The young and the old lead Astros over the Twins

A good friend of the blog, Becky checked in with a cogent comment yesterday after the Astros eliminated the Minnesota Twins in a two-game sweep.

“Thought Carlos Correa really took it to the ESPN announcers today. He let them know no one appreciated their constant slams about this club…..and I’m glad he did. There was nothing but silence from those three when Correa took the headphones off. Tucker has grown into himself this year, we see how much just a little seeing-eye single can make a big difference in a game like today. Good kid.
What more can you say about those “baby” pitchers! Dusty pulled off some pretty cool magic the last two days….”

Watching Correa launch his seventh-inning bomb in the second game to center to break a 1-1 tie was not as dramatic as his extra-inning walk-off in Game 2 of the 2019 ALCS or his extra-inning bomb in Game 2 of the 2017 World Series, but it brought back a lot of those feelings.

The Astro fans have been a bit spoiled by their Big 4 of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer as far as playoff production goes. The following shows how each has done in their playoff games and how that would project to a full season of 162 games. A few famous Astros (Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman) are thrown in here for comparison.

  Playoff Games Runs Scored HRs RBIs BA OPS
Carlos Correa 52 22 12 34 .255 .810
Correa – 162 gm projection 162 (proj) 69 37 106 .255 .810
George Springer 52 36 15 29 .264 .895
Springer – 162 gm projection 162 (proj) 112 47 90 .264 .895
Jose Altuve 52 38 13 30 .280 .850
Altuve – 162 gm projection 162 (proj) 118 41 93 .280 .850
Alex Bregman 46 gm 32 10 27 .228 .812
Bregman – 162 gm projection 162 (proj) 113 35 95 .228 .812
Craig Biggio 40 23 2 11 .234 .618
Biggio – 162 gm projection 162 (proj) 93 8 45 .234 .618
Jeff Bagwell 33 11 2 13 .226 .685
Bagwell – 162 gm projection 162 (proj) 54 10 64 .226 .685
Lance Berkman 29          (as Astro) 18 6 26 .321 .993
Berkman -162 gm projection 162 (proj) 101 34 145 .321 .993
Playoff Stats

What this tells us is that Lance Berkman was the gold standard for playoff performance for this team, but that Altuve, Springer, Bregman and Correa have been very good. The Biggio and Bagwell playoff struggles have been well documented and are shown here for comparison.

So what was the basis of the Astros win over the favored Minnesota Twins? It was a beautiful combination of the old and the young.

Golden Oldies

Contributions came from the foursome above, plus other veterans…

  • Springer only had one hit, but it was huge. The Astros were trailing 1-0 in the seventh inning of the first game and were looking like they were going to lose by that margin when George pounded a single up the middle with two outs to knock in the tying run. In a lesser sense, he hit the sure thing grounder for a third out in the 9th inning, that Jorge Polanco threw behind the second baseman. This led to the three runs that put the game away – one of which he scored.
  • Altuve had no hits, but his patience allowed him to draw two walks in the first game, the second of which drove in the go-ahead run right after that Polanco error.
  • Correa had one hit and two walks in the first game and scored one of the three runs in the ninth inning. In the second game, he had two hits and had the biggest hit as he launched the tie-breaking home run in the 7th inning 430 feet into the deep center field stands.
  • In the two games, Alex Bregman had two walks and one single. Both his walk and his single in the second game moved Michael Brantley into scoring position from which he did score both times. But there was no bigger defensive play than his beautiful, charging, barehanded toss out of the Twins’ Miguel Sano with the bases loaded in the first inning of the first game.
  • Michael Brantley continued to be the almost invisible hero of the offense as he played a big part in both games. In the first game, he had a double in the first inning, but it was his laser beam single in the 9th inning that brought in 2 runs and put the game away. His two walks in the second game became both the first and third runs of a 3-1 win.
  • Like George Springer, Yuli Gurriel only had one hit in the two games, but it was also huge. He led off the 9th inning of a 1-1 tie in the first game and came home with the go-ahead run.
  • He did not go deep into the first game. He gave the fans a few more thrills than they wanted. But Zack Greinke did what he has done many times in holding the Twins to 1 run in 4 innings. He gave the Astros a chance to stay in the game and eventually win.
  • Martin Maldonado had a hit of no consequences and struck out 5 times in the two games. But he had a critical tag play to hold the tie in the 5th inning of the second game on the same play where the Twins tied the game. But more importantly, he came back from the twisted knee in the last series of the year to do a great job of handling the pitching staff, especially the “baby” pitchers.
  • The last time we saw Ryan Pressly, he was blowing a save against the Texas Rangers that could have clinched the playoff spot for the Astros. He shook that off and came in to clinch the series and slam the door on the Twins in the second game of the Wild Card Series.
  • Josh Reddick had some struggles at the plate and one poor play in the field in the first game, but he did hit a line single and scored on Springer’s game-tying hit in the first game. In the second game, he was hitless but made some fine plays in the field.
  • Brooks Raley did give up the game-tying double to Nelson Cruz in relief, but he was put in a tough spot in having to face and pitch to the future Hall of Famer Cruz.
  • And the oldest veterans on the team, manager Dusty Baker and pitching coach Brent Strom did a masterful job with the pitching staff, and the first bullet below was the biggest demonstration of that.

Youth Shall Be Served

Not as many “yutes” (as Joe Pesci called them) played like veterans, but the four that did were tremendously effective.

  • The announcers were questioning Baker taking Greinke out after only four innings and 79 pitches and replacing him with Framber Valdez. Dan P was questioning the move and locking away all sharp objects when Framber walked the first two guys in the 5th inning. Framber after a visit from Strom settled down, got out of the jam and over his five innings of scoreless relief gave up 2 hits and no more walks. The two hits came in the 9th inning, and Baker/Strom showed extreme confidence in allowing him to finish the game.
  • Jose Urquidy threw a solid 4-1/3 innings to start the second game with his only run-scoring after he left the game. Urquidy has been a cool cucumber in the postseason for the Astros, sporting a 1.26 ERA in his 14.1 innings over the last two seasons.
  • 23-year-old Cristian Javier was terrific in relief of Urquidy in game two as he threw three hitless innings to carry the team to the brink of the next round.
  • The “investment” that the team made in not trading Kyle Tucker has come back with interest in this unusual 2020 season. It continued in this series as Tucker tied with Brantley with 3 hits in the two games. In the second game, he drove in the first and third runs with clutch singles in the fourth and ninth innings.
  • In the end, this series required a team effort from the young, the old, the offense, the pitching and the defense. That formula will need to be followed again as the team heads to the ALDS.

21 comments on “The young and the old lead Astros over the Twins

  1. Pardon me if I take a different path.
    The difference in this series was the past successes of this particular group of Astros in the playoffs and the past failures of the Twins.
    Both teams were tight in the first game, as it is a lot of times when good pitchers are in the game. But the weight of the losing streak the Twins carry came crashing down with Polanco’s error and Altuve’s base on balls. You could see the fight go out of the Twins when Bregman stepped on the bag and fired to first for the game ending DP. The vision of the Twins’ dugout after game 1 spoke volumes. They broke.
    The next series will be a lot harder. Oakland has broken their playoff losing spell and they face a team they dominated this year. But this is the playoffs and the Astros are in a longer series and their bullpen could be sorely tested.

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    • I accept that was part of it OP – I mentioned the Twins having this gorilla on its back in my pre-series writeup. But Polanco’s error would have meant nothing if, say, Framber had come in and given up 5 runs in 2 innings.
      It was a combination of what the Astros did and the Twins feeling the weight of that losing streak.

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  2. I enjoyed the sweep without even really watching those two day games. I love seeing what these young guys have been able to do in high leverage situations. In this next round, guys like Josh James will get a chance to step up too. Will he?

    Still no expectations from me. As Sandy and I shared yesterday, having this mentality is far more relaxing.

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  3. Mr. Manfred, in his infinite wisdom, ended up with all four divisional playoffs having teams that played each other 10 times already this short season. AL East and West teams and NL East and West teams play each other. All the Central division teams are out.
    I wonder which teams will be in prime time and which will not.

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  4. But if even by accident, he got some pretty good TV match ups out of the plan. I’ll certainly watch San Diego (I think the most intriguing team in this thing) play the Dodgers. And I’m keeping an eye on the Marlins too. But you’re right too. I’ve got no desire to watch more of the Yankees and Rays.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I thought it was interesting that the Astros had already eliminated the Twins before the Dodgers’ series had even started.
    And Houston plays their division series in Dodger Stadium and the Dodgers play in Texas.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the shout out Dan…..and a really good timely post. I’m still very much homebound, but I haven’t fractured anymore vertebrae and that’s wonderful! Still walking with a walker, who knows I may have to use that thing to get around for a long time….I really hope not.
    As for the Rays Yankee series I would LOVE to see “my sweet Charlie” play a pivotal role in that series. As much as I loved having him here….I hope the Rays beat Garrit Cole. Really….after Cole, the rest of the Yankees rotation is not remarkable. We can depend on the A’S organization to play that dam drum the entire series, which will drive McCullers crazy when he pitches. There’s a really good article about Maldonaldo on Astrosdaily.com. Dusty really leans on him to guide these veteran pitchers, and especially the young guys through this short season. I’m wondering if they think Stubbs will EVER take over catching. I’m getting tired of watching guys who struggle here get traded to another team and do well. Sorry I was all over the place commenting this afternoon!
    I’m still mad at them, but I wish the guys luck next week⚾

    Liked by 1 person

    • Becky, to ease your thinking on Stubbs, the Astros couldn’t pass up a chance to get someone with Garneau’s knowledge so cheaply, coming from A’s/LAA, as well as Maldonado having division experience. That has turned out really smart since the majority of our games have been divisonal.

      Regarding Garrett Stubbs. I’d advocated he stay in AAA before the season, not because he couldn’t be a UTIL player (currently filled Diaz Toro Straw), but because I knew we had some amazing pitching talent and Garrett needed to mesh with them for the future. Where just a wink, and the pitcher knows what to do.

      Stubb is very bright with high character quick feet, calls a good game and keeps pitchers calm; and his brother CJ slugged 600 in 2 levels above where he was projected. They might do what the Kieboom brothers never accomplished, play on the same field in 2023. I’ve written here before, but cannot be overstated, the Stubbs brothers had GREAT coaching, not just really good, by their step dad, HS coach and at Sothern Cal. They’re both bold leaders.

      With covid messing up the minor league season, he’s been able to hang around taxi squad or catch Garcia in Corpus, but because Maldonado has been so good, even 1.5 million Garneau isn’t getting many starts. Considering we offered Martin 2/12m in ’18 to stay, Boras screwed him over and told him don’t take it, ended up getting only 2.5M 1 -yr with KC. That helped us get him on the cheap in 2018 post-season when our pitchers had so many wild pitches that Maldonado couldn’t handle.

      Boy, has he changed that perception. Nothing gets by him now.

      To be honest, we have about 4 other catchers that are still very exciting, and it’s now a position of strength in the minors. Not like when we drafted #1 Robbie Wine, or Max Sapp who never panned out. Some of these kids are developed from late rounds!

      Depth Chart:
      Garrett Stubbs ETA ’21
      Mike Papierski ETA ’21
      Colt Shaver ETA late ’21
      Korey Lee ETA late ’21
      Nathan Perry ETA ’22
      Oscar Campos (fringe)

      When Maldonado 2/7million leaves next year, we will be in good hands from within at league minimum prices, and we didn’t have to trade off (Tucker Bregman or Alvarez) our best prospects for JT Realmuto.

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  7. GoStros1….Lord I hope you’re right. Maldonaldo is soo good I can’t think of him not being here after next year! Garrit Cole is having a LOT of trouble with Sanchez. I’m sure he wishes Maldonaldo was still catching him! Cole requested Maldonaldo to catch him last year, much like Verlander did about Chirinos. When you are an elite pitcher like those two are, putting your faith in a catcher like they did is as part of the game as your best pitch is. Thanks for the names you gave me, I’ll be watching for them next year! You put my mind at ease with Garrett Stubbs, we just never got to see him last year. Thanks again!

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    • Bless you on this Sunday, wonderful seeing your comments here!

      Yes, ma’am, and you are sure right. Gerrit Cole wanted Maldy very badly, but he was loyal to this organization (Crane) even after the F.O. was fired.

      I’ll be wishing we have a chance to beat the Yankees again this year. I’m not nearly as realistically optimistic we have the firepower, what with Cy Young, ROY and the Closer all missing.

      No one is more confident in our bullpen than I am, but there’s no doubt they are still too green against the best talent in the league today. We will have to use guile, deception, and depth to catch them off guard. I really like Enoli Paredes and Josh James to shine when it’s their turn.

      So far, Dusty has done pretty well. What’s happened with Framber is something special. If Lance can overcome his Road Woes, I’d be so happy!

      Many of our players, you just KNOW they can play better than they’ve shown. It’s my theory of throwing the reg season record out, the Astros have known all along what they have to do to get in. Sure, they’ve not played up to full potential, but why not play 11 rookies to get them battle tested, if you don’t have to win a division to get in? If our guys can kick in another gear, and believe me, these teams know what’s under our hood, it will only surprise those who took us for granted.

      Last note, a publication I’d thought about doing some writing for, Prospects1500 just put out a Top 197 in all baseball. They had count them, 1 Astro. Forrest Whitley at #37. Nobody takes us seriously.

      In some ways, embracing the villain role since they will never give credit where it’s due, never forgive us and try to make this out to be the fans’ fault for supporting them. Our guys might as well play like it’s Astros Vs the World, because it is

      Onward Upward Press on!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Game 1, McCullers vs. Bassitt; Game 2, Framber vs. Manaea.

    Dusty deciding to go with the youngster Valdez instead of golden oldie Greinke is a minor surprise.

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    • I would have stayed with the same program as last week; Grienke getting the start, followed by Framber at first sign of trouble. I’m not the expert though. Maybe Dusty is looking for a sweep thus allowing Grienke to start game one of the third series. Maybe Framber is getting rewarded for his work. Maybe it’s the match ups. Maybe Grienke is not 100%. That information certainly would not be shared now. Who knows!

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  9. Wondering who the Astros add to the roster for a 5 game series, where the bullpen will be used more. Brandon Bailey?
    It will have to be a pitcher they would use when needed, not just a guy.

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    • Bailey pitched live to a few guys yesterday. They may have been considering him. Good guess, but wonder how his “work” affects whether he’d be ready. Bailey is a pitch to contact guy, Longman and would be an interesting choice.

      The way I see it on last 4 pitchers to consider, if roster hasn’t been published

      Comes down to; Sneed, Garcia, Bielak, Bailey

      What I really wish is the Astros surprise them all and bring up Conine, but that just won’t happen. I wouldn’t even mind the same with Jojanse Torres! Back to reality.

      I would take Garcia in a dead heat with Sneed, Bielak, Bailey last. Maybe even Cionel depending on how he’s pitched lately, his stuff can be “meatballish” if left up, would be a knock against him vs RHB.

      As an aside, I’m telling ya, we are going to have to make a lot of room on the 40-man next year. If you look at callis’ MLB prospect rankings, one guy made a HUGE jump, JA Rivera. I’ve been mentioning we have to roster him; he’s just one in many others who can throw 100!

      “Coming out of nowhere in typical Astros fashion” is how almost every prospect publication words it, meaning,… We just never really noticed, I suppose?

      Like

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