Astros’ questions for the weekend

Before we begin this post on the frivolities of baseball, let’s pause a minute and honor those innocent men and women, who lost their lives 19 years ago today in a vicious attack on the heart and soul of America.

Today the Astros are taking a re-grouping day off in Los Angeles before playing a two-game series against the Dodgers. Two weeks from Sunday will mark the end of the regular season if everything comes off as scheduled and we know this season hardly anything comes off as scheduled. The Astros have played exactly 3/4 of their games and stand at a disappointing, but likely deserved 22-23. Barring an undeserved baseball miracle they are not making up 6.5 games on the best in the AL, Oakland A’s and will have to play a lot better to hold off the 2 games behind Seattle Mariners for the AL West second-place playoff spot.

So this seems time for a Q&A with myself…..

Do Astro fans even care at this point?

Dan P is the eternal optimist, so despite the slings and arrows of COVID and hurricanes and player protests and rule changes and shortened seasons and shortened games, I believe that deep, deep, deep down inside, fans still care whether their team wins or not. Except for those that don’t.

How legitimate would a championship be under these circumstances?

Well – let’s see. Is the season anywhere close to 162 games? No, it is less than 40% of a regular season. Will all the teams that make the playoffs be deserving of making the playoffs? Based on the Astros currently being on the inside of the playoffs right now, probably not. And the fact that there will be 60% more teams making the playoffs than normal – probably not. Will the revised playoffs result in the very best team grabbing the crown? The three-game early series and the extra round of playoffs point to a good chance that top teams may struggle to make it to the championship. We can hope the Dodgers win it and then shut up about what happened in 2017. Bottom line is that it is hard to say this will be a legitimate championship this year, but don’t try to tell that to the fans of the winning team.

What is wrong with the Astros?

A good question Dan P! When we compare this team to last year’s team the contrast is pretty evident.

  • Last year the Astros were led by GM Jeff Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch. While we might say that new GM James Click and Manager Dusty Baker may be more ethical sports than their predecessors, you really cannot say that either of them is better than the two highest-performing GM and manager in team history.
  • The Astros starting pitching last season down the stretch were led by the two men who came in 1st and 2nd in the Cy Young Award voting, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Behind him was a man, Zack Greinke, who may well have been in the top 10 of Cy Young voting if he had been in either the NL or AL for the whole season, the 14-6 Wade Miley and either Brad Peacock or Jose Urquidy. This season the five guys who have started the most games are Greinke (9), Lance McCullers (8), Cristian Javier (8), Framber Valdez (7) and Brandon Bielak (6). Now McCullers is injured and might not return and both Javier and Bielak have never pitched in the majors before. That is a huge drop in experience and while the youngsters have done OK, the other thing that has happened is that this has weakened the bullpen. Yes, Urquidy is back and Verlander may return, but the starting pitching has produced quite well-considering everything.
  • The bullpen has been the biggest difference between last season and this season. And that ties to the losses of Will Harris and Hector Rondon before the season, the sitting out of Joe Smith, the injuries to Roberto Osuna, Brad Peacock, Austin Pruitt, Chris Devenski and Ryan Pressly has decimated the bullpen and the fact that some of the next men up have had to start instead of help in the bullpen. The pitchers with the most appearances from the bullpen are Blake Taylor, Pressly, Enoli Paredes, Andre Scrubb and Cy Sneed. There is a good chance that four of those five (three of which made their MLB debuts) would not normally have been on this roster to start the season or maybe one of them stuck in the back corner of the bullpen. Last year the Astros bullpen was 2nd in the AL in ERA (3.75), 1st in WHIP (1.20) and 3rd best at allowing walks (only 197). This season the pen is 10th in ERA (4.58) and 14th in WHIP (1.62) and walks (106). Of course, they are only better than the Red Sox in walks because the Sox have one more walk in 45 more innings.
  • The whole offense basically came back intact from 2019 to 2020. But….. Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez made a cameo and was out for the season, former MVP Jose Altuve struggled at the plate, finally started hitting and went out with a knee injury, the team’s best hitter Alex Bregman started slowly, heated up and then pulled a hammy, George Springer has been on a very slow climb from a very slow start, and Michael Brantley had an injury cut deeply into his fine season. What has happened this season is with all the injuries, almost 20% of the at bats are being taken up by a very poor performing bench of Abraham Toro, Garrett Stubbs, Dustin Garneau, Jack Mayfield, Myles Straw and Aledmys Diaz. Despite this, the team has scored runs at a solid 5.02 runs/game 2nd in the AL. However, the team has not been scoring well late in games or especially in extra innings. A lot of this may be tied to the inconsistency in the lineup.

In the end, the Astros who were solid last season in one-run games (24-19) and in extra-inning games (10-4) are 7-11 in one-run games and 2-6 in extra frames this season.

Oh well, I wanted to ask more questions, but lunchtime is over and I can hold those for another time. So, how would you answer those questions?

23 comments on “Astros’ questions for the weekend

  1. 1. I care. I’m not watching them much because I don’t want to buy into them after the crap they pulled. But I care because they are the lesser of the Big Three Weevils, the NBA, NFL and MLB.
    2. I say again, the team that wins the 2020 World Series deserves all the credit due any other winner and maybe even more. If they win it all they would have won in a pandemic stricken regular season and outlasted 15 teams in the postseason and they will have done it with an extra round of playoff games. Nobody in baseball ever won a 16 team playoff. If you put an asterisk in there it is because you haven’t thought enough about it.
    3. What is wrong with the Astros? a huge number of injuries to a lot of key players and a letdown by the healthy ones. The two best players on the team are a 36 year old pitcher whose fastball comes in at 88 MPH and an outfielder who started off the season as a fourth outfielder stuck into the DH role.
    4. If the Astros get healthy for the last two weeks of the season and get a playoff spot, they would have to go into the home park of a high seed and win two games. If they did that, they are back to even in the playoffs and have as good a chance as anyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What is wrong with the Astros?

    Injuries to the pitching staff have taken a very deep toll on the staff. Most baseball pundits have stated that the loss of Cole would have set the starting staff back. It seems to have done just that. But, considering how anemic the offense has been most of the time, would Cole have been a winning pitcher at this point if he had resigned with the club? Who could have seen Verlander going down, for most of the season with an injury? Our shut down closer, Osuna, out to begin the season then getting hit with the injury bug. Pressly being a shell of his former self. James, Devenski, Peacock being injured and ineffective most of the time. Youngsters being forced to ramp up quickly and not being prepared for MLB hitters.

    The offense has been “offensive” when the going gets tough. Springer and Bregman with their usual sloooooooow starts. Then, as they begin to heat up, the injury bug hits. Mr. Pro, Brantley, is injured. Reddick is himself, hot then cold. Correa, hot and cold. Altuve… what can one say. He moved backwards big time then became injured himself. Alvarez was a ghost then injured. Gurriel has been somewhat consistent just no power this season. Madonado has been a most pleasant surprise among the regulars. His offense has been steady and his gold glove defense has returned! New guy, Tucker has been a surprise. Slow start then become so hot that he literally carried the club for awhile and moved up into the leadership board of RBIs for the MLB. Now, he is disappearing once again. His defense is wanting.

    James Click has been a phantom since the season began. Staying put at the trading deadline was a no-no for me. The club was till in contention for the number one seed in the AL and no help arrived. I guess I have been spoiled by Luhnow making the big splash. Well, Click is the man for awhile now.

    Dusty Baker is an enigma. I was happy to see him hired after AJ was removed. I thought he could be the one to carry the club through all of the crud moving ahead. After the season began, I noticed the lack of heart by the players, their going through the motions, lack of hustle, bad fundamentals. Dusty seems to have the attitude of not wanting to be bothered by the players. He seems to just want to roll the ball out onto the field and let them play. He stays away from the players. No emotion. The players reflect that lack of emotion.

    It appears that the loss of Luhnow and Hinch have driven the club into a deep depression. I do not see them recovering anytime soon. I know those two had to go. Still, I hope AJ can, once again, come to the rescue of the club in a year or two. His psychology is missed by the team.

    Liked by 2 people

    • When “the day of infamy” occurred on Jackie Robinson Day, Dusty and the radio man, Ford, made a startling, yet similar statement that really floored me and showed their ignorance. Are they really ignorant or just angry? They both stated that baseball has not changed for the better since Jackie came into the league. Really?? Look at how they are in their positions and how others have been General Managers. That really caused me to move on from them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. September 11 will always be the most disturbing day of the year on my calendar.

    I don’t care about the outcome of games at this point. I do care about the performances of the new guys, those that hopefully help make us a better team in 2021.

    I see no legitimacy in calling any team World Champions in 2020. 60 games. An unbalanced schedule. Teams that should be playing each other not playing each other. Temporary rules. Expanded playoffs to an extreme degree. MLB should not be the NHL, although it’s coming. That said, one team will get to call themselves World Champs and I can’t hold that against them or their fans.

    Our Astros have been decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball. It’s that simple. And after a 2019 season that should have ended in a World Series win, there has been a let down too. Most guys have not come close to matching their stats of last season. And our bench is thin. I also don’t believe that Luhnow nor Hinch would have made much or any difference in todays 22 and 23 record. In fact, they both get some of the credit for the 2020 exhibition season hangover. We are still a hated team today largely due to a lack of leadership from them. I’ll never miss those guys.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When it comes to Baker – I don’t always agree with the way he manages, but I never always agreed with the way Hinch managed. My gut feeling is that if Baker had been managing the Astros instead of Hinch that they would have been very successful, but may well have fallen short of where they ended up. On the other hand, I think Baker’s style may work better with the 2020 team than Hinch’s style did. I think he shows a little more patience with the young guys and may be a better style manager when there is a lot of adversity.
    The bottom line is that it is hard to compare how Baker and Hinch are against each other because it is like having Wyatt Earp and his six shooter face off against Rambo and his 2000 rounds, machine gun and grenade launcher. Baker took over a depleted team from 2019, and then he keeps having his weapons and his bullets taken away from him….

    Liked by 4 people

  5. 1. I care if the Astros at least play hard and most of them have done so. Some of them may have been trying too hard (e.g. hitters overswinging).

    2. Agree with 1OP that whoever survives at the end should be considered a legit champion.

    3. Too many injuries. It would not matter who is the GM and Manager of this broken down shell of a team. If Verlander, McCullers, Urquidy, Altuve, Bregman & Springer are 100% healthy and can give their normal production, we should do well, but that’s a lot of if’s.

    I don’t think Click could have improved this team very much at the trade deadline. I suspect other teams were asking for too much and our prospects have shown they are better than what most other sources have rated them.

    It seems we were actually worse than 7-11 and 2-6 in one run and extra inning games. Hitters putting balls in play instead of striking out and pitchers walking less batters would likely have improved those records.

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  6. Saturday thoughts:
    – Is it just me or did Bregman seem to be carrying himself oddly when he did play. He seemed to be walking more erect and stiffly
    – At this point a split with the Dodgers in LA might feel like a sweep
    – The market for Springer was probably going to be lower with the COVID hurting the economics of the teams. He missed time in 2019, but he played so well for the rest of the games he had to be a prime target. Now with him missing time and not playing too terrific the question is – what are we looking at to keep him. I think the length of any such contract might be a bigger question than dollars per year.
    – Carlos Correa is not Ozzie Smith (no one is) but he has been a magician in his own way this season in the field.
    – I can’t believe that 2 weeks from tomorrow we will (hopefully) be talking playoffs. In some ways I want this season to be over just like I want the year 2020 in the rear view mirror.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, are you referring to Bregman after his return from his injury or to begin the season?

      Springer has the unfortunate timing of a bad season to launch himself into free agency. I feel he might accept a one year, “prove it,” contract with the Astros now. That’s fine by me. The club should take Correa’s temperature, early next season, as to whether he would resign with the club or not before they approach Springer again.

      Gosh, we blinked and the season is almost over.

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    • Dan, I was responding to our friend Sarge re Springer.

      But I also noted a couple of days ago that it appeared Bregman was rushed back.

      So who’s next? Altuve? Verlander? I just want to get through 2020 with no further damage done, especially if it might carry over to February. I don’t see the value in it.

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  7. Part of my overall grumpiness but on the mlb.com Astros page they have a video labeled Martin Maldonado’s RBI groundout. When you ground into a double play you don’t get an RBI.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Question 3 is: What is wrong with the Astros?
    What is wrong with the Astros begins with this:
    The 2020 Astros are not even close to being the 2019 Astros. The starting rotation for spring 2019 was Verlander, Cole, McHugh, Miley and Peacock.
    In 2020 that starting rotation has provided a total of 1 start and 6 innings. The Astros lost their entire rotation from April 2019. It has been wiped out.
    The bullpen for 2019 as listed by most innings pitched was: Devenski, Osuna, James, Harris, Rondon, Pressly, Valdez, McHugh and Smith. They totaled 460 IP for the Astros in relief in 2019. The total amount of relief innings that the 2020 Astros have received from those nine relievers is 35 IP.
    In summary, the Astros have had to replace their entire starting rotation and their entire bullpen from 2019 to 2020.
    In no way is it fair to compare this Astros team to those of the past because it’s a completely different team.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The Astros’ bullpen has allowed 12 losses in the opponents’ final at bat. Just think, turn that around and the club has the best record in MLB!

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  10. Stunning! One run in the 8th off Treinen and 5 in the ninth off Jansen. Pressley slops his way through the bottom of the ninth and the Astros do something they haven’t done all year. That is a really good win!

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