The 2021 Astros: A team effort

Most fans, managers, media observers would say it is critical for team success in sports for all the players to be pulling in the same direction. It’s just like a rowing team is most successful when they are rowing in sync.

However….this may not be true when the team is the 2021 Houston Astros. They are more like a rowing squad that is all pulling as a team…..towards Niagara Falls.

Some thoughts about this wonderful little streak they are on…

  • They are 1-9 in their last 10 games – wow, just wow
  • Their offense has been rotten, only scoring 26 runs in those 10 games
  • Ironically they won the game that they scored the least runs (1) during that streak.
  • Somehow one of their least effective hitters Kyle Tucker (.169 BA / .600 OPS), leads the team with 4 HRs and 11 RBIs)
  • That is because a number of their better hitters (Brantley, Alvarez, Bregman, Altuve) have missed time with injury or Covid-related time off.
  • That is also because most of these players, even decent to good batting averages, are not doing much with men in scoring positions.
  • It also doesn’t help that their two catchers Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro, added together, are about 1/2 a Mendoza.
  • Or that they’ve thrown Tucker and Myles Straw at the leadoff spot lately despite their approx .220 OBP
  • On the other hand, it is not like the pitching can claim they hold up their side of the equation.
  • Except for the Zack Greinke / Ryan Pressly shutout – the Astros in the 9 losses have not held the opponents to under 6 runs.
  • There have been some nice efforts by Greinke and Luis Garcia among the starters (and Cristian Javier, who apparently joined the witness protection program after his last 5 innings 0 runs appearance). But Lance McCullers Jr.(5.27 ERA), Jose Urquidy (5.14 ERA) and Jake Odorizzi (10.57 ERA) have not been good.
  • Pressly has pitched well out of the pen, Ryne Stanek has been good except for a couple long balls and long relievers Garcia and Brandon Bielak have been pretty good. But Joe Smith (14.40 ERA), Brooks Raley (10.80) and Blake Taylor (on the injured list with a 6.75 ERA) have been awful.
  • And truth be told, the manager and coaching have not been great. Lots of questions about lineups, about who’s batting where, about who’s starting, and about who is coming in from the bullpen. And questions about why the coaches are not fixing obvious defects with the team.
  • Oh, and the fielding is the worst in the last 5-6 years

Anyways – the slump has been a team effort, and only a team effort will turn this around.

51 comments on “The 2021 Astros: A team effort

  1. *The A’s started off 0-6 and their fans were writing them off after a week. Now they’ve won 11 straight. We’ve got some real holes on our roster, but the A’s do too. There will be more streaks. Good ones too.
    *Alvarez, Tucker, both catchers, Correa (I think), and Bregman will all hit better. Yuli will cool off. We will score runs.
    * We’ve got a bad outfield and no real options to make it better unless our GM shocks us with a trade. We put all our eggs in the Straw basket. Are we going to hang around for a few months and see what Leon does?
    *I’m not really concerned about starting pitching yet. But we need guys to go 6 and 7 innings. Sure would like to see Framber show up sooner than later.
    *The pen is flat out bad. This was a concern in March. But loosing Baez sure hurt, Smith becoming a DFA candidate sure does hurt and other guys leaning back to their career norms just makes for a tougher situation. Having one guy in the pen that can’t get outs is a problem. Having 3 or 4 guys that can’t get outs helps grow losing streaks.
    * I’m not pointing fingers at the manager and coaches yet. The GM provides the resources. So far his plan has not worked out very well. When things go well, people will say that Dusty made a gutsy move. When the team sucks, Dusty sucks.

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  2. I used to really look forward to the beginning of each Astro game. Now as game time approaches each day I feel like I and all my buddies are being led by the ear to the principal’s office to get paddled for something we didn’t do.

    Time for a team meeting, guys.

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    • We had Mr. Lundquist.

      His paddle was about 3.5″ thick and appeared to have holes from Shop Class drilled in for several purposes, I presumed.

      1. Added “pop sound” so the secretaries in the 3rd office over could still hear.
      2. Made it look like a custom job, lamenated and well-worn.
      3. Intimidation.

      A caveat to the story is that Mr. Lundquist came into the Long John Silvers restaurant one time a year later when I was manning the fryer. It was one of my greatest accomplishments, one I never told anyone, to leave his food unmolested. He helped build my characted more than I knew back then…

      If by chance we’re still talking about baseball, things are looking pretty bleak. I’ll probably be “stuck in my ways” with the thought we should have traded Correa for yrs to come. Maybe some insider will talk me off the cliff someday, and tell me ‘we tried’. Fortunately, baseball in so many other ways is keeping me drawn to other priorities. When winning isn’t so important, it’s always nice to be vested in the minors though when the big club is doing terrible.

      Still holding out hope Austin Hansen gets added to the 40-man, Jairo Solis debuts this year, and heck maybe Torres gets added before R5 too? There’s always next year if this one doesn’t work out. We’ll just Dust(y) off and move on.

      It’s the little things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • At St Thomas we had Fr Riley – he was retired but was the designated substitute for most teachers. He would walk into the classroom and write on the board “Time or Meat”. Which meant if you misbehaved you had to stay after school two hours or take two swats from him. I forgot to say Fr Riley even at 70 had forearms like Earl Campbell’s thighs.
        Only one kid, our largest football player, opted for the seats. He took one, started crying and then switched over to the “Time”.
        Funny what you remember

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      • In my 6th and 7th grade years, we had Coach Bogey, who wielded a boat oar that had a longitudinal crack in it wide part of the oar. He also used a golf swing on us instead of a sideways swing. Being hit with nothing more than a pair of thin gym shorts on was rough!

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  3. Yeah I should have added James Click to the list. Yes he was handicapped with what he was left with from Luhnow and with having Verlander sucking up $$$ while out. But the roster he has put together has not “clicked”. Oh that was a bad pun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Trying to recover from Osuna and Verlander on an already limited-by market size and budget were hard enough, then add that teams have been stockpiling ELITE talent when we had no shot at since 2015. These were insurmountable by any GM! He doesn’t run the drafts anyway (Cook/Gross), so what I surmised that Jim liked about Click was his experience in travel tbh. The “logistics man” understands in a quote pandemic, there are crazy amounts of liability and planning we cant possibly fathom.

      With these things particular to our team — can you tell I don’t think very highly of Mr. Verlander taking his money and not even showing up to Spring Training — we have the proverbial albatross hanging. Just imagine what $33m could have meant for this team… And to think someone posted here they looked forward to Justin helping the young guys. LOL! Literally, he took Kate and the nanny along hiking in the dessert so she could take pics of them and the baby. Inspiring to the boys back home, I’m sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The bullpen has no one with heat. Big problem.
    Covid has hurt this team, when few of our better players have had it.
    Team did a lousy job of building up enough starting pitchers.
    I voiced my opinion of the CF situation before the season began.
    Two of the Astros top 3 prospects are gone for the year and the third has just disappeared into the system.
    GoStros1 aptly pointed out how hamstrung the Astros have been for the last 5 or six years with their farm system, resulting in AAA players.
    Instead of finding out the problems with Alvarez’s knees when the problem first arose, they waited and then lost a year of his MLB service, resulting in his lousy performance thus far this year.
    Luhnow signed an older player with a big name, who came in and linked up with Cora, Hinch’s RH man, and proceeded to ruin this team for years. Nobody had the guts to stop it and the guy with no spine ratted them out, two years later. The results are showing up now in a team lost in the blizzard.

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  5. Getting Javier back should help. That puts Garcia back in the pen. I think Odorizzi becomes more effective than he has been, but he’s a lifetime 5.3 inning guy. So he’s not going to help the pen much. Framber will. Baez will. Parades will. Soloman might. Other guys might. The rotation has to be effective before the pen will stabilize. But the bats also have to help the rotation. As Dan notes, it’s a team effort when we are bad. It’s a team effort when we start playing baseball again.

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  6. Six innings of pitching involves getting 18 outs. Ideally, a starting pitcher who is not having a bad night can get those 18 outs with 90 or less pitches. That means averaging 5 or less pitches per out. That requires a lot of first strike pitches and very few 3 ball counts.

    Do we have anybody besides Zack Greinke – even on the IL (Valdez, Baez, Paredes) – that can consistently a. throw strikes and b. miss bats well enough to keep his average pitches per out out at or below 5? I am not thinking that concept is even on Strom’s radar.

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  7. There are many things that Dan and others have pointed out that have led to the current situation. There are things that I feel strongly about so I’ll throw my 2 cents in for the sake of the discussion.
    1. What is it with the team never being able to draft, develop, and have a very good catcher who can hit and play good defense. I’m not talking about some the next Johnny Bench but we’ve just never seemed to have someone of that caliber.
    2. The center field conundrum of the departing of George Springer. To me this was one colossal screw up. Maybe Springer didn’t want to be here but sometimes the fans are entitled to know what went on. A few years ago we talked about the “core 4”. We managed to keep two of them and and I doubt we’ll keep the third. Right now those long term deals don’t seem to be paying a good ROI. I see no way that we’ll retain Correa so we might as well trade him (at the deadline) and get something rather than a compensatory pick. I think when we lost Springer we lost a lot of the heart and soul of the team. I’m not blaming anyone but just pointing out the facts IMO.
    3. Look at some of the talent we have traded away over the years for a quick fix or because there was “someone in the way”. Laureano comes to mind. Wouldn’t it be a better option to have him in center field these days. I’m sure y’all can think of others.
    4. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I still question the money spent on Verlander and Greinke. Yes, nobody knew JV would go down after 1 game last year so that $66MM was a waste, and yes Greinke has pretty much earned his money and his net cost was about $22MM a year so maybe not all bad. I sure wouldn’t be signing him for that $32MM for future years, would you?
    5. I was also thinking about Kyle Tucker and Forest Whitley (Untouchables with apologies to Elliot Ness). Almost every team wanted one or both of those guys and might have paid a high price for them. Yet, here we are with Tucker hitting .177 and Whitley, (never mind). Maybe we’re not as good as evaluating talent as we once were.
    6. And then there’s the bull pen. Dan I think you’ve said it all.

    Don’t get me wrong. I want us to do well and we know that there will be down times but I feel that our focus back in those disastrous seasons was to build a contender. As for our last couple of years I feel all we have done is to band aid the problem and hope for the best. And yes you win as a team and lose as a team but it’s up to the individuals to do their part. Maybe it’s time to head for the operating room and start anew.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am with you on the catcher thing, Z. It boggles my mind that teams don’t assign more resources to catcher development: treat ’em like pitchers. A team that could develop catchers better than everyone else would add tremendous value to their farm system

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We have a few links that need to get stronger or need to get replaced.

    Dusty said Straw did not play yesterday due to side effects from his second COVID shot. I would keep starting McCormick and use Straw as a pinch-runner.

    Smith needs to be replaced. Give him a 10-Day IL rest due to a mysterious injury (pick one: tired arm, sore back, whiplash from watching balls hit past him). Bring back Solomon. He was solid, man.

    Emmanuel might be activated on Friday when his suspension ends. He should replace Raley for at least 10 days due to injury (see above).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Carlos batting leadoff today:

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  10. Good game by the team. Straw pulled two down the line tonight. One was a triple, and the other barely foul. He made an great catch. Looked like the team from the first week of the season. Let’s hope it continues.

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  11. FOLK SONGS ARE US!

    Last night I dreamed the strangest dream – one never dreamed before;
    my Astros won a baseball game ? 8-2 the final score?

    There were falling angels everywhere – one, then another fanned!
    How ’bout that Christian Javier – he really took command.

    Our Lead-off batter got two hits; we showed esprit de corps!
    As Bregman gave their pitchers fits – and wound up 3 for 4!

    Our bullpen finally showed some spunk; came in and slammed the door.
    Pujols big fly? A load of bunk! (Just foul we saw it soar!)

    Perhaps the Angels got their vax; perhaps their arms were sore;
    perhaps losing Trout’s impact just shook them to the core.
    perhaps our ‘Stros aren’t as horrible as they’ve played heretofore;
    Perhaps . . . but I can’t be “glass-half-full” until they win some more!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Mr Bill – your poetic wit is always appreciated.
      Sometimes I wonder what the point of replay is when they take forever and ignore what is shown.
      Maybe they had their honorary reviewer of the day, Mike Fiers watching the replay in New York.

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  12. LOVE IT MR. BILL!! You’re such a gem!
    Now this:
    Mike Trout STUCK his elbow out to intentionally get hit!
    Astros daily twitter line has proof that’s what he did…and that drama at the plate should get him an Academy award. The ball hit that elbow pad NOT his bone, but they might keep him out tonight to “sell” it.
    Christian Javier gave us a glimpse at what what we can expect next year and I’m VERY impressed! Let’s hope Greinke can spin one of those magical pitching performances like he did last week!
    P.S…..Sorry but I’m still not sold on Straw. Always reading Becky⚾

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  13. Kent Emmanuel called up:

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  14. The Astros give up 2 runs in the tenth inning and scratch and claw for 3 runs in the bottom of the inning to walk it off. Pressly would have been the loser but his teammates get him a win.
    The Angels’ closer gets the loss.

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  15. If Myles Straw doesn’t dig out a reviewable IF hit, we lose.
    If Jason Castro doesn’t hit a GRD, it’s super long odds.
    If Dusty doesn’t have the foresight to PR McCormick for Brantley, to get to Robel Garcia (the former Angel), we probably lose that very important division game.

    Nice to see lots of people in the stands cheering loud as can be!!

    Two nights in a row the Angels looked like they wanted to get back to their hotels before the Astros turned their lots off.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I still hate that man on second thing in extra innings. I turned the lights out after nine. Good outcome!

    Kyle Tucker is a mess right now. Sure he’s got .136 BABIP, but he’s continually hitting into a shift that’s got 5 fielders positioned to catch his stuff.

    Yordan has similar issues, but he’s a much better hitter. He’s shown that he can drop a leadoff bunt down the third base line or put a double in the left field corner. Hopefully now he’ll stop striking out on pitches off the plate. Once he ignores that stuff, he’ll see more in the zone.

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    • Well Tucker did hit that double in the 10th to score the first run. What? He didn’t? How the heck did he get to second then? Really? He just trotted from the dugout to second at the start of the inning?And that’s OK?
      How stupid is that?

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  17. * Why do you waste your time arguing with an umpire when the replay shows clearly that your big league batter ran the entire way to first base inside the line that he is supposed to be running outside of.
    * Greinke was constantly in trouble and still managed to last longer than Heaney. What a grinder he is!
    * Small sample size but the Astros are 2-0 with Correa leading off, and they have scored 13 runs in those two games.
    * All the talk about hitting Trout with a pitch. How does he stick that elbow out at the last second? The more you watch the replay, the weirder it looks. It reminds me of the play with Marisnick going into home plate against the Angels. He changed directions to avoid the catcher, the catcher dives right into him and gets creamed and Marisnick gets suspended and hated on for the rest of the year.
    * When Tucker starts hitting it will be great.

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    • Just my two cents, but I think Trout was being honest in his postgame statement. It looks to me like he didn’t recognize the pitch. At the last instant, when he sticks his elbow out a little, he also flinches and turns his head away. I think he saw slider out of the hand, then when it was running in on him reacted poorly. If he were trying to get hit by that pitch, he turns his shoulders and takes it on the meatier part of the arm. You’re right that it’s similar to the Marisnick play. It seems obvious with slowed down instant replay, but once you make a decision, if it’s the wrong one, you can’t back out of it.

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      • Very good analysis, both of you.

        All seemed perfectly innocent to me when Trout and Bregs chatted at 3B. Even after the HBP’s last night, nothing was “made of it,” so it looks like they’re actually playing with their big boy pants on.

        Tucker is the LAST guy I worry about. His exit velocities are still stellar, just terrible BABIP. Very same thing in his brief call up in 2018, only now he’s not nervous anymore. With Tucker, after having watched him 3 yrs in the minors, feeds off team chemistry and winning. I’ve seen many ‘o game where he was the only one swinging it well, and it was enough.

        The other thing is MLB is so much more advanced in pitching to contact, and positioning. If you notice many of Kyle xBH are ones he’s swinging inside/out, or trying to not pull the ball. The shift is taking Yordan and Kyle out of their natural strengths, and it’s working beautifully for the enemy. Once both guys get the defense playing a bit more honestly, that should open some of the pull side up…

        On the 10th inning rule, meh. Lots of people say it’s the worst. Gee, it’s the same for both teams so I don’t sweat it too much. I mean, you folks all wanted a quicker game — I don’t — but you all voted for it in essence! The league keeps on exploring ways to speed it up… I guess because of “boredom”? It makes no sense to me.

        The rules I’d like to see changed are 14 pitchers allowed (guessing that is the taxi squad provision), and here’s my Big One. I’d really like to see how the rule works out in AA this year where ALL INFIELDERS MUST STAND IN THE DIRT. The shift has worked masterfully in Houston, but I always felt sorry for Big Papi and the shift. He could have played longer, and the game would have been more exciting offensively. With Yordan and Tuck on our team, I’d like Manfraud to look closely at it this year.

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