The Astros have been an interesting study in inconsistency to date. They started off 6-1, then lost nine of the next ten to bottom out at 7-10 and now have been on a mini-run by winning 5 of their last six to get back over .500 at 12-11. Today we will just highlight some thoughts that have occurred to us on this Hump Day in April.
- To be completely honest, heading into the season, this writer thought if one of the top candidates for comeback player (Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel) would not come back positively, it was probably going to be Gurriel. Well, so far, that was extremely dumb. While Altuve, Bregman, and Correa have all bounced back solidly from a poor to so-so 2020, the Astros best hitter, this season has been Gurriel. He’s leading the team in hits (29), RBIs (16) and all the slash categories .349 BA/ .455 OBP/ 1.021 OPS. And in a shot from the dark, he leads the team by a huge margin with 16 walks to this point. That is more than Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Michael Brantley, and Alex Bregman combined. That is 5 more times than he has struck out this year. In 23 games, he has 4 more walks than he had in 57 games in 2020 and only 6 less than he had in 2017 in 139 games! And by laying off the sucker pitches, he has had a lot to swing at, and he has done something with it. Yuli’s transformation has helped justify the two-year extension he signed.
- The praise for Kent Emanuel‘s major league debut, an 8.2 IP, 2 run relief appearance against the Angels cannot be over-emphasized. Beyond winning the game, he did so much for the health and rest of the bullpen. Normally when a team loses a starter to injury in the first inning, they are probably looking at using 5 or more pitchers that day. With the Astros being short-handed in the starting rotation (Jake Odorizzi and Framber Valdez) and especially the bullpen (Andre Scrubb, Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes and Pedro Baez), Emanuel allowed the pitching staff to rest up with the longest appearance by any pitcher this season. This helped win that game and helped the team avoid any kind of hangover in subsequent games.
- The Astros Pythagorean record says they should be 14-9 instead of 12-11. But frankly, they seemed to have “earned” the record they have so far.
- Watching Cristian Javier throw 17 straight scoreless innings……why did we have to send him to the training facility again? The kids got the stuff. During their 5-1 homestand to date – the starting pitching (plus Emanuel) have given the team a shot every game. Javier – 5 innings and 0 runs, Zack Greinke – 7 innings and 2 runs, Emanuel – 8.2 innings and 2 runs, Lance McCullers Jr. – 6 innings and 2 runs, Jose Urquidy – 6 innings and 2 runs and Javier again – 7 innings and 0 runs. It is always good to get solid outings and a chance out of your starters.
- The Kyle Tucker saga continues, and it is hard to figure this one. He’s hitting a miserable .181 BA so far this season. His BAbip (batting average on balls in play) is an unbelievably low .159 when the league average is .283. It has been speculated that he is stubbornly pulling balls into the shift, but the numbers don’t back that up. His pull rate is about 20%, the lowest of his career and 18% lower than last year. He has the highest opposite-field rate and centerfield rate of his career, which is where you want to hit the ball when you are in a slump. His line-drive rate is down, and perhaps that is the key. Last night hard-hit balls to the outfield were outs, and a lesser hit in the infield was a hit. Again, you expect him to get on a roll soon, that his luck has to change.
- If the Pedro Leon move to shortstop is successful and the young man takes over for Carlos (I’m chasing the Benjamins) Correa next season, might it be permanent? Yes, IF Jeremy Pena comes back in good shape and IF he develops and IF he is better at SS than Leon overall, sure, he might take that spot and send Leon back to his natural position in the outfield. But we have plenty of history with these switches (Jeff Bagwell to 1B, Bregman to 3B) to know that the temporary spot that gets the player to the majors can become the permanent spot where they thrive.
- Things get tougher after tomorrow’s homestand finale against the Mariners. The Astros head to the road for three against the always tough Rays, followed by three in the Bronx against the Yanks and their lovely, forgiving fans and then return to MMP for three against the Blue Jays and their former hero George Springer. The New York and Toronto series may be as tough emotionally as physically as they will be reminded about “IT” against the Yanks and reminded of who they don’t have in centerfield against the Rays.
What are y’all thinking about today?