2020 season finally over for Astros…Darn it!

Let’s face facts. We can hardly wait until the awful, terrible, horrible 2020 year ends. And probably three weeks ago, we thought that we could hardly wait until the 2020 baseball season would be over. We were wondering if the team that played embarrassingly bad down the stretch would further embarrass us in the best of three-game Wild Card playoff against the Twins.

But a different Astros team knocked off the Twins in two straight and then took three out of four from the AL West Champion Oakland A’s in the ALDS. Then they morphed back into a losing proposition in the first three games against the Rays in the ALCS.

The Astros then, behind their new leader in word and action, Carlos Correa roared back for three straight wins and came within an Alex Bregman extra-base hit of digging out of a 4-0 hole in the 7th game.

So, the fans emotions swung from negativity or apathy entering the postseason to a reason for positivity in both the postseason and heading into the 2021 season.

In the next weeks and months, we will have all those blog posts where we discuss all the decisions and actions that are to come during what promises to be a very eventful off-season, but right now will be the time to praise what we have seen in 2020.

In no particular order, here are odes to…

Kyle Tucker. The “Kid” has been a long time coming, but again he has been in the organization since he was drafted a few months past his 18th birthday in 2015. Well, he arrived in the majors with a bang in 2020 after a terrible cup of coffee in 2018 and a good cup of coffee in 2019. He ended the season first on the team in hits (56), tied for 2nd in doubles (12), 2nd in HRs (9), first in RBIs (42), first in SBs (8), 2nd in BA for qualifiers (.268) and SLG (.512) and third in OPS (.837). He hit .333 with RISP and RISP with 2 outs, and we can’t wait to see him grow in 2021.

Framber Valdez. There may be no single bigger surprise than Framber Valdez in 2020. He had shown talent and a ball with a lot of movement in his previous two stays with the big club, but he was walking more than 5.5 hitters per 9 innings in 2018 and 2019. But suddenly aliens kidnapped him and the substitute Valdez had control of one of the best curveballs in the game. By the time the short season (5-3, 3.57 ERA) and the playoffs (3-1, 1.88 ERA) were complete, Valdez was the Astros’ ace.

Carlos Correa. The biggest thing Correa did during the regular season was show up every day with his superior defense as he played in 58 out of 60 games. After playing in only 75 out of 162 games in 2019, this was a huge step forward. But it was in the playoffs where Correa really stepped up as in 13 games he had 7 runs scored, 6 HRs (only 5 in the regular season) and 17 RBIs! He also stood in front of the microphones and stood up for the talent of his teammates. He went from a possible trade chip to a possible future foundation piece for the team.

Dusty Baker. Most of us did not know what to expect from the “new” 70-year-old manager of the team. He has brought a lot of knowledge and a bit of serenity to a team that was in the unexpected territory as admitted cheaters. But perhaps his greatest skill this season was guiding a team to the cusp of the World Series which had lost two aces (Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander), its closer (Roberto Osuna), and its Rookie of the Year (Yordan Alvarez) and then had to juggle the usage of 10 pitchers who had never pitched in the majors before. It was a heckuva job to keep things together and to allow this team and many times these young players to believe in themselves.

Brent Strom. There is no doubt that the most important component of A.J. Hinch’s pitching staff was pitching coach Brent Strom. This was even more important in 2020 as the Astros had to put together patchwork quilts of a rotation and of a bulletin. Strom helped them make it through a “next man up” year to a point where their 2021 and beyond looks like a team built on a young and rising pitching staff.

Michael Brantley. The quiet man of the offense, all Brantley does is rake. He led the team qualifiers in BA (.300) and OBP (.364) and was second in OPS (.840). He has been everything the Astros wanted since he arrived from Cleveland after the 2018 season.

The “baby” pitchers. As mentioned above, 10 pitchers made their MLB debuts in 2020, while pitchers like Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy and the 32 y.o. Brooks Raley had less than a full season of experience before 2020. But they held it together, and some of them became high leverage dependable pitchers. Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA), Blake Taylor (2-1, 1 SV, 2.18 ERA), Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA) and Andre Scrubb (1-0, 1 SV, 1.90 ERA) were all thrust into the fire and stood up to it.

George Springer. George was solid in the regular season (.265 BA/ .899 OPS) with 14 HR and 32 RBIs and then was equally solid in the playoffs with 4 HRs and 10 RBIs. He will be the subject of much discussion and obviously a blog post or two in the weeks to come as he faces his first shot at free agency.

Jose Altuve. After the worst season of his career, Jose bounced back in the playoffs to be a hitting scourge, especially against the A’s (.400 BA/ 1.326 OPS/ 2 HRs/ 5 RBIs) and the Rays (.462 BA/ 1.447 OPS/ 3 HRs/ 5 RBIs). And in the Ray series, he came back from disastrous errors in games 2 and 3 to help lead the Astros’ comeback in games 4 through 6.

Jose Urquidy. Urquidy came back from (rumored) COVID-19 to grab a spot in the rotation down the stretch and into the playoffs. He had done well in a cameo in 2019 and showed well again in a partial 2020 appearance.

Lance and Zack. Lance McCullers and Zack Greinke kept the rotation together. They were both a little up and down (Zack – 3-3, 4.03 ERA), (Lance – 3-3, 3.93 ERA) but they showed up for 23 of the Astros 60 starts and that was critical in a season of injuries and illness and disarray.

Martin Maldonado. His BA (.212) was no great shakes, but for a catcher, his .350 OBP/ .727 OPS/ 6 HRs/ 24 RBIs were good. But that did not matter much. His ability to handle 26 different pitchers in a 60 game season and to nursemaid all the youngsters was a wonder. Next to Strom, he was the most critical component for a piecemeal pitching staff.

Gary Pettis. 3B coach Pettis went down with cancer towards the end of the season, but he was an inspiration to the team as he came back to watch them in the ALCS. All of God’s blessings on Gary Pettis and his family.

Well, there are some major highlights from this writer on the year. What about you?

33 comments on “2020 season finally over for Astros…Darn it!

  1. -I’m happy that Jose Altuve was able to find his swing in the playoffs. I believe he was completely drained after this trying season, but managed to hit good Rays pitching anyway.
    -I am delighted the most about defeating Oakland in the divisional series. Best moment of my entire Astros season.
    -So happy to see Framber make the jump from a guy with potential to a guy who has found it.
    -Happy to see LMJ pitching again.
    -Happy that doctors figured out what was wrong with Yordan and maybe got it fixed.
    -Very happy about Michael Brantley’s performance and health. This guy deserves a lot of credit for his perseverance over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Moving ahead. That’s a good thing right now. Over across the way the discussion today is a game by game breakdown of why we lost to the Rays. Enough of that. I’m most pleased that we seem to have identified at least 5 players during this 60 game exhibition season and expanded playoffs that will be big contributors going forward. A badly needed power hitting starting outfielder, two or three quality rotation guys and at least one solid option for the pen. I have not even mentioned the possibility of having a real lefty reliever. And this is without even exploring the minor league system. Maybe Abreu won’t be fat next year. Maybe Whitley will somehow finally harness his God given talent. Wouldn’t that be something? Plenty more to talk about later.

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    • You are right, Dave about everything we found out and about the future.
      I am holding back so much about the Astros I feel I’m going to burst.
      However, there seems to be time on the horizon to get to all of it, God willing.
      Really looking forward to the discussions with you and everyone else on this blog.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, no need to dwell on any losses. There is far more to be excited about than I anticipated before the year started. Now it’s time to see who they can keep or sign this off-season. Also, I have no interest in watching the Dodgers play. I’m into the off-season now.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The Mrs. and I are going to watch Channel two, tonight, at 6:30 pm, to see the Jeff Luhnow interview. I listened to Matt Thomas, 790 am, interview the woman who interviewed Luhnow and she said he placed no boundaries on questions.

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  4. Tucker: He led all of MLB with 6 Triples. Was tied for 6th in the AL with Olson of OAK & Rosario of MIN with 42 RBI. Was tied for 7th (with 7 others) with 8 SB.

    Correa: Was the top SS in the AL with 1.1 Defensive WAR. He should win a Gold Glove, but since voting is subjective, you know how that goes.

    Brantley: His .300 BA was tied for 8th in the AL with Bogaerts of BOS and tied for 9th with Alberto of BAL, Adames of TBR & Abreu of CHW with 15 Doubles.

    Springer: Was tied for 7th in the AL with Jimenez of CHW, Olson of OAK & Lowe of TBR with 14 HR. Was 10th in the AL in SLG% (.520), OPS (.899) and Runs scored (37).

    Gurriel: Was tied for 2nd in the AL with Canha of OAK & Reyes of CLE with 5 Sacrifice Flies.

    We did not get the production we may (or may not) have expected from Altuve, Bregman and Correa, but considering the production we got from all of our new pitchers, falling 5 wins short of the ultimate goal was a big success for 2020.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Fascinating in several ways. Luhnow comes off sincere, sometimes emotional. Hard not to believe him. I wonder though, in this day and age, why didn’t he sue someone if he wanted to protect his integrity? The interview also seemed as though he knew exactly what question was coming for the entire 37 minutes and had carefully rehearsed his responses. But I think I’ve got at least a bit of doubt now anyway. I’ve been hard on Luhnow.
    I still believe he should have been fired, simply because he did not have a pulse on his charges. But is this the beginning of the next chapter of the Astro Cheating Scandal? I hope not. Is Rusty Hardin filing a lawsuit against MLB on behalf of Luhnow tomorrow morning? At the very least, others will be chiming in. And MLB has got to be very pissed off that Luhnow decided to speak up on the eve of the World Series. That was certainly no accident. At the very least, I’ll read the book when it comes out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • His responses don’t pass the smell test. I think my biggest issue is his entire tenure there was conversation that he was blinded by arrogance and had his hands in everything that happened. Now, we are supposed to believe he was innocently going about his job, but not really powerful enough to stand up to the unnamed (but lower on the hierarchy?) employees?

      I was surprised he didn’t reveal any of the dirt they had on other teams. I imagine he knew that wouldn’t away public opinion, but I’ll buy the book expecting some details of what they knew and what they expected. I do agree with his sentiment that as talented as the team was there was no reasonable reason to cheat.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Framber was 9th in the AL with 1.118 WHIP, 6th with 70.2 IP, 5th with 2.038 BB/9, 8th with 76K, 9th with 9.679 K/9, 6th with 4.75 K/BB, 2nd with 0.637 HR/9 and 3rd with 2.85 FIP.

    Greinke was 10th in the AL with 1.134 WHIP, tied for 10th with 67.0 IP, 2nd with 1.209 BB/9, 3rd with 7.444 K/BB, tied for 4th with 0.806 HR/9, 2nd with 2.80 FIP and tied for 2nd with 13 others with 12 Games Started.

    Hopefully Lance, Urquidy & Javier can join them on the leader board next year.

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  7. Q. Jeff, these guys who cheated, who hired them?
    A. I didn’t know they were cheaters!
    Q. Jeff, If you had seen these guys cheating, would you have stopped them?
    A. Of course!
    Q. Why didn’t you ever walk down into your clubhouse or video room and catch them cheating during an entire season?
    A. That’s not my territory.
    Q. Jeff, who was in charge of baseball operations?
    A. Me
    Q. Then was the the baseball clubhouse your territory.
    A. No
    Q. Thanks, Jeff, for giving us the answers we needed.

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  8. I really have no interest in hearing Luhnow’s comments. I’d give him a B+ overall, and know frankly he’s a terrible scout. Witness his heart throb for Jack Chapman. Who? Exactly.

    Instead, Luhnow got real lucky having *Oz Ocampo* who brought us 20+ great int’l players. Marwin, on his own merits, kind of made him look like a genius. JL hit a homer with Elias Medjal Goldstein intellects; Taubman found Morton; Charlie Gonzales found Yordan, and the development guys in Strom Miller and other pitching coaches. JL was blessed to have an owner group that tripled their investment so quickly. But without war profits and fine dining down w Covid — now what? Oh, and with tanking which this particular Boys Club did not take too kindly to, since they have a huge gambling contract and MUST prove the integrity of each game: the Astros were built on hitting 5 of 6 Top Amateur Draft picks. There is undue backlash from what Luhnow didn’t do right, than from anything he *did* do. A derivative of dookie.

    Yep, the ship has sailed and sunk. Adios!

    Click deserves his own show, and that’s what we’re full force pushing toward. 2017 is a vapor. We have our own huge challenges ahead in whittling down this roster and navigating some international signings in January. And hopefully we will acquire a few free agents when Brantley reddick Devo Peacock and most likely, George Springer walk for greener pastures.

    Here are a few I’d sign

    James McCann – good hitting catcher will be in line for 2 yrs and 10-14 million. Since we are paying Maldy so little, we’d have to convince McCann to take the 12. I feel Stubbs needs another year before he assumes true backup, and Garneau was just a filler.

    I’d look at signing one, solid middle rotation piece like Garrett Richrds, who was impressive against us this year. Mike Minor is another, poised with good control & arsenal. I’ve liked Odorizzi a long time!

    If we lose the OF, I’m only interested in one (2 yr filler), who will mostly start and platoon. Higher to lower scale: Marcell Ozuna 2/36 mil, Marte 2/20, Grossman 2/10. I’m high on several prospects and Leon for late-’21 arrival.

    We’ll have a swarm of good Outfielders in 2022 Spring Training. A swarm!

    Not sure what it would take to keep Correa; or to keep LMJ; or if we want to do either? Both would be excellent trade pieces though. If it looks like we are out of the race by deadline next year, we might get a goodly portion for Correa to push a team over the top. But we would get much more by doing it in the Winter. Does Correa on the lineup side increase our chances +/- 3%, does McCullers, and can we replace that in trade for longer term gains is my question? I would think that if Correa is truly Sold-Out and the “leader of this team,” we’d hear grumblings of an extension, and not like last year when he texted Luhnow to find out if the team was trading him. He called Beltran first, before Jeff btw, to find out if Mets talked about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a former manager myself, though not in baseball, I agree with your assessment of Luhnow’s lieutenants. Always surround yourself with good people was my mantra.

      Ozuna for the club. I wanted him years ago. Mike Minor is a go.

      I would approach Correa about an extension and shop McCullers.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. So far Click hasn’t shown me much. Unless I hear it from Crane’S mouth I don’t believe Springer will be back, and same for Brantley. Again this club WILL be up against the do the players they want, want to come here. I think you can X out Robbie Grossman, and Mike Minor. Personally I would not she’d a tear if McCullers left. You never know which McCullers is going to take the ball every 5th day, the guy is a drama king. Yordan opened so many eyes this year as did Javier, but I have a feeling Javier is going to the pen as the long guy. It’s just me thinking, but do you folks think Paredes, could eventually be a closer? He never refused the ball, and his 100+ fastball was AWESOME!
    My good news is, I’ve been on a drug (daily injections) named Tymlos. There are only two osteoporosis drugs that actually grow new bone, Tymlos is the newest of the two. I’ve been on it for a month, and I will stay on it for about 18 months max, because it has a “black box” warning. After that I will be put on a maintenance drug for the rest of my life. We won’t know exactly how much bone I have grown until next August, that’s when I will have another bone density test. I’m crossing my fingers and toes that everything will be positive for me. My goal is to be able to walk again without this walker by Christmas….that might be too optimistic but that’s what I’m aiming for. I still have a fracture at T12 that has not healed but my orthopedic surgeon said it might take more time for that one. Thanks for all your good thoughts and prayers, they mean a lot to me. Thank you again.
    No….I’m not going to watch the World Series.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I watch any WS it will be with my sound off and with my good wishes all to the Rays. I will not listen to Joe Buck, who along with his football announcing partner Troy Aikman was heard on hot mike making snarky comments about a military fly over. I disliked you before Joe, now you can go away as far as I am concerned.
      Praying for you Becky.
      As John Lennon sang “All I am saying, is give Clink a chance…” Or something like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Mixed feelings About Luhnow. He really seemed sincere but as was said, he obviously knew what questions were coming.
    I never thought he was as good as he got credit for. But he sure got lucky in building this team.
    Time to move on to Click and see what he’s got for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Click was the man from the moment he was hired.
    Watching him deal will be fun.
    How will a fanless season change the way the Astros roll?
    Click has seen some of the Astros young pitchers. What about all of the arms he hasn’t gotten to use yet?
    What surprises are in store for us?
    You know, 2021 doesn’t have to be the end of something great. It could be the beginning of something just as great.
    Forrest Whitley is Rule 5 eligible. So is Ivey, Solomon, Solis, Rivera and Nova, all of whom are on the top 30 list of prospects.

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  12. Of those six Rule 5 guys, I think we’d want to protect all of them. So whose spots on the roster do they take?

    Would love to have both Springer and Brantley back, but I have a feeling our budget will allow us to sign only one of them (or one free agent OF), so that’s one spot. Aledmys or Straw will be the 3rd OF with Tucker.

    Peacock and Reddick are almost certainly gone, so that’s two more spots.

    Guessing the other three spots will be replacing DeJong, Mayfield and Sneed.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Just noted the score of the Dodgers-Rays opener. Might be a quick series. I think we would have matched up better.

    Straw has not convinced me that he’s even a viable bench guy. Nor has Toro. Honest Abe actually had a pretty good shot at asserting himself this summer but with all the injuries but did not take advantage of his expanded playing time. I had high hopes for both guys, although I was impatient with Tucker too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I saw that score too and I thought the same, even with our “depleted” pitching. I like you have not been impressed with Toro but Straw may need a little more time. As a defensive outfielder I like him but the hitting is crucial. We don’t need starters or replacements that can barely hit over the Mendoza line. One thing that drives me absolutely crazy is our guys not taking advantage of the shift to get hits. I saw some of that this year but when someone gives you the whole side of the infield and you still keep trying to pull the ball that’s stupid.

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    • Yeah I keep seeing the White Sox brought up. They have two youngsters that are their future in the outfield in Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. They had picked up Nomar Mazara from the Rangers and he was just awful in 2020. They would like Springer to bring that veteran leadership to their OF.
      Sportsrac shows their payroll was $130 MM (before the ratio adjustment) in 2020 and looks like they are on the hook for $122 MM in 2021 – not sure if any of that is likely going away.
      In a blast from the past – they are paying 45 year old Paul Konerko a million dollars next season. Talk about deferred payments

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think the only chance we have at signing Brantley or Springer is if either believes the rest of the guys coming back give us a chance to win in 2021. Quite frankly, I think if Yordan had been or Verlander not suffered the elbow injury we breeze through the playoffs in 2020. The former has a good chance to come back in 2021 and pound the ball. The latter is unlikely to put on our uniform again unless he loves Jose Altuve enough to resign for 2022+.

      The White Sox make a lot of sense for Springer on paper. I suspect who they hire for the managerial position will play a big role, but they have some talent and with a good offseason should be in position to challenge for that division again. I’ve always bought into the line of thought that Springer would either stay in Houston or head back to the NE, but I don’t think he’s really shared what he wants to do. I just hope Brantley doesn’t sign with the Yankees. I suspect that’s not a good fit at this stage of his career given the liabilities of Judge/Stanton possibly limiting DH possibilities.

      I do truly believe that both Brantley and Springer want to win more than they want higher dollar amounts. I’d be shocked to see them follow the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado free agency plans.

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      • Even if that were true, Win over Money, it’s still relative. They aren’t coming back to Houston period end of story. Or they would have already intimated. I’d bet we offer them both QO’s as a liability for them to be selected, but the money will be so lucrative it won’t matter. And that is why we will offer them, knowing they won’t Colby Jack us.

        Brantley will get a 3 yr deal, and Springer a 5 or more yr deal.

        Big name players do not STAY in Houston, we all know this.
        Pettitte Clemens Big Unit Cole JV Beltran, they all leave for much bigger bucks.

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      • GS, remember, JV actually signed an extension to stay in Houston. He is the outlier.

        The others you mentioned did leave.

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