Astros today: 5 reasons for optimism

There has been plenty of reason for gloom and doom about the Astros in 2020 as they limp along without ace Justin Verlander, closer Roberto Osuna, wunderkind Yordan Alvarez, and veteran relievers Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski.

The team that had won 66% of their regular-season games in 2017 thru 2019, 19 more wins than any other team over that period, has kept bobbing along near the 50% mark as this season draws to a close. It has been easy to be down on the team, but here are five reasons to be optimistic about the Astros today.

1) Health. Yes, I sound nuts for promoting health when so many are out, but two things to consider here. First, the Astros are right now as healthy as they have been all season. Second, the injured (Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Jose Urquidy, Josh James and Blake Taylor) have been back long enough to get a lot of the rust out of their system.

2) Offensive Awakening. Dan P has always been a proponent of baseball being a streaky sport. Perhaps George Springer is due for a slump. However, right now Kyle Tucker and Michael Brantley are heating up, and Martin Maldonado had their biggest hit in a couple weeks Tuesday night. About a week ago, Jose Altuve started hitting more to right field and has had some multi-hit games since then. Tuesday night Alex Bregman looked the closest to his usual hitting self since his return from the IL. Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit a couple hard outs and may be headed towards a turnaround. They may start hitting at the right time and if they do – watch out.

3) The Rotation is Rolling. With the return of Jose Urquidy to the rotation the group is in an improved shape heading towards a potential playoff run. In the last 8 games the starters have posted a 1.84 ERA, and have given the team a shot in every game. Lance McCullers was nails until he was asked to go one inning too long last time our, Framber Valdez has used psychology to become a solid pitcher, Jose Urquidy looks like the pitcher who pitched so well in 2019, Cristian Javier has been a revelation and Zack Greinke has struggled a bit lately, but we’ve seen him dominate before in the playoffs.

4) The Bullpen is Improving. After a few weeks of being the weak link, the bullpen is in better shape with a number of the youngsters (Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor, Andre Scrubb) having grabbed places next to veterans Ryan Pressly, Brooks Raley and Josh James. In those same eight games, the bullpen has given up 6 runs in 22 innings for a 2.45 ERA. It should be noted that 4 of those 6 runs have been given up by Brandon Bielak and Luis Garcia, who will likely not be the first ones called out of the bullpen.

5) Anything can happen. Once a team is in the playoffs anything can happen. Just last season the World Champion Washington Nationals came out of the Wild Card to win the whole enchilada. (Okay, even though they were a Wild Card team they had won 93 games). But the point is that the Astros are a team, whose core has been to the World Series twice and the ALCS once in the last 3 seasons. Can they turn things on if they make the playoffs this time around? Perhaps getting past the “pressure” of trying to raise unexpectedly low batting averages to the real pressure of just trying to win will shake some of the cobwebs out of their heads.

So here are five reasons to feel better today about the Astros. Do any of these move your needle? Are there other things that help you feel positive moving forward?

30 comments on “Astros today: 5 reasons for optimism

  1. Dan, you are tempting fate again with this positive post, so I will counteract that with the following :-p

    1) Health. They might be physically healthy but how about their mental state? See my comment towards the end of the last post.

    2) Offensive Awakening. I’ve been seeing a lot of bad swings that have offended me. Wake me up when the guys take better approaches.

    3) Rotation is Rolling. Greinke in his last 7 games: 5.88 ERA / 1.31 WHIP. Did he roll out of the wrong side of the bed?

    4) Bullpen Improving. Did you forget about Cy Sneed? In his last 7 games: 8.10 ERA / 1.95 WHIP. Yes, let’s forget him.

    5) Anything can happen. Yes, they could lose their last 5 games and miss the playoffs. Hopefully not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • On the positive side, Reddick got a hit and drove in two runs. Bull pen was good. On the negative side, bases loaded one out, no runs scored, 1 for 9 RISP, blah, blah, blah. Not optimistic since we have the worst away record in the AL and 2nd worst overall. And we’re 6-14 against teams > .500. It would be a miracle if we get to the WS. Much more than the Nationals last year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we have Alex Bregman back – best swings in a long time. And my sons were marveling at Altuve and Bregman getting hits in the same inning.
    The guys may be warming up.
    And it’s funny how they have not been hitting pitchers the other teams are hitting and tonight they are hitting a pitcher no one else can hit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thoughts from last night:
    – It was amazing to see Bregman suddenly click on. He had been taking better swings the last few games, but he must have barreled up 5 or 6 balls last night. I don’t think he had barreled up that many in the last month and a half
    – When Springer is zoned in – he is a monster to behold. He just has so much power and that ball jumps off there like crazy
    – The Rangers looked like a team going through the motions, this shows up the most in their fielding which seemed really half a$$ last night
    – I always liked Larry Dierker for letting the pitchers pitch a little longer and through danger, but Dusty at times makes me nervous. I think he thought Javier was going to cruise through the 6th inning, but because he got taken out of the rotation, he is still building himself up a bit. Javier looked gassed and nobody was warming up until he was quickly giving back lead.
    – The ball was really carrying last night with the roof open. Both Altuve’s and Reddick’s dingers surprised me going out, especially Altuve’s which took off at an angle like a can of corn.
    – Brooks Raley has been a nice pickup. His ERA is not that pretty, though some of it as they pointed out last night were situations like against the Dodgers where he put a couple guys on with 2 out and Cy Sneed relieves and gives up a homer. Lefties are hitting .125 against him.
    – Reddick of all people has looked good the last few games, knocking in runs late in the game
    – Man if we could get Gurriel and Correa to hit….
    – Watching Garneau hit, its no wonder Maldonado is playing so much
    – It was nice to see Bielak have a little success last night in a non-pressure situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The guys appear to not “fishing” and flailing at pitches out of the zone as of lately. Maybe the pitchers are just trying to work on their craft and that’s why we’re seeing more “hitable” pitches. I can’t remember when I’ve seen such terrible umpiring behind the plate this year. It’s ridiculous! Even Blummer and TK had to comment on the pitch that Odor took that was 6 inches outside but called a strike. Another comment on our broadcast crew. I know it’s their job to keep us entertained but the talk of how well we do against certain pitchers/hitters is frustrating when they pitch shut outs against us or our hitters who have had great success against somebody goes 0 for 4 with two K’s and a GIDP. Of course they did call Bregman’s home run. Just frustration I guess.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. -In defense of Blum and Kalas, they can’t really talk about the ballpark because they are not there. They can’t talk much about their new colleague because they don’t know her. They can’t talk about the ballpark food because there is none. They can’t talk about the playoffs because neither team is in yet. They can’t talk about most of the other teams because we haven’t seen most of them. They can’t talk about the crowd. They can’t talk about the clubhouse or Verlander or the minor leagues or the weather outside or the city the Astros are visiting.
    But, most of all, they haven’t been able to talk about how good the Astros have been. If the Astros finally clinch, they won’t have much time talk about it because their broadcasting ends with Sunday’s game.
    -Did the Astros just tease us or do they really have an offense?
    -I’m going to do a little research and see what kind of run support Greinke has had lately. It seems like every time he starts the Astros get on base and then do nothing. That is so deflating to a pitcher. No wonder he talks out loud.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yeah – I think they do a pretty good job based on the restrictions and as you say how little to talk about. I know how hard it is to try and keep things fresh and I just have to write a few paragraphs every other day – not fill 3-4 hours of broadcast time almost every day.
      Greinke is probably talking to himself because the last time he was allowed to bat in 2019 he hit .280 BA/ .888 OPS – better than almost everyone who is supposedly supporting him….

      Liked by 1 person

    • That was not necessarily a criticism of TK and Blummer, just an observation. Even they said last night that when they talked about Lance Lynn being so dominate against the league but the Astros got to him in Houston and again last night it sometimes doesn’t make sense. Also noting that pitchers with 5+ ERA’s coming in and dominating the team. Baseball is such a fickle sport, especially this year. Hopefully everything will get back to some resemblance of normal next year. They even said they missed not going on the road, having to broadcast from Houston. I’m sure they miss all the stuff they had become accustomed to as I’m sure most of us do too.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. OK – I hate to ask this but I will.
    The Astros magic number vs. the Angels is 1. The Angels are playing a 3 games series against the Dodgers. The Dodgers have absolutely nothing to play for except pride. They are baked into the 1st spot in the NL playoffs whether they win or lose. There is no WS home field advantage at play.

    So, would the Dodgers lie down to the Angels in a last shot to hurt the team they feel cheated them out of a championship, the Houston Astros?

    Like

      • I agree with Sarge. The Dodgers may rest players this weekend because they want their team rested. But, it would look pretty stupid for the Dodgers to lay down, when it is totally up to the Astros to win one game and eliminate the Angels.
        We also don’t know how the Dodgers feel about the Angels. They might feel the same way we feel about the Rangers.

        Like

    • There are members of the Dodgers who would absolutely throw all three games to stick it to the Astros. There is no way the entire team would agree or be forced to do so. It would be a bigger scandal than the Astros sign stealing for teams in MLB to purposely lose in that situation. I’m not joking there – consider that Pete Rose is banned for life for betting on baseball. The MLBPA would have to file grievances and James Harden would have to start a documentary film company to cover it. However, it is 100% certain the Dodgers will be happy to play the games out without putting forth maximum effort. Some will justify it as just trying to get into the postseason healthy.

      Like

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