Your loyal writer was just re-reading a George Carlin transcript of his “stuff” routine…George Carlin – Stuff (thefrug.com)
It kind of tickled me and was a reminder that, in a way, this blog is a place to store our Astro “stuff”. Today will be a collection of Astro “stuff” for this early week in the season.
Perspective – Most folks are a little down after the Astros yakked up the last two games of three to the A’s over the weekend. Of course, before the season began, if we were told the Astros would be 6-3 headed into the second full week of the season, we would have been happy. 6-3 is solid, especially against the two teams that are supposed to be our biggest competitors this year. You go 6-3 over and over again, and you’ve won 108 games on the year. But after the team went 6-1, greed sets in, plus the desire to put our collective boots on the A’s throats. The A’s won 96 games in 2019 and were on a pace to do it again in the shortened 2020 season. They are not going away quietly into that good night.
That Bullpen – The Astros bullpen early on was top three in the AL. Not anymore, as they are sporting the ninth-best ERA (4.41) and have been shaky as they have given up five runs, five runs and three runs in their three losses. They are without Pedro Baez and Enoli Paredes, both on the IL, and both expected to pitch in higher leverage situations. Also, they have been burning through the relievers they do have on staff as the starters are mostly not going deep into games. This was expected to be a problem area due to workload and the injuries to Baez and Paredes, and the poor performances to date by Joe Smith, Brooks Raley and Blake Taylor are making the fans cringe at the call to the bullpen. It would help to get Baez and Paredes back. It would also help to get Jake Odorizzi and Framber Valdez back in the rotation. If the current bullpen denizens continue to be overworked and continue to underperform, is there any possibility of a young stud or two being given a shot at a bullpen slot?
Kyle and Lack of Luck – Even though Kyle Tucker leads the team with both 4 HR and 11 RBIs in 9 games, he is sporting a terrible.189 BA. Is this because he is like Dave Kingman, where he either hits a home run or strikes out? No, his strikeout percentage is quite reasonable at 17.1%. Indeed, he is not drawing walks (only 2 on the season), but he puts the ball in play. That leads you to a really unbelievable stat, and that is his BAbip (batting average on balls in play) is only .107. The major league average is at a solid .287. This means Kyle has been pretty unlucky in finding holes out there only 10% of the time on balls he hits. Expect a good run from him pretty soon.
Walking it Back – The oddest early statistic on the Astros to date has to be Yuli Gurriel and his 9 walks. In his five-year career, he has topped out by drawing walks in 6.1% of his ABs in 2019. Currently, he is drawing walks at a 22.5% pace. His nine walks in nine games are tied for second in the majors, and when compared to the 12, he drew in 2020 in 57 games is hard to fathom. So far, this is working as Yuli is off to an excellent start at the plate.
Starting Confusion – There have been some odd and mixed signals from the team on starting pitching lately. Fans know that things are changing a bit with Jake Odorizzi joining the rotation on Tuesday, but still, there are some questions. There is the news that Cristian Javier has been sent at least temporarily to the alternate training site to supposedly build up his arm. After throwing 5 scoreless innings in his last outing, what are they looking for? Then there is no starter announced for Wednesday’s game. Since we just sent Javier down, who would have been in that spot? Doesn’t it have to be Lance McCullers Jr., who would be pitching on normal rest? Is this just to throw the opposition off?
The Week That Was – After a 4-0 start to the season, the Astros were 2-3 this week with two days off thrown in there. As discussed above, the bullpen hit a rough stretch, and the offense fell off in the last two losses scoring two and three runs, respectively. At the end of the week, the 6-3 Astros were tied with the Angels for the top of the AL West (with the M’s one game behind) and were also tied with the Red Sox for the best record in the American Leagues as a whole. They are trailing the tough Dodgers by one and a half games for the best record in all of baseball.
What is to Come – The Astros play the AL Central last-place Tigers three games at Minute Maid to complete their homestand. Some guy named A.J. Hinch will be involved with this, but some guy named Jeff Luhnow will not. Detroit is putting forward some good (so far) starting pitching for the series with Casey Mize (2.25 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (1.38 ERA), Matt Boyd (2.13 ERA) vs. Jake Odorizzi (debut) and Michael Fulmer (2.57 ERA) vs. He Who Shall Not Be Named (Until Later). The Tigers bullpen has been last in the AL (7.17 ERA), and their offense has been offensive, only scoring 3.22 runs per game with a .197 team batting average. But just remember the team with worse numbers than that beat the Astros twice in a row.
Then after a Thursday off-day, the Astros head out to play the young and rising Seattle Mariners. The M’s starters (1-2, 6.23 ERA) have been their biggest weakness. Their relievers (4-2, 4.19 ERA) have been solid, and their offense (4.56 runs/ game .227 team BA) have been a little below average.
These two series are important for allowing the Astros to squirrel away some wins ahead of a rainy day.
Any thoughts as we move towards tax day (or what used to be tax day before everything changed)?