Astros 2019: Okay, wait, is this 2017 or 2018?


The Astros are on the cusp of winning more than 100 games for the third straight season. If they go 6-5 or better they will increase their win total again for the third straight season and will for the second year in a row set a team record for wins. If they keep working they should in a few days capture the AL West for the third time in three years and if they are rip-roaring good in the next 11 games they have a shot at having the best record in the AL and all of baseball.

But none of those tie to the question of the day. The question is: Is this team headed for ultimate glory like the World Champion Astros of 2017 or are they going to come up just a bit short, like the 2018 Astros, who fell out of the playoffs in the ALCS against the eventual champions the Boston Red Sox?

This could be, but will not be a long statistical argument about the pluses and minuses of each of those teams, but instead, it will be a quick summary of each of the seasons.

2017. The Astros rolled to the lead early in the season and piled things on the opposition. They hit the All Star break 31 games over .500 and with a 16.5 game lead. They were the best offensive team in the majors by far, leading in almost every stat that is kept. They survived a series of injuries to most of the pitching staff (Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers), and some of their hitting stars (Carlos Correa and George Springer). They also survived a bit of August malaise after making no big pitching addition at the regular trade deadline. The addition of Justin Verlander at the waiver trade deadline energized the team, the injured all returned with the exception of Jake Marisnick and the rest is history. They walked one of the toughest paths to the championship through the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers and often were a play or two from possible elimination. But they never gave up and ultimately prevailed.

2018. Even though this team ended up with more wins than in 2017, it was a much tougher row to hoe as the Mariners early and the A’s late challenged the Astros for most of the season. The Astros were tied with the A’s in late August and they really did not put the division away until the last week of the season. This was a much more pitcher oriented team as they had a good, but not great offense led by the transcendent Alex Bregman, and relied heavily on Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Morton, Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Roberto OsunaRyan Pressly and company for carrying this team to the playoffs. Unlike in 2017 they entered the playoffs with many walking wounded. Players like McCullers, Springer, Correa, and Jose Altuve attempted to play through their injury problems, but their performances lagged and in a series that again hinged on a few plays, all the big ones including the umpire calls went the Red Sox way.

Today – 2019 – This year’s team is kind of a hybrid of the last two seasons. They got off to a decent but not killer start and slowly pulled out to a decent lead, but have never really been able to throttle back. They have a strong offense like 2017 and if they could only keep all hands on deck, it could be an even better one than 2017. Of course, that team seemed to be better with runners in scoring position and in flipping a game from a loss to a win late in the game. The Astros battled through a ton of extended injuries for some of their best players (Carlos Correa, George Springer and Jose Altuve), but they also added All Star Michael Brantley, saw Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman kick it in gear in the second half of the season and added All-Universe rookie Yordan Alvarez to the lineup. Again the pitching staff has been led by Verlander and Cole with a lot of help (except for a lost couple weeks) from Wade Miley. With injury problems for Brad Peacock and McHugh hurting their depth, the Astros went out and picked up six-time All Star Zack Greinke to solidify the rotation. The bullpen has been good, except when it hasn’t been and may have more questions heading into the postseason with Pressly and Peacock returning late from injuries and McHugh not likely returning at all.

The key to this year’s postseason success will likely turn on their ability to:

a) Hit better in the clutch and not just when the game has become a laugher and;

b) Not suffer contagious bullpen meltdowns when the throats are as tight as the games

So, your turn. How do you compare this team to the last two and which one do you think it will more closely track?

77 comments on “Astros 2019: Okay, wait, is this 2017 or 2018?

  1. Jeff Luhnow promised they were going to compete every year and they are doing it. If they win this year it will be because they blow through other team’s pitching staffs with a great lineup.
    I think there are three great teams this year and it will be harder to win than in 2017. So the Astros will have to play like last year’s Red Sox to win it all.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. First in 2017, those of us who have watched since the start of Colt 45s, expected the team to be good and then fold. We were happy and surprised they won. These past two years, we have expected a perfect 162 win season. They have let us down 53 times this year and counting. Although this year they have not had so many exciting final inning wins as in the past it seems, there have been several games where they stunk for 4-5 innings and I was ready to turn off the TV. Yet the bats came alive, the shaky bullpen did not give up as many runs as the opposition and a win was the final outcome. As long as the team is in the playoffs, they have a chance for the ring. That is all I can ask of them. (And quit making dumb base running plays)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Long after we went to bed, the A’s closer, Liam Hendricks blew a save in the ninth inning to the Kansas City Royals and reduced the Astros magic number.
    Brett Phillips hit the tying home run off of Hendricks.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. We have Michael Brantley in left instead of Marwin or Kemp. We have more depth behind the plate. We have a DH that no team has ever had. Jose has two legs. Our line up, assuming health, has never been so good and our bench has never been so capable. Any club would like to have our top three starters. We might be able to win with three starters. The pen remains the question mark. And then there is the short series issue. Post season will always be that crap shoot to a degree. Building big leads early is my mantra for 2019. Keep a cushion so that a crazy play or a bad umps call can’t impact a single game so much.

    Liked by 4 people

      • You know Dan, I had a conversation with my brother about ball-strike calling technology recently and we both decided that if that technology exists, surely we can determine if a ball is over the fence without getting Joe West involved.

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  5. “Good pitching beats good hitting.” But is there a yet unspoken dictum? “Bad back-end pitching beats good starting pitching.” That’s how I feel about this rotation. Our hitters are murderer’s row on paper, yet don’t consistently produce. Want to believe it’s 2017, but believe we’re trending more to 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our rotation is the best. Our bullpen is adequate. (Most of the time).
      It all boils down to which offense shows up for the playoffs.
      I do believe Hinch is a better manager in the post season than on a daily basis.
      All in all, I do believe we have a slight edge.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Since the All Star break the Astros have…..
    – Averaged 7.6 runs to 2.4 runs in their wins (if you drop the two outlier 20+ run games they’ve averaged 6.9 runs)
    – Averaged 4.1 runs to 7.1 runs in their losses (that is 6.4 runs if you drop the A’s 21 run game)

    5.2 runs (or even 4.5 runs) is a huge delta on the average. The Astros are 35-12 in games decided by 5+ runs.
    They are 23-18 in one run games
    They are 10-3 in extra inning games

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  7. This 2019 tm has the opportunity to surpass the previous 2, is deeper than previously. What AJ rolls out (SP/BP) in the playoffs will be what it will be. We have to roll with it. It is crucial the lineup help overcome our pitching woes.
    The playoffs feature the creme del la creme. A bad series sends you home.
    This lineup of rock stars HAS to produce, minimizing hitting lulls & teeth gnashing gaffes on the bases. Versus the NYY (2017) at MMP the Stros made the Yanks pitch to them. We know the results. Sit & hit will always win over swing & whiff.
    With a few lucky breaks this tm has the stuff to go all the way again!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You know Old School, those first two games of the 2017 ALCS could have gone either way. We got a couple of 2-1 wins out of those first two games. Otherwise, we’d have been going home early.

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      • I hear ya Dave, believe that was a 7 gm series. Each tm won at home & I distinctly remember tv announcers discussing the Stros PA’s at home those last two gms where they sat on all that soft, off speed stuff , esp out the zone & feasting on the Yanks FB’s. Obviously the offense has to score to win & in tight gms runs are a premium. With concerns about the pitching hope the off produce more to help carry the day.
        And Rondon comes in & gives up a HR & dbl in the 7th

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  8. The Astros, when healthy, are vastly improved in 2019 in every area except the bullpen. But so is every other AL team in the running, except perhaps Cleveland.

    This is going to be one TOUGH offeason!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m looking forward to October. I’m really looking forward to not being a wild card team. I don’t expect this team to lay too many eggs, but it’s always possible in a short (or one game) series. As it looks now Hinch and Luhnow can plan to enter the playoffs with the rotation set to start on the days they want. This is a team with players who have been there before. It’s a team where the loss to Boston is fresh in their memory. They should be ready to go. It’s not 2017 or 2018. It’s 2019 and like the marketing campaign has been saying, they’re out to take it back.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This team minus (Alveraz and Brantley) has been to the playoffs, and WON IT ALL together. They absolutely know what it takes, and I KNOW they are better than the 2017 squad, and the 2018 team. The pitchers know who is playing behind them…and have faith that unless the ball was hit for a homerun, those guys WILL get it! Adding Brantley was the best money Crane did over the winter last year. Adding Greinke at the deadline was *GENIUS*! Verlander and Cole are the BEST two pitchers in ALL of baseball…..and Greinke just made them the best 3 headed monster, no one wants to face! Magic number is *4*!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Unpopular – but very true – statement of the day:

    I am over-the-moon thankful to see the name ‘Correa’ in the Astros line-up today! Come on, Cap’n – let’s finish this thing!

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  12. Too daveb in response to:

    “You know Dan, I had a conversation with my brother about ball-strike calling technology recently and we both decided that if that technology exists, surely we can determine if a ball is over the fence without getting Joe West involved.”

    Well, Dave – there is nothing wrong with Joe West, that retirement would not solve….

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Will A-Breg hit that 40, he’s inching closer to it? Also hope he snares that MVP trophy. And YA has an opportunity to break 30 HR’s as well. Sounds like he’s a lock for ROY.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Lots of nail biting for me but the offense finally got started. In the end, it counts as a “W” and that is all that is important. Correa is still rusty at the plate. Glad he has 10 games to iron that out.

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  15. Delin Betances pitched to two batters for the Yankees yesterday and tore his achilles and is out. It was the only two batters he faced all season.

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  16. I want to give a few amazing stats:
    * Justin Verlander has thrown 212 innings pitched this season and has allowed only 127 hits.
    *Verlander has given up 34 home runs this season but has only allowed 59 earned runs. That is amazing.
    *Justin Verlander’s WHIP is an absurd o.79.
    *League-wide this season the Batting Average is .253. Verlander’s batting average against is .169. That’s 84 points below the batting average of MLB.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always thought Bob Gibson was the most dominating pitcher I ever saw. Followed closely by Sandy Koufax. To put what we are seeing in perspective, Gibson’s best year WHIP was 0.853 and for Koufax 0.855. Pedro Martinez has the record at 0.737.

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      • Back in the day way before WHIP was invented, Gibson did post that 1.12 ERA. He also threw 304 innings (the only stat I know off the top of my head is the ERA figure), had 13 shutouts and only gave up 11 homers.

        Those are pretty amazing numbers, even though the game was different; the mound was higher, the ball was probably dead and likely, Gibson was doing all sorts of things to the baseball.

        Back to Verlander though. It’s so impressive to me that he keeps getting better. But, equally, Cole has had a remarkable year too. Some of the advanced stats guys have compelling arguments as to why Cole should win the Cy Young. I don’t think it will happen, because the voters are still going by mostly traditional stats. I just wish there could be a. Co-Cy Young award. Both guys deserve it.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. dave b – there are all sorts of amazing things about that 1968 season for Gibson
    – Somehow with a 1.12 ERA he lost 9 games that season
    – At one point at the end of May he was 3-5 with a 1.52 ERA
    – In June/July he threw 5 shutouts in a row and 8 shutouts in 10 starts
    – The other two games he threw complete game – 1 run games
    – The game after that 10 game run – he threw another complete game and gave up 1 run
    – He threw 13 complete games in a row only stopped because he threw 11 innings of a 13 inning game
    – If not for that he would have thrown 20 complete games in a row
    – He won two games in the World Series, but lost the 7th game to Mickey Lolich of the Tigers, who won three games and outshone Gibson and his team mate 31 game winner Denny McLain

    It was a different era that is for sure

    Liked by 1 person

      • He was pure intimidation back when throwing chin music was part of the game. Always looked like he would have brushed back Mother Teresa if she tried to crowd the plate

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      • Mother Teresa would scare Bob Gibson. He would have given her an intentional walk and would have her warmup jacket ready for her when she got to first base.

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      • You know how the pitcher can issue an intentional walk …,

        I wonder if the batter, facing Bob Gibson, could issue an intentional strikeout. Thus saving getting in the batter’s box.

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    • Maybe we’ve already had this discussion 1OP, but why was Ranger named Ranger rather than Astro?

      Just killing time here at Alexandra Hospital as I await confirmation that the concrete slab did indeed break my big toe. I think I’m out for the season.

      Liked by 1 person

      • He was named Ranger because my son got a job as a Special Ranger the same weekend as his arrival.
        Dave, have them remove the hamate bone in your hand while you recuperate from your leg injury. That way you won’t lose any playing time next season. Plan ahead.
        Sorry you got hurt. Do you have plenty of “medicine” for the pain? Apply freely to the throat as needed.

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      • That’s right 1OP, I think you had told us why Ranger was named Ranger. If I have the hamate bone taken out, won’t that screw up my spin rate, or at least my spin? I’m going avoid medicating. I might trip and screw the other one up. It’s the darnedest thing. I don’t seem to be as coordinated as I used to be. I think Alexandra has been here for a couple of hundred years. Alex might have been named after her. Maybe mom and dad came to Nevis on vacation.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Very pleased to see Tucker having such a positive impact in the outfield. This lefty kid is a first round pick out of high school but has not really done a whole lot at the ML level. Good grief, time to beat him up.

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    • As much as these guys and Luhnow love Jake, Tucker is probably his replacement. When you see Marisnick, Reddick, and a catcher….it’s a black hole. I don’t think Jake will have a hard time catching on with another team who really NEEDS a centerfielder. I just wish his bat was as good as his legs are.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Tampa’s win over the Dodgers tonight keeps them in step with the wild card, put the Dodgers 2 full games behind the Astros, and moves the Red Sox magic number to be eliminated from the playoffs down to 1.

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  20. Right now, there are 45 players with at least 30 HRs in MLB and a bunch more with a good chance to get to that mark.
    MLB’s experiment with it’s baseball is about the same thing as hockey would be if they made the goal posts a foot wider apart.

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    • The juiced baseball is not bringing more fans into the park. And it’s not getting the attention of new fans. Winning is still key. And baseball has to play a bigger role in getting more kids to play baseball. That’s where the next generations of fans are. One thing clear in Houston. The Hispanic community is very supportive of the club.

      On a separate subject, I don’t think any team wants to play the A’s in the post season. They keep figuring out ways to win games. 1 zip in 11?

      We control our destiny again for home field. I’m sure the Hinch/Luhnow mentality is to win every game until we don’t have to. Let’s win 5 more in a row and see where that leaves us.

      Like

  21. The Houston Astros lead the majors in sacrifice flies with 56.
    That doesn’t seem like a big deal until you look at Cleveland with the second most SFs. They only have 44.

    Liked by 1 person

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