Astros first 5 games: A lot to think about and not all of it good

The Astros came dashing out of the gate winning 3 out of 4 to the likely, lowly Mariners at the friendly and quiet confines of Minute Maid Park. They then took it on the chin (and almost in the side of the head) from the Dodgers in a tension-filled 5-2 loss Tuesday night. Already there is a lot to think and talk about with the Astros – some good and some not so good.

Young Blood. The Astros have already set a record (for the expansion ERA) by having 8 players make their major league debut in the first week of the season. Granted it is a different season with the 30 man rosters and the 60 man pool to select from, but no one saw this coming. Taylor Jones was the lone position player to make a debut, while 7 pitchers (Cristian Javier, Brandon Bailey, Brandon Bielak, Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb and Nivaldo Rodriguez) also debuted. Jones had a K and grounded into a DP in his two ABs, but the pitchers have faired better allowing 3 earned runs in a total of 14 innings (1.93 ERA) and only Bielak and Paredes have been charged with any earned runs.

By Necessity or By Design. In some ways, the Astros use of so many youngsters making their debut was by necessity. Having Justin Verlander, Jose Urquidy, Brad Peacock, Joe Biagini, Cionel Perez, Austin Pruitt and Rogelio Armenteros all on the IL, along with arm problems slowing down Ryan Pressly and Chris Devenski has forced the Astros to dip into their minor league pitching depth – the depth the press has been ignoring or downplaying.

But some of this is by design. For a number of seasons, the Astros have not been inviting veteran players to camp on minor league deal. This had to be considered a little unusual this season with all the uncertainty of the pandemic and the expanded rosters and pools in place. But GM James Click continued what Jeff Luhnow started and so the answers to the pitching needs have been from within…..well until we heard that the Astros were close to signing 43-year-old Fernando Rodney, who had a mixed bag of results in 2019, pitching poorly for the A’s (9.42 ERA in 14.1 innings), and then decently for the World Champion Nationals (4.05 ERA in 33.1 innings). The Astros may keep their eyes open for other possibilities (former Astro James Hoyt just released by the Indians?) or they may stick to mostly filling from within with their young guns.

MLB Policing the Astros? It was in this writer’s mind that the policing of the Astros could take a couple of forms in the new season. One would be retaliation by pitchers as we saw with Joe Kelly last night. Joe – if you are that bad with your control you should be sent immediately to minor league camp to work on it….yeah I didn’t think so. And if you need to send a message – make it below the shoulders. We don’t need any Dickie Thon or Tony Conigliaro career-ending moments.

But the second part of the response to the Astros cheating scandal could be how the umpires treat them. Let’s face it. The umpires whole job is tied to integrity and following the rules. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they have to be thinking that what the Astro did was wrong and may deserve a bit more than the punishment doled out by the MLB offices. The Astros’ pitchers, and not just the youngsters, have been squeezed hard by the umps to this point in the season. Beyond that, last night what Kelly did in the 6th inning should have been handled differently, especially with MLB’s warnings on the subject. When he threw behind Alex Bregman‘s head on a 3-0 pitch, Kelly should have been warned. It would have been amazing how much better his control would have been after that.

The Offense. It is rather amazing the Astros are averaging more than 6 runs a game when they have so many players under-producing. Michael Brantley ( .421 BA/ 6 RBIs), Martin Maldonado (.357 BA / 6 RBIs) and Carlos Correa (.412 BA / 4 RBIs) have all been carrying their load and more. But the rest of the starting lineup has gotten off to a mostly slow roll with George Springer ( 1 for 20) the slowest of the slow. Alex Bregman does have 5 RBIs along with a crappy .222 BA, but Jose Altuve (.222 BA), Josh Reddick (.200 BA), Yuli Gurriel (.188 BA) and Kyle Tucker (.200 BA) all need to get it going. Oh, and adding Yordan Alvarez back into the mix at some point would be nice.

Just some thoughts for today as we wait anxiously for Cristian Javier’s first MLB start in place of ace Justin Verlander. This should continue to be an interesting time for the team.

57 comments on “Astros first 5 games: A lot to think about and not all of it good

  1. -Kelly hit Bregman in the hand with a 99 mph fastball in the 2018 ALCS. Then the Red Sox walked Bregman for the rest of the series.
    -If not for BABIP the Astros could have had a win last night. The Astros just missed hits by inches and feet several times. Credit the Dodgers’ defense for making plays.
    -As far as bringing up pitchers instead of buying them on the open market, the Astros went into the spring with a payroll $20 million over the limit. The pandemic saved them from the penalties, but obviously the guys who could help the pitching staff have been vacuumed up since then.
    – It’s my opinion that the games a team loses because of not enough pitching are more affordable to a team that is using good prospects who can learn from it, rather than older pitchers who cost more and don’t have good stuff anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. If MLB doesn’t come out with a substantial suspension for Kelly that should tell you all you need to know. I know they generally used to give starters 6 games and relievers 3 to ensure they miss one appearance, but I think this is an instance where Manfred needs to be firm with a 10 game suspension.

    Having said that, after watching highlights of the intersquad games before things started up, if I’m an Astros pitcher I’m not throwing Bellinger anything over the plate, but rather trying to keep everything hard and tight inside. I’d throw some of those Greinke curves that barely register on the gun outside off the player by at least a foot though. I’d also make sure Dusty Baker walks out to inspect the batter’s box before every game and complains when the Dodgers erase the line. His positioning reminds me of 2003 where Barry Bonds went up there wearing more body armor than Craig Biggio and positioned himself right on the plate. Finally, after any loss to the Dodgers I would send the home office video of any at bats where he was positioned outside the drawn box and file a formal protest. Yes, I’m petty, but it’s absurd for the league to allow teams to cheat. Isn’t that what we spent the entire offseason listening to people say?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m not going to be agonizing over wins and losses this summer. And I don’t want to see our club at war throughout this exhibition season either. Dusty is prepared to stand up for our guys and I think somebody on the Dodgers will have to take one tonight. At this point though, as much as I respect baseball protocol I’d rather take a Ghandi approach. It’s pretty clear to me that the playing field not be level for the Astros in 2020. That’s reality. I’ve said this before. I’m already looking towards Spring Training 2021. In the meantime, I would like to see George get a few hits though.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well Dave b – if you are really looking forward to ST 2021 – you would want George Springer to bat .050 for the whole of 2020 so we could pick him up really really cheap. (That was a joke).

      oldpro – It is interesting that the team has shifted from one that was based on very cheap position players plus some better compensated pitchers to one that is expensive at the positions while the pitching staff is shifting towards more bargains. I think this is the best way to span to the future.

      Devin – Don’t count on this MLB office to do one damn thing! Sorry for the expletive, but I’m fed up with the worst run of the Big three professional sports.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. -Did Baker get in the umps’ faces or did the umps get in his face. I never got to see that. They are supposed to stay six feet from each other.
    -Kelly deserves to be suspended. Everybody saw what he did and he knows he did it on purpose,too. How hard would it be for MLB to suspend a guy for throwing at a players head on purpose?
    – Apparently, the Astros have made a trade for RHP Hector Velasquez. More info to come. Supposedly its a PTBNL deal.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Velasquez decent SIERRA and FIP, not terrible.

        Goes to show again how solid Baltimore’s pitching has come around since Elias and Medjal left.

        I was very interested to find out why they left Bailey off their roster after taking him from us, and after hearing his interview, it was pretty non-descript. They just didn’t have room for him.

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    • Nice catch, Op.

      I was just thinking about how we have great “stories,” like Bailey. Meanwhile, Dodgers got guys like former MVP Betts and probably the best relief arm in the game from Twins, Graterol. Must be nice to have such riches.

      Reminds me of the time Luhnow called LA and at the request of scout Charlie Gonzales, to ask them to trade Alvarez for (sleeper agent) Josh Fields. They had one Alvarez they paid $16M, and one named Yordan they paid a mere $4M for. Ohh, to be sitting around with all that $$ to spare, it must be nice.

      I’m also reminded of 2016 when we stood pat at deadline, watched Rangers blow their wallet on Lucroy and Beltran, while we were saving our pennies and lurking in 2017. With the amount of solid prospects we have, looking at the trade market, guys coming back from injury, and Whitley in a few weeks!

      Things will brighten up soon, and today’s a good day to start.

      Having said that, does anyone NOT belief there’s going to be retribution tonight?

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      • I think there will be retribution, but not sure when and how. I don’t think they want to waste an arm at this point, however they do have a day off tomorrow. I could see them doing it if the game was out of hand one way or the other or maybe if they have a reliever in there with 2 outs.
        Of course they don’t have to hit anyone – the Dodgers didn’t. But I imagine if there is even a hint of a throw at a hitter it will get somebody tossed.
        I always liked the hitter bunting down the first base line and running the pitcher over – of course no one knows how to bunt these days.

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    • Well I was wrong about MLB – 8 game suspension in a 60 game season is like a 21 game suspension in a 162 game season – pretty steep. That should also keep others from doing it. I’m guessing they made it this stiff because he wasn’t sticking it in their ribs. Headshots cannot be tolerated and they did the right thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And yes Devin was right and I was wrong – but glad I was wrong.

        Unless you want to get sick to your stomach – don’t read the comments on this article under the MLB Traderumors. People are saying he shouldn’t have been suspended – the Astros deserved it.
        Hey the guys have already been plunked quite a few times in the early part of the season, but nothing happened because of the pitch location. Throwing behind guys heads twice and up and in a number of times is wrong. If you can’t control your pitches well enough to plunk them in the back – don’t do it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hadn’t seen your response, Dan..
        Only commenting that Devin knew there shoud be a stiff penalty.
        Maybe we can start playing baseball and doing baseball skills, instead of thinking hitting batters has any art to it. Amazing how many young fans want to see more penalties. One Dojer fan said Kelly should’ve gotten money’s worth and paralyzed Bregman. That is the intelligence level of these MMA type of fans.

        Feckless leadership by Manfred in the first place for not setting the record straight. Which did you all hear recently? Manfred all but admitted the Astros were not the only ones getting signs. I thought he hinted at it to pre-empt Yankees if they have to open the letter — move on, but stay tuned on that news.

        We’ve got Los Angeles on tap, and this is a statement game for both teams.

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  5. Hope I’m not too grumpy today – they buried my friend Richard who I sang with for 25 years in the choir and we couldn’t be there
    I’m loving me some Cristian Javier … made one mistake to Seager but otherwise no other runners and 7 Ks in 3 innings. That ball breaks a ton and his fastball has nice pop at the top of the zone
    Loved me some Myles Straw too. Pitcher hesitated 1/2 a beat Covering 1st base and Straw got the RBI infield single

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    • Dan, I understand your sorrow.
      My cousin passed away Sunday. COVID. 3days in the ER. 13 days in ICU. Alone with no family except for a FaceTime visit once a day.
      He didn’t live in a big city like we do. He lived in a little town in east Texas with a population of 340. Was hospitalized in Lufkin.
      It’s horrible!

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      • I’m so sorry Sandy – having to face this alone is what gives me the emptiest feeling about all this. I feel so bad for them, being in the hospital is a bad enough experience, but to be so isolated from those we love is unimaginable

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  6. Oh no Dan…….we are never ready to see a friend pass away, we are all sorry for your loss. Never heard of this kid Javier before but he sure had himself a good game tonight! Put him in your back pocket!! Wouldn’t that be awesome to have a young kid like that to insert in your rotation!!! What a welcome surprise!!
    I was grateful that I could see a game for a chance tonight! Thank you baseball God⚾! The announcers weren’t ugly about the 2017 scandal….so I thank them as well. More surgery in 2 weeks😭. Becky⚾

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  7. Do you think we could possibly play small ball for the win? I could care less how we get it as long as we get it. So many missed opportunities. Come on guys. Put the Dodgers away.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Waking up this morning and looking at the outcome, I’m wondering how many of these “stick a guy on second base in the 10th” games have gone 13 innings ultimately. Damn shame our bats have not awakened yet. But Javier sure looked sharp and our lefty is getting outs. Our closer looks good too. I was looking through the box trying to figure out who made the error that led to two unearned runs by Cy. Then I realized it was the guy on second base’s fault. Had the Astros won I might be feeling differently this morning, but I still don’t like this “get an outcome” rule.

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    • This is the longest MLB game this season by innings, I know this has been tried in the minors – have no idea what the longest there was.

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  9. The Box score tells this sad tale of woe. RISP 3 – 19, LOB 15, 4 of our starters and 2 others now hitting below the Mendoza line. And no excuse for starting a runner on second and not getting him to third with a bunt. With some speed a safety squeeze would have won the game. What part of SMALL BALL do you guys not understand?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The game was unwatchable for me. My team had more horrible at-bats than imaginable. Every hitter in the lineup came to the plate without a clue.
    Unwatchable. Even the fastest player on the team slid into 1B like a high school jock. Mayfield’s at-bat was the worst ever. The entire right side was open and the first pitch is the perfect one to move the runner to third or even win the game. He takes that pitch and then swings at two sliders in the dirt.
    I am useless this morning after wasting my whole evening on that team.
    Sorry, especially after hearing about Becky and Dan’s friend. Rich.
    I’m so embarrassed by my own uselessness.

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  11. So, I get up from my desk, disgusted about myself and my last comment.
    I look outside and see that the sun has come above the trees filtering red light thru the liquid of the hummingbird feeder, comletely covering the hummingbird itself, hovering with a red glow. As it’s wings shimmer red light at incredible speed, I hear my wife’s soft breath in her sleep and realize that she is pain free for the first time in years, after three operations on three different problems.
    Peace reigns as I realize it’s not all about baseball.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. With Straw on second, to begin the 10th, Baker should have had Altuve bunt, especially with Turner playing back like he was. Then Bregman or Brantley could have hit a sacrifice fly and, bingo, we win! Easy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When the rules changes were announced Dusty should have had every hitter spending 30 minutes per day working on their short game (no, for baseball, not golf). Most of the team can’t bunt. Altuve used to drag down the line for a hit from time to time. I agree with you 100% though – with Straw’s speed unless hit pushed it straight back to the pitcher it would be an easy advance.

      However, in that situation, the pitcher is responsible for fielding the third base side and the first baseman will be responsible for anything on the first base side. The third baseman has to stay home to give them a chance to hold the runner at second. This provides the offense two big benefits, though. First, the second baseman has to cover first base. With Altuve running, he has to be looking to cheat that way…so holding the runner is more of the shortstop’s responsibility. Second, the first baseman has to pinch in…creating another opportunity. For someone who handles the bat as well as Altuve it makes sense to give him a chance to move Straw with a swing rather than a bunt. At the same time, since he runs well it makes sense to me to take what the defense is giving you and drop one down the third base line hard. Basically, make Turner come get it as he’s not throwing Altuve out and Straw can easily beat him to the bag. You do it now instead of for the first time when the pressure is bigger in the postseason.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. There was no view close enough of the ball in his glove. There was video of the ball getting to his glove and leaving his glove. There was nothing to view of the ball bouncing around in his glove to overturn the umps OUT call.
    Once I saw the lack of proof he didn’t catch it, I was positive they would call him out.

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    • OP – I’ve read your last sentence five times and I don’t understand it. Wouldn’t they need proof he didn’t catch it to overthrown the call?

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      • The out call by the ump means that Kike caught the ball and dropped it while seeking to transfer it to make a throw to first. A replay would then have to show that Kikie did not have full possession. The replays they showed did not show that he did not catch it. The video was definitely lacking. There has to be proof he never had possession. There wasn’t.
        Once I saw there was no proof of a catch or not a catch, you have to follow the call of the ump, and he called the Astros runner out.
        It is the exact same premise as Altuve’s home run call standing. West said the fan interfered. No video could provide the correct angle to disprove West’s call, so the call stood. In my opinion, West should have called it a home run, since Betts did not touch the ball and the ball went into the stands. Then it would have been up to the the replay to provide proof the fan interfered.
        In this case, the ump was on the wrong side of Kike to make the call he made, but no camera angle provided the proof to overturn his call.

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  14. MLB Traderumor has been going through the divisions and asking readers to vote on who would win each division. For the AL West – the results were

    Athletics
    46%

    Astros
    27%

    Angels
    15%

    Mariners
    6%

    Rangers
    5%

    Not really surprising, since most of the readers think we are the AntiChrist. Plus our rotation injuries make us look vulnerable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • At this time I’m worried more about our lack of hitting more than our pitching. Our young guns are really doing well. Sure need a good road trip to get back on track. No time to waste.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Well I agree we really need the bats back, just for the overall health of the club. We know that the new pitchers will get scouted and could regress some over time. So we will have to have much better hitting.
    Javier may not regress that much – he sure looked like a true pitcher.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure someone will come up with stats proving or disproving an increased number of injuries, but it seems to me more guys are getting hurt lately. I wonder if this late summer start to the baseball season is a cause.

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      • It is a great question daveb.
        My personal feeling is it is not necessarily the late summer start, but the spring start, followed by uncertainty, followed by the sudden proclamation by the Commissioner that yes we are going to get going in a few weeks.
        These ball players certainly have routines for getting ready for the season. I’m sure they do specific amounts of work leading up to a regular Spring Training and then pace themselves to get ready during the ST for the season. This season they got ready for ST, had that shut down, had great uncertainty if the season would even happen, when it would start, how many games.
        In my mind there are players, who kept it in idle during the shutdown, others who ramped up, others who ramped down, etc.
        And then suddenly turning it on and telling them they need to be hitting the ground in an instant pennant race – I think this could easily lead to injuries.

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  16. Cameron Maybin to the IL.
    Doubleheaders in MLB this year to be 7 inning games starting Aug 1. Just like the minor leagues do.

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  17. Thought I’d post this back here, a little off the beaten path for those who wanted to see some of the best this country is made of.

    Hopefully for you too, this will bring a tear and a smile. And to count this day — this is the day.

    Like

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