And then there were four?

The Astros rotation heading from 2020 into the beginning of 2021 has been a mathematical equation in flux between additions and subtractions.

  • In only 60 games in 2021, the Astros used 10 starters. Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy, Brandon Bielak, Josh James, Chase DeJong and Luis Garcia
  • Verlander’s Tommy John surgery removed him from the beginning and likely the whole of 2021 – down to 9 starters
  • Josh James’ hip surgery took him out of any consideration for being a starter – down to 8 starters
  • Chase DeJong is long gone – down to 7 starters
  • Brandon Bielak and Luis Garcia were not going to be considered as long as Greinke, McCullers, Valdez, Javier and Urquidy – down to the 5 starters who were the best at the end of 2020
  • Valdez in his first spring training start breaks a finger on a comebacker and is out for at least a little while and perhaps a long while – down to 4 starters
  • Jake Odorizzi is signed to a free agent contract that “has nothing to do with Framber’s injury”….color us cynical – up to five starters
  • Ten days after his signing was announced and only two weeks before the first game of the season, Odorizzi has not appeared in an exhibition game and the notes leaking from the team state he will likely not be ready for the start of the season – back down to four starters.

Now there has been some discussion that with three off days the first few weeks of the season, the team can get by with only 4 starters. That is not quite true as the Astros start the season playing six games in six days and unless they decided to start someone on short rest (not going to happen) they will need at least five starters the first time through. After that, they could get by with four starters until April 22 which will be the fifth day out of 13 straight days of games. Hopefully, by that time they would have Odorizzi back and ready to join the rotation.

Here are some thoughts about the start of the season….

  • The gut feeling is that the 5th starter will come from a foursome of 40 man roster pitchers – Brandon Bielak, Nivaldo Rodriguez, Brian Abreu or Luis Garcia. Considering they gave Garcia a playoff start, that might give a hint about where they are headed, but he had a delayed start to Spring Training and Rodriguez has pitched pretty well this spring.
  • Looking around the majors, the Astros are not the only team easing their pitchers towards Opening Day. It is likely that a lot of teams, including the Astros, do not want to burn up their pitching in ST when no one pitched many innings in 2020. The way teams keep their pitcher’s ramp-up in innings reasonable in 2021 may be the “story” of the season.
  • Here’s betting that at least for the early season, the Astros go with a 14 pitcher / 12 position player mix of the 26 man roster. They will be needing a lot of relief help in these games.
  • Another good bet is that there will be a lot of roster movement up and down for the Astros, who have a lot of players with the flexibility to be moved. You may see situations where these long relievers/ spot starters at the end of the bullpen are used in an extended manner in a game or two and then are swapped out for another similar talent from the minors to fill the long relief/spot starter role for a week or two.

How the Astros handle their rotation, especially early in the season will be a critical point to watch this season.  

29 comments on “And then there were four?

  1. Couldn’t agree more, well done!
    Lots of pitching it’s a beautiful thing.

    This is why it’s going to be a tough decision to keep Steve Cishek.
    *his contract is rather expensive since we’re close to the “cap”
    *there are a number of guys already on the 40-man to compete
    *there are guys like Hansen Torres not on 40 waiting
    *James Pruitt Stanek under contract and Baez take precedent
    *Scrubb Garcia Abreu Bielak Ivey might all be in the minors
    *two solid guy we acquired are waiting; Valesquez and Martinez
    *when Emanuel is ready in 18 games, we’ll have Raley and Taylor as well
    *I give Framber 10 weeks tops

    Where is there any room on 40-man when Whitley and Nova are stuck on it?
    Good problem to have and I agree 14/12 split (at times) mainly because the two catchers are workhorses and Alvarez Diaz reduces the need for another bench bat. By the way, it was definitely Dusty who said we may go with 4-man rotation te other day. I think he probably mis-spoke as you made a good point, Dan. Good thing we got Click who is a master of juggling rosters with phantom injuries and such. Now they simply divert this conversation by talking about the proximity of Sugar Land, but it’s mainly because Rays philosophy has everything to do with maintaining players with options, and that was how we lucked into Pruitt for Battenfield, as it were.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Four off-days in 2.5 weeks time.
    Best laid plans are to get 7 IP from each starter.
    We’ll see how that goes.

    I guess Garcia is pitching today, not Solomon?

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  3. Andre Scrubb leaves the game squeezing his arm on the HR ball he gave up. Looks dejected by the news in the dugout.

    Dropping like flies every game — will anyone acknowledge an epidemic?

    Will Harris is hospitalized with a blood clot in his throwing arm..

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  4. So we were given one nugget on the pitching rotation as Odorizzi will make his Spring Training debut on Wednesday and expects to join the rotation the second week of the season.
    Luis Garcia was bombed yesterday – don’t know if that knocks him out for a possible swing man spot on the club. Bielak who has been hit hard pitches today. Martes pitched well in 2 innings yesterday, but is not on the 40 man roster.
    Scrubb as was mentioned above left the game after Maldonado noticed his velocity was down and he had some shoulder soreness.

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  5. Watched six innings today and then turned on the golf tournament because it had more action and a lot better camera work.
    The team is flat. I’m flat.
    But we are going out to eat for the first time in over a year in a few minutes, so, there is a treat coming.
    Today was the second time I have seen Hunter Brown pitch and he is meh to say the least.
    Baker practically named Altuve as the leadoff guy after the game. Of course, Altuve looks terrible, so there is that.
    Credit to Bielak. He was going against an MLB lineup today and made a two-run mistake to get behind. But, he hung in there and got his team back in the game.
    Enjoyed watching the Cougars last night. Will record tomorrow’s game. too.
    Does anyone remember that 22 game winning streak the rockets had years ago? They are on the verge of another streak similar to that right now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. In case there is a question about enthusiasm for the home team, their spring training record is the worst in baseball by 2.5 games.
    After watching them struggle through the regular season in 2020, its kinda hard to be gung ho when nobody on the team seems gung ho.
    Then there is the minor leagues, which haven’t even reported to spring training yet. No team will have a clue how their minor leaguers are going to be able to help them out because they won’t see any minor leaguers play until after the first week in May. By that time, pretty much every major league team will have several players on the IL, and will be guessing about their replacements.

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    • I really don’t know if it means anything or is meaningless at this point. I need to noodle about that. The lack of enthusiasm is more bothersome than the losses at this point.

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      • The wait for Opening Day is nearly complete, and I have enjoyed the process of getting here.

        Lots of cards stacked against the 2021 Astros like Georgie leaving, Osuna JV and now Framber going down. Budget constraints, the lingering “It” that no ballgame can do without accentuating over & over & over… these are the things stuck in my craw. So, I have to drown out the negativity.

        The positives will be rooting for the kids who pushed forward to this day. Rooting for uncle Mike to keep our playoff run going. For Bregs and the Core to do what we know they’re capable. To see a full and healthy season of Yordan and Tucker. Lots to be grateful for — I’m ready!

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  7. So now they are saying Javier may not be ready to start the season and my question is – who is? I know Bielak is. I think Urquidy and McCullers are or are close. How ready is Greinke? And who would be the fifth if Javier isn’t? I saw Martes pitch a couple scoreless innings.
    Any thoughts?

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    • Martes has 89 games to go on suspension.

      Here are my thoughts for roster.

      SP: Greinke / LMJ / Urquidy / Rizzi / Bielak
      BP: Pressly / Smith / Javier / Paredes / Raley / Taylor / Abreu / Stanek / Ivey

      C: Maldy / Castro

      DH Bench: Alvarez / Diaz / Mac

      IF: Yuil / Tuve / CC / Bregs
      OF: Brantley / Straw / Tucker

      26-man

      Til Baez, Framber and Emanuel come online.
      Abreu Ivey are interchangeable with Solomon, Nivaldo.
      Depending on exactly how long the setback with James.

      If Cishek makes OD, he stands to make upwards of $3.5m which is not only an over-pay, but the question is how much better is he for one inning than; Nivaldo, Ivey, Solomon, Abreu, or even Hansen or Torres who would have to be added? With setbacks to James more recent, and Pruitt probably headed for 60-day, with Whitley and Nova on the 40-man with no chance to play, with Baez Emanuel and Framber all unavailable for a month (or so), this is the reasoning behind the construction. If we keep Cishek, it will signal a sort of “worry” from where I sit, and it leaves us no room whatsoever to do anything at deadline if we want to stay under the cap (which is a Big Deal this year).

      I say we go Young and try to stay healthier and lean on budget. Teams like the A’s did so, and now their young pitchers are ahead of some of ours, like Montas, Puk and Luzardo. We’re going to have to lean on Paredes, Taylor and Bielak more than originally planned.

      Side note: Siri has earned a spot, but McCormick is already on 40-man, and Straw will be the CF for a few months anyway. Maybe Siri and Robel Garcia will stick in minor leagues and not be taken after DFA? But I sort of doubt it.

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      • Forgot Martes has to serve the suspension yet – it seems like a century ago.

        OK – if Odorizzi is not ready for the first week of the season – who do you have in there to take one of the first 5 starts?

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      • Jake will be able to go 3 innings perhaps.
        If not, then Bielak Paredes combination, or add Abreu in that SP5 plan.
        Greinke
        LMJ
        Urquidy
        Bielak / Paredes / Abreu /Garcia / Ivey

        This is only through a few rotations, I would think. It’s important to spread innings out thinly, and to get Ivey and Solomon involved imo. I’d throw them all into Innings-Eater potential this season and not designate an SP5 for awhile, which should be Javier eventually when fully healthy.

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  8. I chose to sit out last year. So I have not seen Tucker, Straw, young pitchers, etc. So I don’t know what to “expect” from them. I hope we get an overall improvement from our main players and they can stay healthy. But with no minor league games last year, I think every team is in the dark as to what to expect from their young players. And every team needs some of them to perform to stay in contention.

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  9. I’m ready to add Jeremy Pena in the Toro Jones UTIL conversation by July, perhaps.

    He homered off deGrom, and Trevor Rogers.

    The Marlins have now tied it, but Greinke is still battling 2-2.

    Interestingly, 66 pitches and that’s it for Zach. Paredes is coming in. Seems Astros have the same idea for Enoli that I do. Get more mileage from this young man!

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  10. As 1OP notes, I don’t really know what happens if a couple of starters go on the shelf in April. Where do you get a stretched out arm from? Another unique baseball season on the way. I’m not really concerned about the ST won loss record. But the enthusiasm on the field pretty much matches up with my own lack of enthusiasm. I’ve got to figure it’s hard to have as much fun when you’re constantly surrounded by Covid protocol, but other teams seem to be pretty happy playing baseball. Hopefully Opening Day will help flip a switch.

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  11. Another uninspiring offensive effort. We’ve got the worst batting average of the entire MLB ST stats. Maybe these guys need a swift kick in the derriere. Sorry, I see we’re tied with the Phillies but maybe not after today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 18 Astro position players played today but I think the only ones who will be around on opening day for sure was Bregman and Castro. Yes they were 0 for 4 but I can’t apply ST stats to the team future performance

      Liked by 1 person

      • I too hope this is not a preview of things to come. On the other hand I’m surprised at the over all lack of hitting no matter who’s doing the batting. It just doesn’t bode well. I thought our younger players were better than what we’ve seen thus far. I will get an opportunity to see them play as we have two farm clubs here in NC.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Perhaps a silly question, but why would any player (and specifically JV) who is not on the roster and injured count against the salary cap?

    And the Astros are probably being compensated for part of it by insurance proceeds.

    Liked by 1 person

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