Astros’ fans: Reasons for despair and hope

For the first time since 2017, the Astros enter Spring Training coming off a regular season that was less than a triumph. In 2017 through 2019, the Astros came in over the magic 100-win mark each season, highlighted by the club record of 107 wins in 2019.

This included of course the team’s only World Series win in 2017, a loss in the 2018 ALCS and a loss in the 2019 WS. Last season, the Astros, after having their pitching staff devastated by injury and illness and their positional players devastated by the trash can flu, stumbled to a 29-31 record in the COVID shortened regular season and then righted the ship enough to get to the 7th game of the ALCS. Still, it was unsettling to know that the Astros were only in the playoffs because of the MLBs decision to expand the playoff field by 60% and that they were the last team that nudged into the postseason on the AL side.

The team has then followed up a so-so showing in the 2020 regular season with a (through March 22) MLB worst 4-12 record in Spring Training. The team is not pitching well, hitting well and seems to have lost the George Springer spring in their step. Today we will look at both sides of the coin and give Astro fans reasons to despair and reasons to be hopeful based on these developments.

Reason for Despair – That 4-12 record

The Astros are not only the worst record in all of baseball at this point in spring training, they are behind a team like the world’s worst Baltimore Orioles. Their inability to beat anyone is disheartening and the team may ride that downshift to a terrible regular-season record. In 2018 (21-9) and 2019 (18-12) they had one of the best spring training records in the MLB and followed that up with excellent seasons. Their 2020 ST record (9-11) foreshadowed the bleh regular season to follow.

Reason for Hope – Does a Spring Training record mean anything?

In 2013 they had a decent 15-16 record in Spring Training and followed that up with the worst season in franchise history (51-111). A few years later in 2017, they were a mediocre 15-15 in ST and then went 101-61 which led to the only World Series victory in franchise history. Was the 2017 team only ½ game better than the 2013 team as shown by their relative pre-season records? Uhhhh-No.

Reason for Despair – No Springer – no fire

There is concern that the loss of George Springer is more than just the loss of one of the best leadoff hitters and outfielders in the majors. There is concern that he was the heart of the team and without him, there will be no joy and celebrations for the team. This would then result in a team that might be going through the motions.

Reason for Hope – How excited do you want to see them for games that don’t matter?

There are a lot of things happening here. It is Spring Training. They are mostly a veteran club. They don’t have their head dancer and fun instigator in Springer. Did I say it is Spring Training?

Bottom line I sometimes have felt the team was a little too much into “rub your nose in it” celebration.  As one of my favorite sports philosophers, Vince Lombardi, said to his RB and Kick returner Travis Williams after a touchdown celebration, “When you go into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”

Reason for Despair – Boy, some of those Spring Training numbers really look bad

The Astros are 26th in the MLB in BA (.222) and 29th in OPS (.657). And…they are last in runs scored (30 runs). Their pitching is a little better than the hitting, but still on the wrong side of 4 with an ERA of 4.30.

Reason for Hope – You have to check where those numbers are coming from

On the pitching side, their 8 worst ERAs are from pitchers who will likely not be with the club when they break camp. This includes Seth Martinez, Hunter Brown, Jairo Solis, Shawn Dubin, Blair Henley, Riley Ferrell, Jojanse Torres and Luis Garcia, with Garcia being the only one mentioned for a possible spot heading out of Spring Training. Ryan Pressly (0.00 ERA), Cristian Javier (0.00), Brooks Raley (1.69), Zack Greinke (2.16), Lance McCullers (2.57),  Ryne Stanek (3.00), Steve Cishek (3.52 but no runs since his first outing) and Brian Abreu (3.68) have all been solid.

The hitting has been more of a mixed bag, but Myles Straw (.343 BA), Aledmys Diaz (.313), Kyle Tucker (.300), and Carlos Correa (.300) have been good and others like Altuve, Bregman and Brantley have been hitting the ball well in the last few games.

Reason for Despair – They just don’t look like they are ready for the season to begin

They are not playing well in Spring Training. There are questions about who will be in the rotation to start the season and they play the A’s seven times in the first eleven games. They need to come out of the box hot.

Reason for Hope – It’s a long season

Unlike the partial race of 2020, this is a full marathon. Sure, if they lose all seven against the A’s that would be bad, but just look back to 2019 when the Mariners took off to a 13-2 start to the season and ended up in fifth place 39 games behind. It might take a few weeks for the team to hit their stride, but at some point, they will get there. According to this article – despite the early games against the A’s they have an early-season competitive advantage.

How April schedules could impact MLB playoff race

So, what gives you the reason for despair and/or hope?

85 comments on “Astros’ fans: Reasons for despair and hope

  1. No despair here. But most of our guys will need to have a better than average year at the plate. And we’ll need good pitching from guys that we’re still not sure about. And good health too.

    So late yesterday, it seems that McCullers got an extension offer. No terms noted. Does this mean that Correa and the club are too far apart to even consider an offer?

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  2. I don’t know how I feel. Maybe hope. Maybe despair. I don’t see a World Series team this year. I don’t see us below the Rangers either. But realistically, you can’t lose the players we lost and not become somewhat weaker. So I think we will lose many games in the late innings. Those can become back breakers.

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    • 45, I just want to see our veterans take a leadership role and perform well and a few of our unproven guys to step up and own a job. But regardless of what takes place, my wringing of hands days seem to be behind me. I’m looking forward to a full baseball season. I’m curious about a bunch of guys. I wonder for instance if Altuve can give us 4 or 5 more years of 150 game seasons with solid offensive numbers. I’m pretty much assuming Correa is gone, but what kind of year will he put up in his quest for 300 million over ten years with some other club? Is Myles Straw for real, or is Spring Training just a tease? So yeah, I’m looking forward to getting answers.

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  3. Thought #1: No despair – now or ever. Baseball is not a hill to die on.

    Thought #2: ST records are seldom predictive of regular season records; but ST attitude, mindset, energy levels, and esprit de corps are pretty likely to carry over into the regular season.

    Thought #3: The 2021 ‘Stros, as presented in ST at least, do not look anything close to the powerhouse the 2019 ‘Stros were. They still have a ton of talent, but not much ‘it’ factor. They don’t look or play like a ‘team of destiny’. But with hard work and a little luck, they could make the playoffs – and if they get to the playoffs, anything could happen, right?

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  4. On one hand, spring training games don’t count and the slate is wiped clean when the real games start. We’ve seen plenty of seasons where they have a great record and get off to a poor start. Under Hinch it was customary for the first two weeks of the season to be spent by the hitters trying to figure out which end of the bat to hold. On the other hand, it’s not like you can just flip a switch and magically start playing well. The one area where I’d despair is we still don’t look to have offensive reinforcement coming from the minors. The payroll situation in respect to the luxury tax probably precludes making a move for veteran bats in the case of injuries, so if any of our expected starters go down or really struggle it could be a long season….or it could be over quicker than anticipated. Can Houston sports really handle a bad year from the Astros following the Rockets and Texans performances of late? Maybe DanP’s Cougs will get it done.

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  5. As an A’s fan, I can say that both the Astros and the Athletics have gotten noticeably weaker, but the AL West is probably the worst division in baseball with those two clubs battling for the division. The Strangers, the Halos, and the Mariners will probably, and predictably, be average/terrible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that is a good analysis of the division, Gary. I’ll be doing a preview of the Mariners next, then the A’s and finally the Astros.
      The A’s often out perform what is thought about them and of course we are hoping that James Click has brought some of that same magic from Tampa which also seemed to often outperform expectations.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DanP, are A’s fans allowed on this site? (Just joking,) If I didn’t live in Texas, the A’s would be a good team to cheer. They no longer have Giambi, or the Bash Brokers, or Vida Blue, but they constantly get above average performance from below average talent.

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      • You know everyone is welcome here except Yankee fans (lol). I enjoy hearing other angles from folks. I have liked the A’s over time, though right now because of a player whose last name rhymes with Liars, I can’t really pull for them.

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      • 60 years ago when I was a kid, a wise ole man told me “Son, you will never learn anything from someone that you agree with.” Little did I know he stole it from Dudley Field Malone and perhaps others.

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      • Well, there is that one Oakland A pitcher, formerly a ‘Stro, that several of us here are by no means fond of – but we won’t blame Gary for any . . . . that guy started!

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  6. The dream come true, Angels return J A Rivera! He’s as wild as Yohan Ramirez (the one we lost to SEA last R5), but throws every bit as hard. He should start in Ashville this year.

    So it all turned out ok that Astros roster’d Kent Emanuel last year, whereas Sanabria and Castellanos got culled out anyway.

    Apparently Rivera got the memo to dog it. And why not LAA vs HOU is a no-brainer!

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      • They’re so informal, I doubt there are box scores.

        I find sporadic details at Astros Comms Coordinator on twitter, Shaq something.
        @Its_Meshach

        Lance gave up 4 earnies and 2 unearned after solid 3 IP.
        He was probably working on his new pitches, and had his mind on announcing his big contract later.

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  7. Astros offered Correa 6/$120MM range, apparently a slap in the face as he hasn’t even acknowledged it.

    HOU putting best foot forward today vs Strasburg. Ought to be more of a realistic type of game today, other than Odorizzi being behind. All the regulars are in with a normal looking lineup.

    Game time 5 minutes.

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  8. The new guy got his work in tonight…he squeezed a whole games worth of offense into less than an inning. Earlier today he said that he’d be ready for the first homestand. Could be the first homestand in May.

    Remember the good old days when Altuve used to collect 200 hits a year by going with the pitch? He’s hit two sharp liners to second over the last couple of games, only to account for 5 outs. But if he keeps using the whole field, we’ll be very happy with his offense this year.

    As Dan noted, if Lance stays healthy, the extension is a great deal for the Astros. We know he can pitch. And these days, an average of 17 million a year is a relative bargain. Clearly he wanted to stay in Houston.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d like to see Jake’s 1st start skipped and SP4 and SP5 given to some combination of Javier Garcia Bielak or Abreu.

      See, this is a thing I don’t like about offering starters incentives for “not missing starts” etc. Odorizzi reports he felt great but he was getting shelled! Meanwhile, Garcia who was already under-utilized in playoffs last year pitched great and is ready. If Astros keep more players hungry and don’t give them such incentive-laden contracts, there’s less dissention over bad starts imo, and everyone has a fair shake at playing. Let the hot hand decide.

      As was the case last year when Dusty was in charge of how much time to give Tucker vs the $13m we were paying Reddick, I’m hoping Dusty has the final say to put the best team on the field. He certainly has incentive himself to finally win the big one.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t despair over Spring Training results; ST is when guys work on stuff:

    Garcia strikes out the side in the 5th (Avila, Kieboom and Robles), throwing 9 strikes and no balls.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am not surprised about the Correa stance – I think we all knew he would be wanting a lot to stay here, despite his claims of wanting to stay here so badly.
      This will be a critical year for Carlos obviously. If he finally puts together an MVP -ish season where he plays 150 games he would be way up there at his age. However, if he puts up a meh year like he did in 2020 where he was healthy, but just run of the mill at the plate or if he puts up one of those years like in the past where he was very good, but can only play 100-110 games or less, he may wish he had negotiated something off of that $120 MM offer.

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      • Only half jokingly did I note that Correa wants 300 million over 10 years. He might well be worth it too, but for that kind of cash, he needs play 150 games a year. And there is no evidence that he can or wants to do that.

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  10. Odorizzi’s performance doesn’t bother me. He probably needed that rude awakening to get over his illusion that he was anywhere close to ready for primetime. But no pitcher enjoys, or feels good about, getting shelled. To cry or fret over an ST game is silly, of course; but to say you are ‘happy’ that guys wearing an opposing team’s uni are hitting your pitches like they were wiffle balls is just not honest.

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    • On a VERY POSITIVE note there were a bunch of hard hit balls. Altuve hit into a triple play, and then a double play the next day on two screamers but both were right toward the 2nd baseman. Bregman hit one right to the top of the wall. And El Machete and Gurriel hit a couple just foul. As long as they continue to make solid contact, something good will happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. * The LMJ contract is a tad higher than what I figured, but this is 2021 and I am happy with the deal.
    * Nowhere have I seen it printed that Correa turned down the Astros offer. All I saw was “no traction” being thrown out there. In this case a counter offer would seem to be the appropriate move on his part.
    * Astros bats really got them out of a big hole. More, please!
    * Odorizzi still has time to get himself ready for his first start. Why is a stomping in his first outing any different than an Astros team not caring about hitting for the last six weeks? As long as he is able to pitch well when it counts, I will withhold any opinion on his spring training. Heck, I’m glad he’s here, considering Valdez and Javier aren’t.

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  12. What gives me despair? if I pick up all the pins I left standing on my first ball.

    What gives me hope? The dream that one day I’ll pick up despair.

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    • This is kind of the equivalent of the dog days of summer when everyone is waiting for the playoffs to start or their team’s season to end.
      The dog days of spring is when we are sick of seeing only snippets of the team’s games, sick of so many people playing that will not be around in a few weeks and sick of everything “not counting”. That changes next week….

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    • AC, I just want to say that I am happy with the way the responses to my unfunny jokes went today. I felt in control, and came out healthy. You get gonged, you get gonged. I could spare less. You have to work on things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 3 strikes in a row is good in bowling. 3 strikes in baseball not so much if you’re a batter, great for a pitcher. A foul in bowling is bad, another opportunity in BB. Leaving the bucket is a hard spare to pick up but beating the hell out of the water cooler after a bad call is fun to watch. Not as good as Mr Bill but I feel real froggy today.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Zan, to carry on your thoughts: in baseball nine strikes in a row is could be an ‘immaculate inning’. Big deal! In bowling 9 strikes is still 3 short of perfection.

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      • But if you have a passed ball on the 9th strike and the hitter gets to first, you can have a super-immaculate inning with 12 strikes….

        Liked by 1 person

  13. More from the dropping like flies category.

    White Sox Eloy Jiménez, about the most well put-together specimens out there, and not even a picher, has ruptured his pectoral muscle requiring surgery and will be out 6 months. Literally, throwing the baseball is this high an impact? We saw the same thing to a Nats CF two games ago after a throw in from CF, had to leave the game. Something is seriously wrong with our game!! That was an excellent article posted by AC45 the other day. All those expert coaches, and none of them can define why all the injuries, all of them guessing on what pitcher workloads should be. One would think with Mike Marshall’s info out there, and the incredible pitching coaches like Wes Johnson and Brent Strom, with slow speed cameras breaking down proper movement,…and they STILL can’t stay out of the trainer’s room.

    Just to review Astros have terrible arm injuries to all these in the last 3 yrs; JV, Osuna, Sanchez, Deason, Solomon, Whitley, LMJ, Solis, Brady Rodgers before them.

    Other hi profile names in 2020 alone:
    Luis Severino
    Matt Festa
    Andrés Muñoz
    Chris Sale
    Tyler Beede
    Noah Syndergaard
    John Brebbia
    Justin Anderson
    Trey Wingenter
    Tommy Kahnle
    Yonny Chirinos
    Jalen Beeks
    Ken Giles
    Mike Clevinger

    I recall 4 years ago seeing a picture of the stress Ken Giles put on his arm and it may have been on these pages wrote, “there’s no way that arm is going to hold up.” Turns out, we didn’t get more longevity from Osuna either.

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  14. I’m excited for the LMJ contract. He’s done nothing to indicate a desire to play anywhere other than Houston. He probably left some money on the table, but the state of contracts in the sport is a bit odd right now. Regarding Correa, that’s a solid first offer that the Astros know he won’t accept. His camp can come back with a counter offer that includes things like no trade clauses, opt outs, and possibly higher average annual values. I agree with the consensus here that they can’t give him one of those Betts/Trout/TatisJr contracts given his health history. The unfortunate thing for the Astros is that contracts cannot be prorated based on player availability or performance. You could give escalators for reaching milestones like number of at bats, games played, etc., but the dollar amounts couldn’t bridge the gap between what they offered and what he wants.

    Everyone making light of what the new Jake said about his outing needs to remember that Trevor Bauer said that he was just out throwing the ball in the fifth inning against Seattle the other day and wasn’t paying attention to location, pitch sequences, etc…he just wanted to get his pitch count up. Seattle hit three HR that inning and made him look like the non-2020 Bauer.

    I greatly enjoyed the bowling puns.

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  15. How are our ladies doing?
    We hear from Becky the most, but it feels like a bit since we’ve heard from you? How are you feeling.
    Sandy I know you are around – maybe reading and not always commenting – how are you doing?
    Diane – you’ve been gone awhile – what’s happening?

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    • Little ditty, ’bout Beck and Diane –
      & don’t forget about Sandy, she’s a real Astro fan.
      Beck doesn’t claim to be a baseball scholar;
      but don’t mention Jon Villar (it makes her hot under the collar!)

      Here on the Chipalatta blog, GS and Dan do the ‘splainin’;
      OP gives the daily farm report; Dave tells us when its rainin’.
      Sandy says ‘Hey, Diane, ain’t those boys entertainin’?
      Diane says – Girl, I’m not impressed – all it is is Spring trainin!

      Oh yeah, life goes on! Long after the thrill of ’17 is gone!
      Oh yea, life goes on! Long after the thrill of ’17 is gone!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Is it only a coincidence these women love a young man’s sport, and you quoted another Cougar in their stead?

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      • Hilarious, as always.

        Just invoice me down for Bill-able hours.
        There’s got to be some recompence for outing you.

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      • I probably should change artists – from a Cougar to a King. ‘Love me Tender’ it isn’t, but here goes:

        Loved Aspromonte, Bags and Bidge;
        Cedeno and Alou;
        Got hyped when JR Richard pitched;
        Roy O. and Rocket too!

        A Cannon, Rooster, Wags, and Bull;
        Ol’ Blummer, Flea, and Thon,
        Caballo, Cheo, Wrangler, Puhl,
        I can’t believe they’re gone!

        Loved the Unit, DK, Knepp,
        Knight, Kessinger, Kent;
        Ol’ Papa Grande and Dave Smith –
        I wonder where they went?

        Loved ol’ Mike Scott and Darryl Kyle,
        Hidalgo, Hatcher, Howe;
        Sambito, Niekro, Giusti, Lidge
        Man, could we use you now!

        We’ve loved our ‘Stros these many years;
        Whether win or lose or draw;
        spent small fortunes on warm beer;
        shoved peanuts in our maw;
        We’ve loved the unis, loved the boys,
        The short, the fat, the tall;
        But whoever takes the field tonight –
        we love you most of all!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hard to believe this guy has a job. He should have seen that Rivera was returned, known Andre’s name, and realized that Dawson has done no more than Siri McCormick or De La Cruz. The other glaring thing is Ronnie’s not on the 40-man, and has been passed up twice after R5. McCormick has the inside track because 40-man is going to be a juggling act already, and Chas has 3 options. Much as I like the kid, Mac would also be a candidate to DFA and hope he escapes waiver wire.

      Because think about it: how are we going to make room for Kent Emanuel, and once Baez comes of CoV designation, who must be removed? Jones? He would be taken. Maybe Josh James? He attractively throws 100 and has 3 options. Maybe Austin Pruitt, but we gave up Battenfield for him! I’m telling you, Click and Co. are going to have to engage in shenanigans = phantom injuries.

      The reason we would bring up Dawson is simply to highlight like Fisher and Kemp in order to trade to get ANYthing we can from the 2nd round bust. He should never have been drafted that high. “Solid players” just won’t cut it anymore, or we’d keep Garcia or roster Velasquez. There are far too many prospects banging on the door, and it will be worse next season. The fact that Rivera was returned shows other teams have the same influx of talent from which to choose.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Well pitched. Well played. Yordan is still a little late with the bat but most of the others are getting their timing. Not sure why some of the guys playing the late innings are still at Spring Training except you have to have nine on the field.

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  17. Correa said during his in-game interview that LMJ got a great deal and he was happy for him. Then after the game he said that the Astros offer to him, which was for more years and more AAV was “really low”.
    Now, if you put those two comments together, it seems Mr. Correa just told the world he was worth a hell of a lot more money than LMJ is.
    That may be true, but coming out of his mouth, it sounds like crap.

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    • Obviously looking for Altuve or Bregman $. That’s 30MM per year for 8+ years. No way Jose or in his case, not going to happen Carlos.
      до свидания

      do svidaniya

      Liked by 1 person

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