Why a strong start in April is important

Most fans remember the Astros’ famous World Series run in 2005, where they started off 15-30 and spawned the famous tombstone RIP front-page feature on the Houston (spit!!) Chronicle. Monday marks a memorable 10-year anniversary for the Astros’ tombstone – Ultimate Astros (chron.com)

The Chronicle was wrong to prematurely bury the Astros back then, though the full season rally that drove them to an 89-73 regular-season record, which allowed them to eliminate the Braves and the Cards in the NL playoffs before bowing to the White Sox in the World Series was almost unprecedented in the history of the league.

The point is that the Astros strong first-week start (let’s ignore their 6-2 loss on Friday night) is a very good thing for a number of reasons.

First, their recent past success in their three 100+ win regular seasons in 2017 thru 2019 were all based on strong early performance. In 2017 they went 16-9 in April on the way to a 101-61 record and eventual WS win over the Dodgers. In 2018 they went 20-10 in March/April and rode that to a 103-59 record in the regular season and a loss to the eventual champion Red Sox in the ALCS. Similarly, in 2019 they went 18-12 in March/ April on their way to a club-record 107-55 regular season and a crushing loss in Game 7 of the World Series to the Nats.

Second, April is critical to the Astros due to what looks like a difficult May. The schedule includes six playoff teams from 2020, including the two World Series participants (Dodgers and Rays).

  • Two games against the Dodgers at home. The World Champs are picking up where they left off in 2020 with a 6-2 start of their own. This is the team against whom the Astros would want to be measured.
  • Three games against the Padres at home. The sexy pick to knock off the Dodgers in the NL has also started off well at 5-3 (including Joe Musgrove‘s Friday night no-no) and did the most to improve themselves in the off-season of any of the teams on this list.
  • Three games against the Yankees, away. Yes, they are 3-4 right now, but it would be lunacy not to expect that to turn around soon. Always a tough team to play, especially in the Bronx.
  • Three games against the Blue Jays at home. Again starting slow at 3-5, but a very dangerous team that will likely have somebody named George Springer back by the time this series occurs. Let’s hope he tries to hit 600 foot home runs and comes up empty.
  • Three games against the Rays, away – one of these games is actually in April. The team that eliminated the Astros in the 2020 ALCS and came close to doing the same in the 2019 first round is always a worthy opponent.
  • Three games against the Angels at home. The Angels have started off hot, 6-2 like the Astros and took one of two from Houston in LA last weekend and were tied going into the 9th in the other game.
  • Three games against the A’s, away. Can’t expect another sweep of the A’s in Oakland, who look like they are finding their balance in the current series against the Astros.
  • 1 game against the Red Sox to end April, away. The Red Sox look like they are improved so far this season at 4-3. Boston is a tough place to play.
  • 7 games against the Rangers, 4 home, 3 away. By sight, the easiest part of the May schedule against the 2020 last-place Rangers. But the Astros can’t take any rival for granted and the Rangers always have their knives out for the Astros.

Above and beyond all that, the Astros need to look at early-season wins as insurance against the ill winds that might catch them farther down the line. They need this as a defense against injuries (like 2020) or the possibility of a COVID breakout that could hamstring them later in the season.

This is not to put down what they’ve done to date, but to say this is the start of an important month and that the team cannot take their foot off their collective pedals during April.

26 comments on “Why a strong start in April is important

  1. And it’s also a huge plus for the team to know what it can be from the get-go, given their performance during the regular season last year, and to get over some of the disappointing individual performances we saw last year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It feels just weird to have a Sunday off during the regular season. I’m not sure when is the last time this happened. Are they all off watching the Masters final round today?

    And is everyone Ok out there – after a lot of traffic the last few weeks, this weekend has been sooooo quiet on the blog.

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  3. Read this on MLBTraderumors…
    “Jake Odorizzi is set to make his debut for the Houston Astros on Tuesday versus Detroit, per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Cristian Javier will head to the club’s alternate site to make room, tweets McTaggart. Javier should be back with the big league club before too long, but the Astros wanted to give him some extra time between appearances. Javier, 24, figures to be a significant part of the Astros’ rotation this season, but the 24-year-old wasn’t totally healthy at the start of the year. Regardless, he’s been sharp in two starts thus far, including getting a win with five scoreless innings against Oakland on Thursday.”

    Not too excited that they chose Javier to go to the alternate site – unless it is truly to give him a bit of a rest. Seems an odd choice: perhaps they are looking to move him to the bullpen? (See AC and Uncle Knuckle comments above)

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    • That’s flat out weird. Javier would be my first guy out of the pen if I really needed a strikeout. Right now, we don’t have that guy in our pen. The kid is not fully healthy? Secret Astro BS.

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  4. Despite the fact that our bullpen was meh, I found it hard to believe the A’s were going to fade into oblivion.I suspect our biggest competition for the AL West will come from them and the Angels. I give the edge to the Angels but don’t count any of these these teams out.
    As it has been pointed out the Astros only need a few players to have good days to win or take advantage of those opportunistic moments.
    As for the bullpen when you have guys pitching a single inning you burn have your pen in a single day. I’m not an expert but if you’re using 5-6 pitchers to get through 5 innings that doesn’t bode well. Maybe a day off will help.

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    • Yeah, Z – you’ve already used Smith, Stanek and Taylor in 5 games out of 9, plus Raley in another 4. That is a lot. Stanek and Abreu have looked the best outside of Pressly out of the bullpen. With Paredes out – someone else is going to have to step up.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A strong start in April is important because (on paper) this looks to be the easiest part of our schedule, with 12 of the remaining 17 games this month against the Tigers, Mariners and Rockies.

    I think it is also important to have a strong start in every game. It’s always easier to win when you are ahead by a few runs than to play catch-up from behind.

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  6. -Lost one full year of my life to a pandemic and another year in the check out line at Walgreens.
    -The longest walk of the day was the walk back to the car to get my mask so I could get into Walmart. The second longest walk of the day was the one back to the car for my mask at Aldi.
    -The guy who owns the Medical Marijuana Store where I buy my wife’s CBD oil was wearing a Jimi Hendrix sweatshirt and the twenty-something doll he had working the drive-thru window had on a t-shirt that said “Team Day Drunk” on the front. It makes so much sense.
    -When there was no driving last year our gas prices hovered from 1.60 to 2.30 a gallon. Now that the streets are packed with people it’s 2.75 a gallon.
    – Our grandchildren are back in school just in time for school to end in 3 weeks. They went for seven weeks in the first semester, then had Christmas break. This semester they went for three weeks and then had spring break. Then they had state testing for all kids who didn’t get to go to school all year and now comes summer break.
    -Even though some ranchers have been feeding cattle for as long as fifty years, they can’t figure how to keep empty feed bags from blowing out of the back of their trucks.
    -Plastic bags were designed specifically to hang on the barbs of barbed-wire fences.
    Oh, this is a baseball blog. Sorry:
    BABIP
    There, fixed it.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Since this seems to have turned into a free blog, let me suggest Manfred left the deadened balls at spring training sites. I wonder if he strategically deploys them to impact pennant races later on. Also, balls in ncaa games are getting crushed like I haven’t seen in a decade. I wonder if it holds up through June…

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  8. As for the theme your post, I am hopeful that by April’s end we will still consider the opening of the 2021 season a ‘strong start’ for the Astros. But the last two games sure showed us how quickly a ‘regression to the mean’ can happen with this bunch. While it was just two games [against the same team and even the same pitchers we beat like a drum the week previously] we saw several of our worst fears about this team materialize:

    1. The pitching, after six innings of Zack Greinke and three good innings of Christian Javier, really is mediocre at best;
    2. Lance McCullers has great stuff, but so far, at least, he just can’t pitch solid games on a consistent basis;
    3. When we don’t hit bombs, we don’t score many runs;
    4. The ‘next man up’ is sometimes not very good;
    5. The bottom of our line-up is so weak that if the guys up above only average one hit apiece or less;
    6. Lowrie and Laureano – who were once part of us – now absolutely own us;a nd
    7. After the excitement of the first home game of the season wears off, we lose the energy quickly, and begin to be a very dull, lackadaisical, and very average team at MMP.

    Can we bounce back after ‘reverting to the the mean’? Sure. But if we show a some spark against the Tigers, this will be one ugly homestand.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Overall I’m with you Mr. Bill.
      I will say this about McCullers – he’s pitched 10 innings and given up 2 runs. I would like him to go deeper, and I think he will, though not much past 6 innings. He will keep us in games, but he’s not a Verlander/Cole innings eater.
      I think it is a problem that we need homers to score so often.
      Bottom of the lineup – as you’ll see in my next post there is a reason to expect a lot more soon out of Tucker. Maldonado will never be great – but he will be better than .107 BA. Straw…. Straw may be what he is.
      Lowrie and Laureano – both pros, both good hitters – and ready to stick a knife in their old team.
      I don’t know what to say about the excitement factor. When you don’t hit the excitement factor is down. Being excited does not make the bat hit the ball.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Sorry – trying hard to multi-task. #5 above got cut short; it should read: “The bottom of our line-up is so weak that if the guys up above only average one hit apiece or less, we have little hope of scoring as many runs as our pitching staff [after Greinke] is likely to allow.”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Did you guys hear that the Tigers have placed Miguel Cabrera on the IL with a biceps strain? He apparently hurt it in the course of a swing in Saturday’s game. Sorry to see a class act like Miggy unable to play the game he loves.

    Liked by 1 person

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