2020 Astros: Who are these guys?

As the 2020 Astros toddle along towards a possible playoff run (or in their case a possible playoff stroll), the fans are left in a bit of a quandary.

The last few years the team had an identity. From 2017 through 2019 they had 100+ wins each season and were a very dangerous club. In 2017, they were the best hitting club in the majors and the World Champion. In 2018, they were the defending World Champs and with a whole season of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole along with Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel, a lethal pitching team that was derailed by injuries and possible Red Sox shenanigans in the playoffs. In 2019 they were the best pitching team in the AL as Zack Greinke joined Cole, Verlander and Wade Miley down the stretch.

The 2020 Astros are harder to pinpoint and the biggest reason is that due to personnel losses, injuries and illness they have used 43 players over 49 games, 26 of them pitchers and 10 players making their major league debuts. It is obvious that they are not close to the 2017-2019 Astros, but it is not obvious who they are.

  • Are they the team that ripped off 8 wins in a row in mid-August or recently lost 8 of 9 on a recent road trip?
  • Are they the 17-7 home team or the 7-18 road team?
  • Are they the team that until the last few days was #2 in the AL in runs per game or the team that scores less than 2.5 runs in their losses?
  • Are they the team that thought their season would depend on the starting pitching of Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr.and Jose Urquidy or the team that has had to depend on starters like Cristian Javier, Framber Valdez, Brandon Bielak and Luis Garcia?
  • Are they the team that featured a high flying core of their batting order in 2019 with George Springer (.292 BA/.974 OPS)), Jose Altuve (.298 BA/.903 OPS), Alex Bregman (.296 BA/ 1.015 OPS), Yordan Alvarez (.313 BA/ 1.067 OPS), Yuli Gurriel (.298 BA/.884 OPS), Carlos Correa (.279 BA/ .926 OPS) and Michael Brantley (.311 BA/.875 OPS) or their anemic 2020 brothers with Springer (.240 BA/ .830 OPS), Jose Altuve (.221 BA/.604 OPS), Alex Bregman (.263 BA/ .833 OPS), Yordan Alvarez (out), Yuli Gurriel (.260 BA/ .749 OPS), Carlos Correa (.269 BA/ .730 OPS) and Michael Brantley (.295 BA/ .863 OPS)?
  • Are they a team that is capable of winning when the chips are down or are they the team that is 7-12 in 1 run games and 2-6 in extra-inning games?
  • Are they the hovering around .500 team that may back into the playoffs and immediately crash or are they the 2020 version of the Washington Nationals, who battled through injury all season to squeeze into the playoffs and then went on a magical run?

Fans know this team has not performed near to the level of the 2017-2019 teams, but (some) fans may feel that if Verlander and Urquidy and Altuve and McCullers and Bregman can get their sea legs under them after injuries, that this team might do magical things themselves in the playoffs.

But we just don’t know.

22 comments on “2020 Astros: Who are these guys?

  1. dan i think we need moe of the 3 stooges to get altuve and biggio and bonk their heads together (3 stooges style) and see if it knocks enough sense into them to be able to lay off a down and out slider for strike 3. (i know biggio is retired but i think he still wails away at them in his sleep)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Even assuming everyone comes back fully healthy (which I doubt very seriously will be the case) there are a batch of better teams out there right now playing with a lot more energy. We’ve seen the best of these guys. Now we’re seeing the worst of these guys. There is no magic pill for 2020.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. daveb – Here is why I have some hope.

    First – the only bit of club-carrying anyone on the offense has done, was some early work by Martin Maldonado and Michael Brantley and some mid-time work by Kyle Tucker. We have not seen a super hot streak from Springer, Altuve, Bregman, Correa or Gurriel – all of which are capable of such a streak. Just one of these guys getting rolling could release the fire storm I believe has been dammed up to date.

    Second – The recent fine starts by McCullers and Urquidy and the promise of a late appearance by JV give me hope that the rotation can not only be solidified, but that this solidification can seep into the bullpen if guys like Javier are going to be used there. Adding three solid starters in the last couple weeks could be a game changer.

    Sure, we have seen some really bad baseball at times and that may continue. But baseball is the streakiest of sports and all you need is some kind of positive tipping point to get this team rolling.

    Oh – Dan P stands for Dan Pollyanna….

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m hopeful they can squeak into the playoffs and then start taking things seriously. I’m most concerned about the bullpen though. The offense hasn’t shown the ability to punish opposing pitchers the way we thought it would on paper. This makes a lot of sense when you look at who have actually been in the lineup for most of the season. So while it wouldn’t surprise me to see Springer, Bregman, Altuve, or Correa suddenly look like HOFers once the playoffs start, I’m greatly concerned the bullpen will do their best to undo any heroics the offense provides.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Three straight games in with great pitching. Four straight games with poor hitting. But we go 2-2 and our bullpen is not getting worn out which is a plus. Mariners lose and fall 3 games back and we have the tie breaker I understand.
    I hope Greinke washed the taste of that last one out of his mouth and takes care of his former teammates tomorrow.

    Like

  5. Who are these guys? The answers to all of the bullet points above is “Yes”.

    To add a few more:
    Are they the team that scored 5 runs in the 9th against all-star closer Jansen to beat the Dodgers on 09/12 or the team that got shut out by not-a-star pitcher Gibson and lost to the Rangers on 09/16?

    Are they a team that is similar to the 25-23 Marlins who have a bunch of players you probably never heard of or a team that is similar to the 18-29 Nationals, who they should have beat in the World Series last year?

    Are they the team that everyone else hates because of the “it” scandal or the team that we love and hope they can put “it” behind them?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Some thoughts…..
    – When his control is on – Framber’s curveball is an insane weapon – they just can’t lay off it and he gets most of his Ks when the pitch is just out of the zone.
    – Man, the offense needs to wake up. They had two of the meekest efforts against two guys who were getting lit up by everybody else – Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles
    – On Wednesday night the caught stealing of Springer in the first drove me crazy. Here is a guy with a high ERA coming into the game, you get a single to start things off and then you have a guy who has a career success rate under 60% try and steal. The Astros get a couple of walks after that and then don’t score. I had less trouble with Tucker getting thrown out later in the game, because they were trying to make something happen with one out in the 7th and Tucker is a high % base stealer.
    – They were talking to Baker about Tucker’s recent slump. Dusty said that what he did not like and what he talked to Tucker about was his “wasted energy” by slamming bats and helmets and such – especially when he has had some bad strike calls (and he has had quite a few lately) go against him. He told Tucker that what Hank Aaron told him is that its not the bat’s and helmet’s fault that he is slumping. Sometimes it is nice to have someone around with such a background and with such players to reference. Well, Tucker had the big dinger last night and night before he tattooed one with Bregman on 2nd as the tying run in the 9th, but it was snagged by the 1B. Hope he’s coming back around.
    – I feel like the insanely bad umping on Wednesday night (the guy was umping like he had the last helicopter out of Saigon to catch) with the huge strike zone hurt both teams that night and probably was a bit of a hangover for last night……not that our guys had been hitting well before that.
    – Josh James is like the fastball version of Framber. Both pitchers need to get ahead, when they don’t they either walk guys or have to come into them. They can both be unhittable or very hittable depending on how that goes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Astros get the bases loaded with no one out and then only score because Springer makes an insane slide on a wild pitch.
    Bregman and Yuli strike out looking
    Tucker at least struck out swinging.
    It felt wrong not to swing (Extra points if you can name where that quote came from)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Is this a good team playing bad or a bad team playing bad. Either way the emphasis is on playing bad. Regardless of how they finish this year, they ‘ll need to make some big adjustments before next spring. If they need to break it down and start all over, so be it. If they just need to fine tune it that’s OK too but something needs to change. After 2021 it’s all up in the air. I may get flack for this but I wouldn’t pay $30MM for JV or Greinke. Hopefully Altuve and Bregman will get back to their potential but what a disaster if they don’t. Something just isn’t right with these guys.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I think the worst thing that ever happened to Jose Altuve was hitting 31 homers in 2019. He’s turned himself into a hopelessly dead pull hitter and major league pitchers are delighted to throw him a constant diet of crap off the plate that he continues to lunge at. Yeah, he had a two out double last night when Rondon missed on the outside half of the plate. Altuve has four extra base hits in his home park on the season. He’s had a full quarter season worth of at bats now. A .601 OPS and a .280 something OBP? A .218 BA? This is an historic slump by a guy with HOF credentials career to date. Is he pissed off? Is he refusing to make adjustments? Or does he simply want to get these last few no fun games out of the way and go home? I don’t have spray charts on Jose Altuve from when he was an MVP or when he was collecting 200 hits a year while winning batting titles, but my brain tells me he was using the whole baseball field. Could it be that simple? Could he be so stubborn?

    Liked by 1 person

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