Participation ribbons are not good enough for the Astros

In the modern world, our kids and grandkids are rewarded for just showing up. For the 2020 Astros, that is not good enough, but it appears that is where they are headed.

After another snoozer of an offensive effort on Friday night, the Astros went down to the 20-32 Arizona D’Backs 6-3. Yes, the pitching could have been better, but lately even when the pitching has been better, the offense has been on vacation. After somehow squeezing 2 wins in 3 games against the 18-33 Rangers, when they had only 6 runs and 17 hits total, it was hoped that they would show better in their final home series of the year.

That hope was shattered as they needed a wild pitch to score one run with the bases loaded in the first inning. It was discouraging to watch three strikeouts in a row in that situation with Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel going down looking on strikes well within the zone.

While this team is nowhere near the team that lost in the ALCS in 2018, there are vibes coming from these Astros that perhaps like with that team, some of the guys who have returned from injury are not over their injuries, but soldiering on despite them.

Alex Bregman missed 3 weeks with a hamstring injury. He has come back looking tentative both at the plate and running. In the nine games since his return he is slashing (swishing?) .179 BA/ .303 OBP/ .553 OPS with only two extra base hits (doubles) to his name. This was game 51 for the team and he last hit a home run in game 17.

Jose Altuve has probably been battling his knee problems more than he has let on, but just came back from a 10 day stint on the IL. Since coming back he is hitting .154 BA/ .313 OBP/ .543 OPS with 1 extra base hit (a double to right center last night) and no RBIs. But this is nothing new, he has been bad for a long time. His last home run? Game 12. His last RBI? Game 24

As far as we know Yuli Gurriel has not been hurt, but his last 20 games have been pretty awful. Since Aug. 25 he has been slashing an anemic .191 BA/ .205 OBP/ .485 OPS with 1 home run. Look at that .205 OBP! You have to go back 30 games to find another home run for Yuli. Maybe he needs to go visit Carlos Beltran for some hitting advice.

Overall, Michael Brantley has been one of the better hitters on the team this season. But a quick look at his last 8 games reveal a .194 BA/ .219 OBP/ .455 OPS with 0 runs scored, 0 HRs and 0 RBIs. Knowing Brantley he will come out of this funk soon.

In his last 17 games, Josh Reddick has been on a complete dive as he has been slashing .143 BA/ .213 OBP/ .445 OPS. His 1 HR and 6 RBIs in those games seem almost mighty compared to that. Reddick may be playing out the last of his Astros career at this point and has definitely been in a downward spiral since the 2017 season at the plate.

It feels unfair to jump on Martin Maldonado, who carried a lot more offense than expected early in the season, but he has been slumping too. In his last 15 games he is hitting .178 BA/ .275 OBP/ .630 OPS with 2 HR and 4 RBIs. In his case it is probably just him finding his normal hitting level.

Though he had been carrying the team for about 3 weeks, Preston (oops) Kyle Tucker over the last 10 games has hit .162 BA/ .184 OBP/ .462 OPS with 1 HR and 3 RBIs. He seemed to be coming out of his slump in the last couple of games and boy is that needed.

In his last 27 games, Carlos Correa has been better than all those above, but has also been on a downward slope slashing .242 BA/ .287 OBP/ .624 OPS with only 5 extra base hits (3 doubles, 2 HRs).

It is probably no surprise that the one contrarian among this group of (so-called) hitters is George Springer, who has been the one shining star the last few weeks. In his last 16 games he is slashing .313 BA/ .353 OBP/ 1.009 OPS with 16 runs scored, 6 HRs and 9 RBIs.

The bench? Let’s just say the bench sucks and leave it at that.

The Astros have 9 games to right the ship offensively. It is almost impossible to picture this group of players continuing to hit at such a ludicrously low level. Somebody has to break out and start hitting. Right? Please someone convince me of that.

32 comments on “Participation ribbons are not good enough for the Astros

    • Well, Sandy I’ve hit on this before, but in general the following explains a lot of it:
      – You lost two starters – Cole and Miley to free agency
      – You lost two starters for most of the season to injury – Verlander and Urquidy
      – You lost 3 main relievers to free agency – Will Harris, Colin McHugh, Hector Rondon
      – You lost 3 relievers to injury for most of the season – Roberto Osuna, Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock
      – You lost 1 reliever to COVID concerns – Joe Smith
      – You lost the rookie of the year and one of the transcendent talents to injury – Yordan Alvarez
      – You lost your top notch manager and GM to stupidity
      – Two of your very best players, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve – missed time due to injury and have not been the same since coming back (Altuve has never been the same)
      – Gurriel is down this year, Correa is supposedly healthy but not hitting like last year
      – Your bench is bringing next to nothing to the team
      – A lot of young pitchers are being tossed into situations that would have been unthinkable a year ago and doing the best that they can

      It is frankly amazing they are doing as well as they are – they could be like the Nationals and totally flopping

      Liked by 1 person

    • At least, Crane has insurance to pay for the contracts in cases like this… Probably the end of his career. He is 37 now, he will probably be 19 when he returns. Yes, many pitchers have pitched at a high level into their 40s. However, how many did so after a severe injury such as this?

      Adam Wainwright When he tore his UCL in Spring Training of 2011, he was coming off back-to-back top-three finishes in NL Cy Young voting. Wainwright missed all of the 2011 season, but he was ready for Opening Day 2012. That first season, he proved he still had the arm strength to be a Major League workhorse, making 32 starts and pitching 198 2/3 innings with a 3.94 ERA. And the next year, he was back to his ace form. Wainwright finished in the top three of Cy Young voting again in 2013 and ’14. Wainwright was still throwing postseason gems in 2019, at age 37.

      John Smoltz had his Tommy John surgery in 2000. When he returned in 2001, Smoltz converted into a reliever, and he was just as dominant. In Smoltz’s first full season as closer in 2002, he led the Majors with 55 saves, and he saved 40-plus games in each of the next two seasons. Smoltz then transitioned back into the Atlanta starting rotation in 2005, at age 38, and was an All-Star two of the next three years.

      Finally, the man himself — the pioneer of the surgery that’s had such a far-reaching impact on baseball. Dr. Jobe gave Tommy John a 1-in-100 chance of pitching again after the surgery, and John took it. Not only did he pitch again, he pitched for more than a decade. John won 164 games over 14 seasons after undergoing his eponymous surgery. That’s more than half his career (which spanned 26 seasons), and more than half his career wins (288).

      John pitched until he was 46, and the only start he ever missed after the surgery was because he had the flu. Most importantly, though, John was a trailblazer for all the pitchers who have had the surgery since and been able to return to the mound. His legacy reaches far beyond his numbers on the field.

      There is still hope for Justin Verlander, if mainly for his keen and focused drive to be the best he can be. I would hope Mr. Crane would do a flyer on him.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I saw the short video Verlander posted today, and I think most of us (if not all) knew this would probably be the outcome. I want to thank the man for helping this organization bring a World Series to Houston….and the HUGE lift he gave the clubhouse when they found out Luhnow had traded for him. No one was more excited than Keuchel! They FINALLY got that missing piece that had been lacking to get this team over the hump.
    So thank you Justin Verlander for making MY dreams come true. I was at the game when you pitched your first start at home and you guys won the division.
    I clapped and whistled and cried because I felt like this team finally had a chance. When you held that World Series trophy above your head is still my favorite picture of that series. Your time has come and gone here in Houston and I hope with all my heart that you will go on and help another team realize their dream. Thank you sir from a grateful old lady in Kingwood Texas❤
    We will never mention *it* again.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You know what…I’m ok with that. He was healthy when he signed the deal. It’s unfortunate he got injured, but he is one of the pitchers in the game, regardless of team, who I have truly enjoyed following from his career at ODU to Detroit and finally to the best team in baseball. I hope his surgery is successful and 2021 allows him to rehab and return in 2022. I wouldn’t bet against him doing so. I just hope he doesn’t end up signing with a team that plays in NY, LA, or STL.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Astros offense really didn’t show up much but just enough to compliment some fine pitching. The Astros could have let the Verlander news affect them but they ground out a win.

    Like

    • Dan, I really believe they just want to go home. George is the only guy doing much right now and he’s got something significant to play for.

      My real interest at this point lies in what James Click will do to remake this club. And I wonder if he’ll run into the obstacle of guys not wanting to play in Houston.

      I think we’ll be a competitive team in 2021 but not an elite team. For that reason, I’d try to move Correa.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Convince you that this team can break out of it’s hitting slump. That is what you asked of us. Thanks, Dan.
    When this team decides to hit the ball to the side of the field where there are zero or just one fielders, rather than hitting the ball to where there are three fielders. Things will get better.
    When they realize that pitchers are pitching them strikes on the outside part of the plate and balls on the inside part of the plate they will then move closer to the plate and either get hit or get hits on the outside half of the plate to the spots where there are no fielders.
    The Astros are playing into the hands of the other team. Their RH batters refuse to hit pitches on the outside corner to RF. They try to pull those pitches into the shift.
    When they get runners on the Astros keep trying to jerk the ball out of the park.
    They need to hit the ball where the fielders aren’t. They remind me a lot of the 2019 Texas Rangers, who did the same thing all season long.

    Like

    • Is it the players, manager, or coaches or all three that don’t seem to get this concept? It appears that these guys are just going through the motions and can’t wait to get to the dinner table for whatever their favorite dish is.
      Now that we’ve lost just about our entire pitching core this year and next what is Click’s plan to revive it? There’s got to be some new talent out there to get it going again. Sometimes I wonder if trading away good players (Laureano and T Hernandez to mention a couple) was such a good idea, considering what we got. I’ve probably said this a thousand times but I’m not a big fan of long term contracts. I know we did what we had to do to keep Altuve and Bregman but the jury is out on the long term results. I had no problem with it but it does tie up 42MM for 21 and 22 and 60MM for 23 and 24.
      Question for our panel of experts. Does JV’s 33MM per year for next year go against the CBT for 2020 and 2021? Do we have to pay the “penalty” for this pro rated season?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I mean it’s either bad coaching or it’s players that just want this crazy season to end.
    They couldn’t all forget how to win in just a few months.

    I’m grateful for every minute Justin Verlander was in an Astros uniform.
    Best wishes to him for however long his career goes on and whichever teams he pitches for.
    I’ll always be cheering fo him.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t know why you’d like Springer, daveb. I mean just because the guy hits home runs every other game it seems and seems to want to be there and seems to enjoy what he’s doing.
    I’d rather watch the guys who look like they are in the middle of having a tooth removed without novocaine….
    I sure hope they find a way to keep George. He just plays the game the right way and is so talented.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I share your sentiments sarge. I think Osuna won’t be here next year. I suspect that Click will begin to make this his team after this year.
        Glad the guys came through (thank you George Springer) today. Pitching was super.

        Like

  6. I guess we will find out if he really is angry with the way the team treated him and delayed his debut.

    Luhnow is gone but Crane is still here. I hope he is not angry.

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  7. Just watching Sports Center. It’s striking to see baseball highlights, teams on the cusp of making or not making the playoffs playing with real emotion, enthusiasm, having fun. Our guys are certainly not in that realm. I’ll be happy when they’re done. Time to build a new team.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Playing the devil’s advocate here – I would say that with so many guys in a slump at once, I think we are seeing a team that is playing more tense, than intense.
      I don’t think you will see the guys looking like they are having fun, when so many of them have been in sub-Mendoza line sumps for 2 weeks or more.
      Hopefully they can bust out this last week heading into the playoffs, because if they don’t they may head home in a hurry.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dan, no matter what, half of the teams in the playoffs are going to head home in a hurry. 8 best of 3 series in 3 days are going to produce 8 winners and 8 teams who will head home.

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    • Billy pointed out Correa’s OPS dropping so low and I have to think the negativity of the season has really gotten into his head. We knew it was going to be ugly. In the 8th yesterday with the bases loaded and a tie game and one out, Correa let a get-me-over curve/slider over the middle go on the first pitch. Contrast that to his approach when he was first called up in 2015. That version of Correa would have feasted on a pitch like that…especially given the first baseman was close to normal positioning and the second baseman was pretty close to the bag…and punched it into right field. Luckily, he fell down 0-2 and worked the count even before lining out to right field. It was deep enough that Bregman scored. I think he’s back into the mindset that he has to hit everything 400 feet. That’s not where we need him to be going into the postseason.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. -Any pitcher starting against the Astros will look like the best pitcher in baseball on that day.
    -The best chance the Astros have to score a run is with Springer at the plate with nobody on. The next best chance for them to score is on a wild pitch or an error.
    -Who would have thought that losing Robinson Chirinos would cause our offense to go from #1 in team WAR to #22? By the way, the Astros Team wRC+ is now 98. As a team, when they stroll to the plate, they are below average.
    -You know what irks me the most? Having to watch and listen to bytes of Astros players slamming home run from years past to roars from a crowd that exists in a past universe, and then watching this team ground out into the shift or walk back to the dugout after an obviously hateful umpire rings them up on a pitch that misses the plate by three or four inches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s about time the players started arguing with the umpires on a lot of those pitches. Maybe it’ll fire up the rest of the guys. Since we’re not exactly knocking the cover off the ball I don’t think it’d hurt to do it at an appropriate time. Getting thrown out of the game is not the end of the world. Oh and how about our manager standing up for the players? Don’t see that unless I missed that one. Don’t be a wimpy, wimpy, wimpy. Be a HEFTY.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Once on August 9th, while playing, who else, Oakland at Oakland. He was thrown out for arguing balls and strikes. That was the only time.

        Like

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