The last time Astros’ fans were this uncertain was…

Some folks may think this writer is crazy, but the last time Astro fans were this uncertain about their team was leading into the 2017 Championship season.

Note to self: There are likely a lot of people who think this writer is crazy for all sorts of reasons. 

It may seem counterintuitive considering that season was such a slam-bang success, but just remember where the team was heading out of 2016 into 2017. The 2016 season, even though a winning one, was a disappointment. The team had made a surprise appearance in the 2015 playoffs, knocking off the Yankees in a wild card matchup and taking the eventual World Champion Royals to the brink before losing in the ALDS. The thought was that this was a very young team and would springboard into a much improved and more experienced team in 2016.

Well, the team regressed in 2016, and the most significant question mark was the starting rotation heading into 2017. Dallas Keuchel had covered up an injury and was a mediocre pitcher in 2016. Collin McHugh got hurt in 2017 Spring Training and ended up missing most of the season. Lance McCullers (6-5, 3.22 ERA) was a 23-year-old who had pitched well in a portion of 2016. Mike Fiers (11-8, 4.48 ERA) had pitched so-so just like Keuchel (9-12, 4.55 ERA), McHugh (13-10, 4.34 ERA) and Doug Fister (12-13, 4.64 ERA – who was now gone) in 2016.

Heading into 2017, the Astros had made some moves to add some veteran leadership to the offense (one of which apparently led them to trash can banging) in Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran. Their big move on the pitching side was to pick up Charlie Morton, who had pitched only 17 innings in 2016 and who sported a career 46-71 record and an ERA far and away on the wrong side of 4.

At that point, the fans did not know that

  • Keuchel would return to near Cy Young brilliance (14-5, 2.90 ERA).
  • Brad Peacock would turn his career around with a terrific hybrid season out of the bullpen and in the rotation (13-2, 3.00 ERA).
  • Morton would put in a strong season for the first time in his career (14-7, 3.62 ERA).
  • And of course, no one would know that the team would make the big move that the front office did not make in 2016 and pick up an ace in Justin Verlander for the stretch run and the playoffs.

Of course, the offensive improvements that happened in 2017 (the team leading the world in almost every category) also helped the team to the ultimate win, but it was the pitching side improvements that were the bigger surprise. The uncertainty of the preseason evaporated during the long hard charge to the championship and really did not reappear during the 2018 ALCS run and the 2019 WS runner-up run.

Flash ahead to August 7th, 2020 and after a 6-6 start to a 60 game season, dotted by failing arms both in health and performance, fans would be silly to be certain about the fate of the 2020 Astros.  How many items are disturbing us now?

  • Ace Gerrit Cole, plus solid starter Wade Miley, and solid relievers Will Harris and Hector Rondon are gone
  • Ace Justin Verlander is out injured after one start and fandom is waiting for some word – any word about whether he will pitch again this year
  • Lance McCullers has been good for about 3 innings of good and one inning of horrible in his starts
  • Josh James lost his grip on a starting spot after 2 starts of walk craziness
  • Zack Greinke is a below average 5.00 ERA after 2 starts
  • Closer Roberto Osuna is gone for the year with likely TJ surgery in his future
  • Pitchers Brad Peacock, Jose Urquidy, and Ryan Pruitt have yet to throw a pitch for the big team
  • Ryan Pressly, is pitching poorly and may be hurt
  • Joe Smith is choosing to sit out
  • Chris Devenski and Joe Biagini are on the IL (well maybe that one is not a negative)

Sure there have been some really positive contributions by some of the youngsters such as Cristian Javier, Brandon Bielek, Framber Valdez and Blake Taylor. But a team that is depending on a pitching core of newbies does not seem to be one that is on the path to a World Series run.

So what do you think about the premise of this piece? When were you last as uncertain about the Astros as you are now? And if you are not uncertain right now….why not?

38 comments on “The last time Astros’ fans were this uncertain was…

  1. Last I felt this uncertain was probably September 2016.

    I was talking to friend this morning ( who is also my veterinarian) ( correction: my dogs veterinarian) He’s a good fan who keeps up win or lose. I asked him what would it take to get the Astros back on track.
    He said “4 good pitchers and a better manager. “
    I agree on the pitching. I thought Baker was doing a pretty good job.
    I thought he should have had the bunt on in those extra inning games but playing small ball is obsolete these days.

    Curious what everyone else thinks.

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    • Sandy I always think a manager with a fully.loaded gun looks better than one with empty chambers.
      I don’t agree with everything Baker does or Hinch did, but I think he has shown a lot of confidence in the young pitchers and they’ve mostly rewarded him

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m not uncertain about this club. I might be wrong though. When the 60 game season started, I looked at the schedule and came up with a 35-25 record. I don’t think we’ll be that good at this point though. We’re going to score runs. We’re already scoring runs without really hitting as a team. And that’s without Alvarez too.

    But as good as I feel about the small sample produced by our pitchers so far, especially all the new guys, I think we’re going to get beaten up on the mound. We lost Cy Young. We lost our closer. Pressly and Lance are not ready. Greinke has been late getting ready. Urquidy is not ready and we don’t know what he’ll do when he is ready. Somehow we’re already into the dog days of August and we’re not ready!

    We can still get into the “post season”. And then anything can happen. We’ll be somewhat of a long shot. And I’m good with that. But I’m still looking at these 60 games as an exercise in helping our new GM build his first team for 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bottom of the 12th….still tied 1 to 1. Mind boggling that every guy Dusty brought in out of the pen has been striking out the A’s! I doubt the guys are gonna win this game, but I was very impressed with the guys who came in from the bullpen! Presley was perfect tonight!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Since I am an eternal optimist, I am uncertain when the last time I was uncertain about the Astros winning :-p

    Certainly, there are many uncertainties every year! This year I am uncertain we will make the playoffs. Currently we are tied with the Rays and Orioles (!) for 7th place in the AL.

    I am uncertain about when we will see Verlander again. The Astros will certainly not rush him into playing unless they are certain he is ready.

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  5. After all these years of being a fan, one thing I am certain of is that when things are not going well, hitters will let pitchers down one night and pitchers will let the hitters down the next.
    Fortunately, we have not had a ton of this since 2014, but it’s going to happen.
    The question is: when will it stop happening?

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s the 64,000 dollar question 1OP. I am already looking well beyond what the club accomplishes in 2020. Individual results this year will help shape next years team. And what will James Click do to keep us competitive with the elite teams in MLB? Is our club moving into a lull period, or will we still be a 95 or a 100 win team in 2021? That’s what I’m uncertain about.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Honestly, I couldn’t watch last night’s game. This business of 4-5 hour games is not my cup of tea. I looked at the score before I went to bed and it was tied, which was scary enough. Can’t say I was surprised at the outcome when I checked this morning.
        Hopefully the turnover in personnel over the offseason will bring in some guys who are starving for wins, because the team we are looking at now is satisfied with their accomplishments and seem like they would rather be somewhere else.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Both team’s pitchers got out of a number of jams – but the Astros’ pitchers the most…
    – Greinke – 5th inning bases loaded / 1 out – 0 runs
    – Greinke – 6th inning man on 3rd / no outs – 0 runs
    – Paredes – 10th inning man on 3rd / 1 out – 0 runs
    – Paredes – 11th inning man on 3rd / 0 out – 0 runs
    – Castellanos – 12th inning base loaded / 1 out – 0 runs

    And the last three came where one mistake ends the game in the A’s favor. Sneed had two outs and 0-2 count and threw a good pitch on the outside corner and the guy just made a great swing to tie it up.

    When you start the 10th with Straw on 2nd and the 11th with Altuve on 2nd and can’t score – that is a problem. In the 13th they did have some bad luck – they were whacking the ball all over the place and only Bregman’s run scoring double fell in.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Just read an interesting article in The NY Times. Wish I knew how to post it here. 30 pitchers went on the injured list through the first ten days of the 2020 season. The previous high over the first ten days in the past decade was 12.

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  8. Who IS this guy pitching for the Astros today?? He’s got Framber Valdez’S name on his jersey but I don’t believe it. This guy hasn’t walked ANYONE and has struck out *6*!! Are you KIDDING ME!! WOW!
    Joe Smith’s mother passed away this past Thursday. Remember I told you she had Huntington’S disease, and Joe carries the gene for it and Joe and his wife have worked extensively with a fertility doctor trying to have a baby and not pass the gene on to their baby. Doubtful that he will pitch this year, he’s currently on the restricted list. Bless his heart, he’s a gem of a guy🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well at least we weren’t shut out. One more pitching performance like this and I will be the first to welcome Valdez to the starting rotation! The A’s, are relishing beating us. Part of me says ok think what you want, and part of me says the Astros really are the better team. I’m ok either way.
    And yes daveb Altuve’s attitude sucks.

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  10. It appears, to me, that the entire team is feeling sorry for themselves. It begins with Dusty. How often do we see him siding up to a player, in the dugout, and carry a discussion with him? I’m waiting…

    AJ always had someone next to him, teaching or discussing something. That kept the players in an uplifted mood.

    I know, I know, covid but they are wearing masks and not touching one another so Dusty can still impart words of wisdom and encouragement.

    It is getting close to begin serious worrying with the season’s quarter post coming up tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’d say that lackadaisical attitude from them disgusts me, but honestly I’ve been feeling nothing but disgust with the team since the scandal. But who can blame them? I can’t bring myself to care about this season either. I’ve tried and I just can’t.

        As far as Baker goes , well…when they hired him I said it was a mistake. He’s an old school guy. Now matter how much he’s willing to embrace sabremetrics and such, I think they’re not hitting it off with him at all

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      • Kind of like he’s the boss and the employees (players) should be seen and not heard along with him being somewhat aloof. Maybe my imagination but something is rotten in Denmark and it ain’t the Limburger cheese.

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  11. Sorry dudes and dudetts…..the young phenomenon JAVIER is just about done at the bottom of the 3rd. Just gave up 5 runs…..time to go take a shower. Too bad I thought he was the real deal.

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  12. Both the A’s and Dodgers have significantly better rosters than the Astros right now. They’ve loved every minute of the 5 games taken from us without a loss.
    That fight was flat out stupid. We’ve got guys pitching for us right now that just don’t know where the ball is going. Laureano charging our dugout? The only thing dumber was an Astro coach baiting him. So much for Covid protocol.
    Our best young guys will have good outings and bad outings. Probably 5 of the pitchers on todays staff won’t throw a major league inning for the Astros after September.
    For those who miss Hinch, teams hate us. He lost his own dugout. Regardless of what Luhnow, Cora, Beltran or anyone else did, if Hinch had shown the integrity that I thought he had, our club would not be an outcast organization today.
    The Astros play 18 of their next 23 at home. The A’s play 18 of 23 on the road. Our guys can roll over right now, or they can show some cojones and start playing good baseball.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Ramon Laureano has had a hate for the Astros ever since Luhnow traded him to the A’s. I think he’s done this before 1 or 2 times. MLB will come down *HARD* on him and anyone else in that scrum…..I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t get a suspension for the rest of the season.

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    • I’m sure Cora will get a pretty good suspension too. I think the Astros are going to need a little reworking over the coming winter in a lot of aspects. The Covid protocols for the road trips are brutal. It’s like being under house arrest. I’m beginning to think that maybe they should have just cancelled the season instead of trying this experiment. Trying to play baseball with out the fans is like trying to eat a sandwich without any meat, condiments, cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc. It just doesn’t have a lot of appeal to anybody.

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  14. When will Yordan come up to Houston? Uncertain, but I certainly think even if not 100% ready, he or Drew Ferguson could give us better at-bats than what Myles Straw has shown us this year.

    Brooks Raley? Now that is a huge uncertainty to me.

    https://www.mlb.com/news/brooks-raley-traded-to-astros-from-reds

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  15. if not for dan, gostros1 and a couple of others in here, i would not have heard of several of these guys. one thing about this season, we certainly have the chance to get a good look at what we have. i have been impressed with taylor (hal a loo ya we may have come up with a lefty that has been lacking for years in the BP), bielak and our old buddy framber. i dont get to see many games so my opinion is less informed than those of you who get to see all the games.

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    • It’s been a frustrating year for our baseball team, giving rise to others pursuits in life. You probably haven’t missed much, rj.

      Nice to see the young arms getting valuable experience. Guess I’m just as excited to see who storms the gates next Spring training with a list of 20 more young arms.

      This year, tempering any expectations.

      Like

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