ road splits.

    In 2019 we need: to hit at home, Correa to produce like a #4 hitter, more production from the corner outfield spots, Altuve’s knee to be healthy, George to be George, Alex to repeat what he did in 2018 and at least some contribution from the C position.

    I expect there to be some drop off in SP next year so it’s vital that we find another .5 runs per game to be a contender next year.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. i think one thing that could make a big difference is health. if our ss is healthy all year, i think we’ll see a huge difference in him. how you get them to stay healthy is an awfully good question.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A couple of random thoughts. We won a 103 games. We did most things well. But then we forgot how at the worst possible time.

    I don’t know how we fix the double play issue. Yuli hit into 22 to lead the club. But Altuve led the club in 2017 with 19 and was tied for second with 17 in 2018. Good hitters also hit into double plays. Hitting the ball on the button right at guys must be a factor too. And are the other teams pitching our guys into more ground balls? Maybe they deserve some of the credit. I know that teams are shifting on us more and more.

    We are not a good base stealing team. We were 98 and 42 in 2017, but at 71 and 26 in 2018, we had a better percentage. Neither percentage is acceptable. And if you take away the 32 and 6 from Altuve in 2017, the club was 66 and 36. That’s very bad. If I’m the manager of the Astros, I take away the green light. Some of our guys don’t know when to run, I also think Altuve will be running less going forward.

    I do think we need more hitting in 2019. Chances are the rotation will not be as good. I hope a Goldschmidt or a Realmuto show up for Christmas.

    We had some pretty key injuries, but overall, did we get hit harder with the injury bug than most other clubs?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some DP stats/thoughts…
      – Yuli went from 12 GIDP to 22
      – Correa went from 12 to 17
      – Marwin from 8 to 14
      – Aoki had 11 in 2017 in only 220 ABs – he might have had 30 over a full season
      – It felt like they hit so many DPs directly at the fielders – so they certainly seemed to have a better book on our hitters, but….
      – I also felt like our hitters did a much poorer job of going the other way with pitches in 2018. And when you try to pull outside pitches you roll it over and ground it into the waiting arms of someone.

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  7. Hit the pitches given to us and stop trying to pull the ball. If a team knows you’re a dead pull hitter they’ll play the shift 90% of the time and we’ll hit right into it. If they don’t employ the shift then we can take advantage of the normal holes. Look how many times we saw a shift employed and the whole left side of the infield was open (McCann) or the opposite (Altuve)and our batters continue to try to pull the ball, even on the outer edge of the plate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with that too. Altuve is very good at going the other way, but it seems he took that concept right out of his game. We don’t need him to be a home run hitter. But he’ll get more of those pitches when he goes back to being more selective and going with the pitches given to him.

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  8. I like Josh Donaldson more than I like Sam Donaldson.
    I like Josh Donaldson less than I like Donald’s son. That is Donald Duck’s unnamed son who appeared in 1959.
    That said, $23 million is a lot for one year of any Donald’s son.
    The first chip has fallen.
    Brian McCann is now a Brave for one last year. Huge surprise there.
    Less suitors for JT Realmuto? I think Realmuto is getting a long look from the Dodgers. They have minor league catchers to trade.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. McCann said last year he only wanted to go back to Atlanta to finish his career.
    He said if he was ever voted into the HOF he wanted to go in as a Brave.
    The impact he made on our pitchers was priceless!! They ALL loved him!!
    There’s one guy in the clubhouse who will miss him terribly is Bregman.
    He and McCann were (still are) best friends. I’m so glad he has gone back to where it all started for him. Best of luck Brian, we will miss you! Go Braves❤

    Liked by 2 people

  10. To me, currently there are only 2 things that need to be improved. 1. We need to add a SP that is equal or better than DK. 2. Either Correa comes back better than before, or we fail to make the playoffs. If you give him the 4th spot, he has to produce. And it looks like he gets the 4th spot even when not producing. From what has been reported, Altuve is healed and ready for ST. No reports on Carlos which does not sound good to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even if we get September/October Correa the team should still have the firepower and pitching to make the playoffs. They would have to underachieve at many positions to not win the division again…and I do recall the A’s winning the wild card and being on our heels last year.

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    • I don’t even want to think about it, but our back up shortstop might be an All Star shortstop. And we do have a back up guy for third. And we do have a back up guy for first. We’re certainly not the same team without a healthy Correa, but we’re not dead either.

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  11. A big part of me is hoping Marwin will come back to the Astros…..am I wrong to hope he comes back here? He’s been here so long, I can’t imagine him with another team. Funny……but I don’t feel the same about Keuchel. I’m getting antsy waiting for Luhnow to make a move!

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    • I am not saying you are wrong to hope he comes back Becky, but I would not hold my breath on that. A similar flexible player, Ben Zobrist, signed with the Cubs for 4 years – $56 million back in 2016. Let’s say Marwin gets similar now. That is $14 million a year.
      Now they just picked up a guy they “hope” will fill Marwin’s role (I don’t think he is as good defensively, but probably better offensively) in Aledmys Diaz. He is costing them $2 million this year and then they have three seasons of arbitration with him. When all is said and done he might cost you in the area of $20 million over 4 years. That leaves you almost $10 million a year to spend elsewhere – such as pitching.
      So while I will miss him, I am betting the front office has already in their heads moved on…..

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      • If I had any confidence that Marwin had another 2017 season in his bat, I might feel differently about his moving on. With a exception of 2017, Zobrist has been a significantly better hitter, even in his later years. Marwin still might find out the market for him is not as strong as he thinks it should be, so Becky, who knows? But I think the Diaz signing makes it clear the club has already moved on.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think there are a lot of clubs who put a lot of value in Marwin’s flexibility. He allows you to put some specialists on the bench (right handed power hitter or even a speedy pinch runner/defensive OF). So they may over value him. I agree that his 2017 is an outlier from the rest of his career. If he could be more careful with pitch selection I think he could thrive, but he doesn’t and he is more inconsistent because of it.

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      • Marwin’s fate was sealed when Escobar (a similar comp) signed for $9MM. That meant Marwin wasn’t going to get a QO, because he would take it. And although Jeff and AJ love his versatility, they would have been crazy to offer that if Diaz was available. Since Yuli’s brother plays 1B for TOR, there’s a good chance the information that they had too many middle IF was relayed. And we would’ve lost Thornton, or Abreu had we not protected them.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Z – they picked Hermann off waivers back on Nov. 2nd ….he will be one of the arbitration eligible players they will likely tender a contract this week.
      It was a minor pickup – kind of under the radar.

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      • No need to be sorry – this was not a trade for Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole – it was waiver pickup of a marginal guy who might not make it to spring training if the Astros make a big catcher acquisition

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  12. Herrmann is a real game changer. Huge, under the radar signing! I mean, he is a real Munster!

    OK….so he won’t make the roster and he is a #3 option on a bad team, but he did have that 1 home run that we can be thankful for.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. My wish list for 2019:

    CC to 3B and Bregs to SS – CC’s arm will play at 3B and stress on the back should be lower. I think CC could be a ++ defensive 3B as opposed to average SS. Bregs low center of gravity, greater range and excellent footwork should make him a ++ SS as opposed to avg. 3B – win/ win and up the middle defense improves. 2 ++ defenders is always better than two average defenders (IMHO).

    Sign a CF or corner outfielder. Brantley is my choice. If Tucker hits you have an OF of Tucker/ Brantley/ Springer with Reddick and Kemp fighting for AB’s. Could Reddick’s contract be swapped in a deal for Grienke? Cut ties with Jake.

    Find some way to get Miles Straw on the roster. We need the disruption on the base paths that he brings.

    Sign/ trade for a catcher. I am all in on Ramos as a FA as opposed to the arms it would cost to get Realmuto; however with the log jam in MLB ready OF’ers I could see a trade happening. Ramos/ Stubbs could be an awesome offensive duo! Stubbs offensive potential and speed on the bases could allow you to carry 3 C and use 1 as DH platoon.

    Trade for a SP or resign DK to a team friendly contract…. say 4/75. I would rather spend my trade bullets on a controllable starter like Thor or Klueber than on Realmuto when Ramos is available via FA.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Haven’t heard anything about the offer the Astros gave to Charlie…..you all know he has my heart❤ I’m such a sucker for guys who other teams have given up on, and they come here and the “Pitching Whisperer” Brent Strom gives them back what they thought was gone! Prime example is Collin McHugh.
    What can I say…….it’s a girl thang.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Zanuda……I love watching Verlander throw a masterpiece, but when it came to Charlie and Collin McHugh pitching like they have , just made my heart full. They don’t have the name recognition like Verlander, Cole, or Keuchel those two guys just took the ball when it was their turn and pitched their heart out! I’m glad you like them too!

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