10 reasons the Astros can win it all again in 2019


There is always a mix of over-optimism mixed with down in the dumps pessimism in the springtime for baseball teams.

If your team won the last World Series, it is natural for some fans to feel that their team is bulletproof, while others think they can’t get that lucky again. If they are one of the other 29 teams it is natural for some to think this is the year, while others sing that Hee Haw tune “Doom, Despair, and Agony on Me”.

After the Astros spit the bit short of the World Series in 2018, there is the same mix of optimism and pessimism this Spring Training.

“This is almost the same team that won it all in 2017.”

“This is a team that had to replace three starters in the rotation.”

“This is a team that was just a couple bad breaks from going to the WS again in 2018.”

“This is a team that has said goodbye to Marwin and McCann and Gattis and Keuchel (probably) and Morton and McCullers…”

You get the idea. Well today, the blog is going to take the high road and look at reasons why this team can win it again this year.

  1. The Twin Towers. At the top of their rotation, the Astros have something that most teams would kill for- a two-headed Cy Young worthy monster named Justit Colelander. Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88 ERA, 12.6 K/ 9 IP) and Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA, 12.4 K/9 IP) were just a scosh short of CY winner Blake Snell and that gives the Astros a tremendous base to their rotation.
  2. The Best 5′-6″ Player in the World. He’s not the best baseball player in the world while Mike Trout is breathing, but Jose Altuve is on a very short list behind the Angel superstar. He was a step down in 2018 (.316 BA/ .837 OPS/ 84 runs/ 61 RBIs) from his 2017 MVP year (.346 BA/ .957 OPS/ 112 runs/ 81 RBIs), but proved he was certainly the best one-legged player in the world.
  3. The “Back” is Back. Carlos Correa has a lot to prove in 2019 after his back problems helped lead to a poor injury riddled 2018 (.239 BA/ .728 OPS/ 60 runs/ 65 RBIs). A return to 2017 (.315 BA/ .941 OPS/ 82 runs/ 84 RBIs) for Carlos would really help supercharge this offense.
  4. Stare-way to Heaven. Alex Bregman was disappointed in the pre-arb contract he received from the Astros. Of course, he had no real leverage this time around. It is a good bet that as he heads towards arbitration next off-season he will put up numbers that will give him a lever that Archimedes would take pride in, especially if his great 2018 (105 runs, 51 doubles, 31 HRs, 103 RBIs) is any indication.
  5. Burn On Big Brantley. Back in the old days (pre-2015?) the signing of an All Star OF with the credentials of Cleveland’s Michael Brantley would have been cause for celebration. This pickup has almost been under the radar in an off-season of $300+ million contracts. Brantley is a consistent, professional hitter (.309 BA/ .364 OBP/ .832 OPS in 2018), who gives the team some left-handed balance and should thrive wherever he is placed in a lineup with the big four of the Houston Astros.
  6. Late Inning Duos. The Astros headed towards the trade deadline last year needing to make some kind of move with their bullpen. Ken Giles had melted down, both emotionally and in his ability to perform and it seemed that the Astros and Giles needed a change of scenery. The Astros unloaded Giles and picked up closer Roberto Osuna from Toronto and separately picked up a super gem in reliever Ryan Pressly from Minnesota. After the trades, Osuna (12 saves, 1.99 ERA) and Pressly (2 saves, 0.77 ERA/ 0.600 WHIP) made the late innings a happy place for Astro fans.
  7. Any Portsider in a Strom. Pitching coach Brent Strom continues his reputation as a bit of a horse whisperer to pitchers as he has helped most of his staff to reach heights they had never reached before, be it those with little success before coming here (Charlie Morton, Collin McHugh) or some of the best in the business (Verlander and Cole). After leading the best staff in the majors in 2018, Strom will face a big challenge with a revamped starting staff in 2019, but he is a reason that fans can be hopeful.
  8. Time Change – Springer Forward. When somebody like George Springer is your 4th or 5th best hitter, you have a heck of a lineup. Like Correa and Altuve, injury helped lower his strong 2017 (.283 BA/ .889 OPS/ 34 HRs/ 85 RBIs) to an average 2018 (.265 BA/. 780 OPS/ 22 HRs/ 71 RBIs). Springer is the type player who can carry a team for a month at a time or for a World Series. Again, he is a big part of the Astros’ lineup riches.
  9. Life is a Hinch. A.J. Hinch enters his 5th season as the Astros’ managerial leader with a 57.7% winning percentage (not counting interim managers) and sometime during 2019 he will add to his 374-274 record and vault into 2nd place in wins over Art Howe (392 wins in 5 seasons) and Larry Dierker (435 wins in 5 seasons). He will only be trailing Bill Virdon who put up 544 wins in 8 seasons. With any luck A.J. will pass Virdon in season six. Hinch is a good mix of calm and caring and has got the most out of his team since he joined them before the 2015 season.
  10. Luhnow Has the Know How – Obviously winning the World Series gives any GM a lot of slack, but Luhnow has done his best to put together a team that can win today and tomorrow. Will they hit bumps along the way? Sure. But would you rather have Jeff Luhnow steering through next off-season and the free agency of four starting pitchers or Ed Wade?

There are other good reasons to trust in this team, whether it is the clutch hitting of Yuli Gurriel, the hustle and glove of Josh Reddick, the solid stick of Robinson Chirinos, the team-first attitude of Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock or the young arms of Josh James, Framber Valdez, Forrest Whitley, Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas. This team is built to contend and they are built to win it all again in 2019.

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70 comments on “10 reasons the Astros can win it all again in 2019

  1. I have a ton of confidence in McHugh, Miley and Peacock. That is a big part of my optimism for 2019.
    I love the idea of Perez, Valdez, and James in the bullpen and that is a big part of my optimism for 2019.
    My optimism about Brantley as our full-time LFer has been reinforced by what I have seen from him this Spring. He has looked great out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • RJ –
      We have both sophistication (Hee Haw) and good old country charm (Archimedes) on this blog. Greece being the good old country….

      Like

  2. Roberto Osuna made the Top 100 list giving the Astros 7 players in the Top 100. Interestingly enough, Michael Brantley did not make the Top 100, even though he was #45 in WAR among position players last season and was an All-Star.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Along with going to a single trade deadline in 2019 – the roster expands to 26 in 2020 (max 13 pitchers) and 28 instead of 40 in September (14 max pitchers)
    That seems like too big of a change in September – but the rosters have been so big the game is completely different in September

    Liked by 1 person

    • So cutting back on roster expansion in September, is that supposed to keep teams that are already out of it from playing an AAA squad? I suppose it is intended to speed up games too. You won’t see 9 pitchers used. One thing it will do is keep the best teams from resting up the pitching staff for the post season. Have they done away with the 10 day DL yet? If not, we’ll see it used more and more.

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      • Dave, MLBTR actually seems to say the 10-day IL is still in effect for this year, changing to 15-day IL next season. That needs more clarification for me.

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      • 1oldpro, yeah, looks like the ten day is still in effect this year. One way or the other, clubs will figure out a way to keep innings counts in check. Manfred man is impacting more change in MLB then anyone else in my lifetime. If this stuff does not work out, the owners will out him ultimately.

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  4. I like the change to a 26-man active roster. 13 position players and 13 pitchers during the season will help keep pitchers fresher, help teams rest their position players with less fall off in the lineup and will add 30 more players to the major league rosters, thereby satisfying the player’s desire to suck up more owner money.
    I’m also happy we get one more year of seeing a lot of minor league players in September before that too changes in 2020.
    These are changes that satisfy some feelings while not radically changing the flow or structure of the game.

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    • The big one of course is the three batter minimum. The Tony Sipps of baseball are about to disappear. If a guy in the pen can’t get both lefties and righties out, he does not have a job. At its core, I have no real problem with that. But the other thing is that it sure makes it easier for a manager to set up his pinch hitter(s) without the same risk of burning a guy off the bench if he can’t hit a righty or a lefty.. That’s the main reason I think this particular rule sucks. And do we have to try and create more offense too? Baseball constantly evolves. Let the players be responsible for that evolution rather than new rules.

      So every half inning, 20 seconds will get shaved off the break. I have no problem with that. What’s that, 6 minute a game Dan? So at the end of the day, or 9 inning game, Manfred might see a total savings of 10 minutes. Ten minutes is not going to bring more people into the park. 30 might.

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  5. I am stunned by the All-Star voting change. Having fans vote in an extra, 24-hour cycle, on the last day to determine who starts the game among the top three leaders at each position? Many players have clauses to their contracts that pay extra for starting an all-star game. Imagine, Altuve is leading by 400,000 votes going into the last day of voting. Next, the new 24-hour voting bloc begins. Fans for the New York Yankees can stuff the balloting and Altuve gets voted out by the ballot stuffing. We know about ballot stuffing as we have seen it before as, practically, a single, entire team, can almost get voted into the all-star game. This is NOT a good move.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heck Zanuda, can we send him down? I think he thrown 6 innings now. Really though, don’t nervelate. If he’s healthy, that’s all we really need to be concerned about. Lifetime in ST, he’s got a 6.64. ERA and a 1.49 WHIP.

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    • Z, i am with you on this. i think mchugh could still have a really good year, many times pitchers are working on new pitches and show worse than they are in spring training, but this is beginning to concern me. a contributor many posts back said mchugh and miley were the best #3 & #4 pitchers in baseball. i really really hope he was right, but i fear different results.

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    • I just a have a high level of concern at this point in ST. Maybe he’s still working on pitches but it’s still and issue. Especially for a guy who’s supposed to be our #3 or 4 starter. Don’t get me wrong, I want him to succeed big time because he’s always done what was asked of him. Just wonder if somethings not clicking.

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  6. ST Pitching Stats That Probably Don’t Mean Anything . . . But Make an Old Pitching Coach go – hmmmmmmmmn . . . .

    1. Will Harris has an 11.57 ERA, a 3.43 WHIP, and has walked as many men [2] as he has struck out; his BAA is .545. Yes, you read that correctly.
    2. Chris Devenski has a 10.80 ERA, a 2.40 WHIP, and has walked as many men [3] as he has struck out; his BAA is .333.
    3. Framber Valdez has walked more men [5] than he has struck out [3]; his BAA is also .333.
    4. Collin McHugh has a 15.88 ERA and a WHIP over 2.00. His BAA is over .400 after today’s shellacking.
    5. But, on the positive side, Reymin Guduan has a WHIP of 0.83 and has struck out 10, and given up 0 HRs, while only walking 1 – and his BAA is .190.

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  7. Without exception, Collin McHugh has been hit hard in Spring training every year of his career. Without exception, since he arrived in the bigs he has been hit hard in spring training.
    Worry about McHugh in the regular season. Since he’s pitched for Houston he has been a good pitcher in the regular season.
    Hinch said yesterday that the Astros are grinding through spring training. It’s one of the reasons why the Astros are playing regulars out of position, followed by A Ball players late in the games. As long as nobody gets hurt the Astros couldn’t care less right now. The Astros team is virtually set and they cannot wait for the regular season to get here.

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  8. ST Hitting Stats that Probably Don’t Mean Anything . . . But Could Make A Stat-Geek Slightly Agitated . . .

    1. Max Stassi has a BA of .185, an OBP of .267, and OPS of .452, and has struck out 10 times in 30 plate appearances.
    2. Among the ‘Big 4′, only Alex Bregman has an OBP of over .333 – and Altuve is the lowest of the bunch at .308.
    3. In a year when Tyler White came in almost a lock to be the Astros’ primary RH Designated Hitter, he has twiddled his thumbs, swallowed his tasty breakfast pastries, and smiled politely as unheralded Nick Tanielu came in and made hitting a baseball look easy.
    4. Who is that guy wearing Josh Reddick’s uniform?

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  9. Brandon Bielak’s stuff is good enough to where he can pitch poorly and get away with it. And he was poor today. Everything he threw was up. He got hit hard. He had better learn to pitch down in the zone.
    Winkleman was out of his league.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So we have 6 runs driven in by guys we are counting on in the regular season (2 by White, 2 by Bregman, 1 by Correa, 1 by Chirinos) and 6 runs given up by the one guy we are counting on in the regular season (McHugh). For whatever it is worth if anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The ultimate solution to shortening games…hey if we can change the distance to the mound and the size of the bases (which changes the distance to first base), let’s just make games 6 innings long. No real reason to play 9 innings in 3 hours if they can play 6 innings in 2 hours.
    Where is that sarcasm font when you need it….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, I could write a similar post about why they won’t be champions, but I think it would be a much shorter post and that helps to give me hope.

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  12. Diane – over at mlbrumors.com they have had a fan chat with one of the blog “experts” answering questions and here is one I just read….

    Cory 3:13

    Who is your, way too early, pick to win the World Series?

    Jeffrey Todd 3:14

    This is actually a shockingly easy question this year, I think, just b/c of the weird alignment of competitive teams. You have to focus on which teams have the clearest paths into the postseason.
    *not only into the postseason but to a division title

    So … give me the Astros. You could argue the Indians are as likely or likelier to win their division but who knows. Think you have to go with an AL team first and not Yanks/Sox b/c one of them will be in a play-in game. So … my third choice would be Dodgers.

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    • Okay, good. Your Brewskies showed well last year too, but I haven’t followed their off season, so don’t know if they strengthened, weakened, trod water.

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  13. I have no doubt this team is as good, or even better than the 2017-2018 teams.
    They replaced Marwin, and added a bonified left fielder. It appears everyone is healthy (Altuve?)….the two areas that are in question are 3-5 in the rotation, and daveb’s, nephew. LOL!!! I BELIEVE⚾!!

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    • Let’s face it, not many who write about baseball, at any level, can do it without opinion or editorializing. Otherwise, all we’d have is game recaps. Especially when talking about a minor league system, most everything is conjecture. Or a crap shoot. Certainly Kyle Tucker is still a crap shoot. So are the pitchers in our system. Most will fail to have an impact at the Major League level. CrPerry seems offended by the Fangraphs article. Understandable from a homer, but why get worked up about it?

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  14. It is an interesting article, though I don’t go along with too much of the premise:
    – It’s getting harder to know what is going on inside the organization? With so many fine Astro people getting promotions elsewhere I would think that more is known about the inner workings outside the Astros than ever before.
    – Paranoia and acrimony about the Astros is affecting their ability to make moves? Yes, the Astros have picked up some nice pieces in trades – even under the radar at times, but teams can sit there and think they might get the next Josh Hader out of us too. The Astros try to get a certain value out of each trade, so not all of their attempts are successful, but as they’ve shown the last few years they can get to the finish line on trades (Verlander, Cole, Osuna, Pressly).
    – Knowing which rumors are true and which are BS – Luhnow has kept things close to his vest his whole tenure. A lot of his moves come out of nowhere with no rumors popping out in front of them. I would not be surprised that an organization that was hacked into early on even deals in leaking misinformation to throw the other orgs off. The only way to get an edge is to be knowing or doing stuff the others have no knowledge of.
    – The thing about topical substances giving the pitchers a boost ….I guess it is possible they are cheating. But when you read a lot about what goes on with some of these pitchers and their improvements it sounds more to do with pitch mix than anything else, getting the pitchers to throw their better pitches more often and at the right times. Verlander has talked about changing his grip at times, but he talked about doing it in Detroit too.

    Bottomline – when you have success, others will want to know why or will want to think it is through nefarious ways. Maybe the Astros are becoming the Patriots of baseball.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Fangraphs pushed all of Chris Perry’s buttons concerning the Astros.
      But, If you read the Fangraphs rankings of the Astros and their comments in their “system overview” it’s clear that these two guys have a big problem with Houston.
      To make sure I wasn’t seeing red, because of my obvious bias to blue and orange, I went on to view Fangraph’s rankings of the Yankees and Rays systems and the overview of them.
      There is very little of the emotional ranting of the prospect’s skills and tendencies that you read in the rankings of the Astros prospects(note: the hedonistic view of defense by Freudis Nova or the fact that scouts don’t like what they see from 18 year old Jayson Schroeder in instructional leagues. He’s just a high school pitcher still, people.) Add that to the fact that Fangraphs actually ranked the Rays top 54 prospects and then commented on another 25 of their prospects, while ranking only 39 of the Astros prospects and then had comments on just a few others and you can plainly see that Fangraphs really was using the Astros rankings as a chance to rant about their views on how the Astros do things. Their comments in Astros overview was an actual article in itself and the overview of the Rays was a two paragraph epilog.
      In my opinion, the success of the Astros at the major league level, their #6 ranking of their farm system, the strikeout rate of their pitchers at every level of professional baseball, their being picked by many to win the WS and the fact that major league fans even picked their uniforms as the best in baseball might really have some baseball people rattled.
      Who is at the forefront of analytics?
      Who had the huge increase in attendance when it was down all over the league?
      Who is the out front leader in shifts, that baseball is now scared to death of?
      Who led the majors in fielding percentage while not having one starting position player with positive defensive metrics on their team other than their backup catcher?
      Who won 103 games with four cripples in their lineup and a starting pitcher with no elbow ligaments?
      What team talks about nothing, after another team releases all their secrets to the public and then only gets a slap on the wrist?
      My team.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Yes indeed, Perry got his buttons pushed! But really, even the guys from well respected FanGraphs are more baseball fans than bona fied sportswriters. Real sportswriters are an endangered species these days. I like it when our organization gets trash talked. I’m guessing the Bregmans and Verlanders like it too.

        Liked by 2 people

      • When it comes to prospect there is another angle to consider. Recall back in 2015 when we started winning games and folks (like me) started saying the easy draft picks were over and Luhnow would have to earn it? Well, there are a number of “writers” from these other sites who get worked up over their favorite prospects and then very defensive when they don’t pan out. Seeing the Astros picking low in the draft, not having international signings that set the world on fire, etc. has likely angered these experts who didn’t predict stardom for many of the players getting it done on the field in our system.

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  15. I find it interesting that the Brandon Bielak performance that I critiqued after watching every pitch he threw yesterday, was considered a Top Prospect Performance by MLB.com this morning.
    All I want to know is if they watched the video of him or just went off of the box score.

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  16. Astros ST Themes This Year:

    1. Meh!
    2. Doh!
    3. Winning is overrated.
    4. Watch us grind.
    5. Don’t forget – the stats don’t count.
    6. Just don’t strain anything.
    7. “It’s Eeyore!” cried Roo, terribly excited.
    “Is that so?” said Eeyore, getting caught up by a little eddy, and turning slowly round three times. “I wondered.”
    “I didn’t know you were playing,” said Roo.
    “I’m not,” said Eeyore.
    “Eeyore, what are you doing there?” said Rabbit.

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    • I just came up with a list of what to pair with LSD trips:
      – Beatles “A Day in the Life”
      – Almost any David Lynch movie, but especially Mulholland Drive
      – Pink Floyd – Pick an album
      – Reruns of Pee Wee’s Playhouse
      – Alice in Wonderland
      – Today’s post from Mr. Bill?

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      • Dan , Brian Wilson is my musical hero . Haven’t met him but I do run a Beach Boys message forum and also know several people affiliated with Brian on a personal level. On that note, Mike Love really is a jerk. And all the stories and feuding, and all the gossip?Man, if people only knew…

        But that’s a story for another time…

        Like

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