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?