Mid-Week thoughts on the Astros 2021

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?

60 comments on “Mid-Week thoughts on the Astros 2021

  1. I’m disgusted that Alvarez is on the shelf again. My ignorant take is that either he refuses to follow protocol or the league is screwing with the Astros again. I never said a thing when 5 of our guys got quarantined all at once without even a one game cancellation to regroup. That remains unprecedented to date in MLB.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Anyway, this is a perfect night for the baseball gods to finally let up on Tucker and allow him to have a big night in compensation for all they’ve taken from him.

    Yuli has reinvented himself. It’s so simple a concept in theory, but equally remarkable that at his age he’s adjusted his game to such a degree. At this point, it can’t be considered an accident. He’s going to come down to earth, but if he keeps taking his walks, he’ll have a career year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tucker S a real head scratcher for sure, especially when he’s followed by Straw and Maldonaldo who are ALL three automatic outs. THAT’S what makes me crazy! *AND*…I miss George soo much😢 I wish him well with the Blue Jays, but he will ALWAYS be the heart and soul of the Astros. There won’t be another Springer for the Astros andI hope he took his smoke machine and “club springer” with him those guys will LOVE it!
    I’m still in awe of Christian Javier’S pitching performance last night❤
    Always reading Becky⚾

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yuli has been our YIE MVP so far, having his best year hitting at age 36. What’s surprising is his normally great defense has been slightly down with 4 errors already.

    Dusty said he will start Garcia on Thursday as he plans to save Emanuel for the Rays series since they have 6 lefty hitters.

    I don’t expect Carlos to be back next year, but I think I would rather see Bregman at SS, Leon in CF and Aledmys at 3B, unless we trade for or sign a FA SS.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ok, Hazard created havoc last night. He got a big hit, was on the bases 3 times. We won a game going 0-13 at the top of the order. The pen really picked up Grienke. Bielak kept them in it. Smith looked like Smith. And then Stanek threw a bunch of strikes at 98 and 99 to close it out.

    When the league put five of our guys on the Covid IL, I was hoping for a .500 April. Now I want to see us with another win or two. When considering the obstacles we’ve overcome, it’s been a pretty good month overall. The Astros are in a pennant race, 1 1/2 games out.

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  6. The way the team played yesterday was encouraging to me. It was the kind of game where they could have gotten discouraged and laid down.
    They were hitting the ball hard and getting very few positive results for most of the game. But they kept at it and with the help of a bad error by the M’s they strung together a series of really tough at bats – hitting the ball the other way or up the middle for singles, working a hyped up pitcher for long count walks, knocking in an insurance run with an opposite side sac fly. Good at bats got good results.
    On the pitching side they could have gotten discouraged too. Greinke was getting squeezed a bit and when he doesn’t hit his spots and gets too much of the plate, the batters get too much bat on the ball. But he didn’t totally implode.
    I’m proud of Brandon Bielak. He did a good job filling in as a starter last season and then suddenly he was getting lit up and was really no longer used. Instead of getting discouraged, he has come back and been solid for us. His 3 innings with just the one dinger to show against him really settled the game down and allowed the team to stay in it.
    Like daveb said above – we finally saw Joe Smith pitch like Joe Smith. Glad for him – he seems like a stand up guy and his mechanics were not good, but he finally looked like he had it together.
    Stanek is going to give up homers once in a while and walks, but boy he has electric stuff and he was fun to watch last night.
    Successful comeback games are big positives for the team. Hope they come back this afternoon behind Garcia and put these guys away.

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  7. Cross reference on sports…..
    Today is the first day of the NFL draft and my team, the dysfunctional Houston Texans have no draft picks until Round 3 on day 2.
    Day 1 of the draft when your team has no picks is like being forced to get up Christmas morning and watch everyone else open gifts.

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    • Or, you can just not watch. That way there is no envy. They get the gifts and you have not wasted any time. It’s sorta like not watching the Oscars. The next day you realize you missed absolutely nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, I challenge you to get yourself up to speed on Round 3 of MLB Draft this year, so we can talk about potential team needs and targets. I’ll post the possibles when we get close to June 1.

      My condolences, too
      May your Texans rest in peace.

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    • Good job, AC, it will be nice having someone to compare notes. This year will be very exciting, as once again, we don’t have a very highly-touted farm, but imo it’s quite solid.

      Let me throw out 3 names that many haven’t heard much about to be watching for:

      Willy Collado – he throws like Luis Tiant, can’t miss him. Hides it well. Won’t show up on anyone’s Top 50, but potentially a sleeper. We saw a couple of those in Spring in Kit Scheetz, and Ronel Blanco. Old farts making good, if you will. Willy might be in Sugar Land at some point.

      Juan Pablo Lopez – Big kid, lefty throws hard. He will make it to AA this year. Be tracking him vs Parker Mushinski, who I said 3 yrs ago cracked top 30. We’ve gotten no reports since 2019, but finally some are whispering watch out.

      aaand pull one out of th hat, how about

      Jake Adams, big ol lumbering 1B with plus power. Hit HRs in his first 4 games in AA after promotion. The Astros finally drafted a Power Only kid this year in Peter Zimmerman. San Jac and Mizzou coaches said he’s the best they ever managed. So, if someone is going to be an eventual bench bat to Yordan, and it’s not going to be Taylor Jones, try to find us that guy in the minors!

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  8. Tuesday, in a close game, remember the guy not getting back to first base on a flyout to short right field?
    Remember last night when the pinch runner got picked off of 1b by the pitcher.
    Remember when the gold glove first baseman threw the ball into LF on a potential game winning DP.
    All of those things happened to a club that came into this series with a 13-9 record.
    And it wasn’t the Astros.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Remember 2019 M’s were 13-2 leading all of baseball.
      We went up there and swept them 3 straight.
      For good measure, we beat them 21-1, then 15-0 to finish them off in Sept. capping off an 18-1 record vs them.

      How about a good ol fashioned baseball whipping today to make a statement?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Suddenly, with all this talk of Hazard County, I can’t help but picture a new cast for the 2021 version of the ‘Dukes’:

    The part of Boss Hawg will be played by Rob Manfred.
    The part of Hughie Hawg will be played by Mike Fiers.
    The part of Roscoe P. Coltrane will be played by Ron Kulpa.
    The part of Uncle Jesse will be played by Dusty Baker.
    The part of Enos will be played by Gary Pettis.
    The part of Cletus will be played by Angel Martinez.
    The part of Cooter Davenport will be played by Brent Strom.
    Help me out – who will play: LUKE? BO? DAISY? VANCE? the BALLADEER? ETC.

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    • Let’s see –
      Daisy – Mrs. Justin Verlander?
      Luke – Ryan Pressly after a shave?
      Bo – Zack Greinke?
      The Balladeer – Ryne Stanek?
      Vance – no idea

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  10. Lineup today – also missing Brantley, but Taylor Jones DH’ing

    Altuve 2B
    Bregman 3B
    Correa SS
    Gurriel 1B
    Diaz LF
    Jones DH
    McCormick RF
    Straw CF
    Castro C

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  11. I’m not worried about Kyle Tucker. Look at the batting averages on the Mets or Blue Jays and compare to what was expected entering the season if you want to feel better. He’s driven in a lot of runs with productive outs so far. Ideally he’ll find some better luck with the line drives and the batting average will even out a bit.

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  12. I was reading MLB.com stories about prospects. Ran across this. It really belongs two posts ago under – Superstitions.

    MLB.com: Do you have any superstitions?

    Bannon: I always lace up the left cleat first — have to!

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  13. We not have zero hits, we haven’t even managed to get the ball out of the infield in fair territory. We are making Kikuchi look like Cy Young.

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  14. Speaking of superstition. Did I mention that through five innings, we have less than one hit? Less than one half a hit? Less than the faintest hint of a scent of a hit?

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  15. If you can’t watch the game today, let me explain the Astros hitting. This is like watching the first Spring Training gamer when the hitters were way off in timing. They are trying to pull pitches on the outside corner. Swinging at pitches middle of the plate and not making contact. Swinging at pitches that bounce in the dirt. Let’s hope we have a last 3 inning miracle again.

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    • Mr. Bill / AC – I feel like we need Obi Wan to come in and tell them to close their eyes and feel the force – they couldn’t be any worse. Really enjoyed Turkey in the Straw swinging at a pitch that was starting below the knees and dropping to shoe level by the time he swung 2 seconds early. It looked like early dad’s pitch where the kids swing no matter what….

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Well, 1oldpro, at least I got the score right. And I’m sure your chest was not compressing. Hopefully you were out in the fresh air growing something or helping something grow. We won 3 of 4. I’ll take that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I bought 5 calves. They are small. We will put them in the pasture in a week or so after giving them their shots and a brand. We will let them eat grass all spring, summer early fall until they are ready to be sold when the grass gives out.
      Three heifers and two steers. Various colors. It’s time for me to do something.
      We got six inches of rain yesterday and the grass is exploding and the ponds are full. I’m not done yet.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. As for yesterday’s game, was Kukuchi and the M’s pitchers that good or were our batters that bad? Baseball is a funny game. One day we’re scoring runs and getting hits like the ball is sitting on a tee and the next day we couldn’t hit a beach ball. I get frustrated that I see our players trying to pull a pitch tailing away from them instead of going the opposite field. All that usually does is cause a weak ground out or at worst a GIDP. Of well, it was a pretty good home stand and we’re back over .500. and hopefully getting better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we had a good chance to win the game yesterday provided Manfred dictated the Mariners pitcher had to be in contact with second base when he released the pitch. There were some terrible swings and misses on 75-80 mph pitches.

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  18. Lost in the Astro’s horrible excuse for offense last night was some really good Astro’s pitching. Well done, Sr. Garcia, Sr. Abreu, Mr. Raley, and Mr. Smith. Maybe next time a couple of position players will actually have your back.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. As we face Ray’s lefty Ryan Yarbrough tonight, keep these things in mind:
    1. Yarbrough is not a strikeout pitcher; he has 21 Ks in 27 IP;
    2. Yarbrough throws strikes/pitches to contact;
    3. Yarbrough isn’t likely to walk very many guys;
    4. Yarbrough averages a little over 15 pitches per inning;
    5. Yarbrough gets a lot of fly ball outs- a low GO/AO percentage;
    6. Yarbrough doesn’t give up many HRs, so our guys will need to play small ball.

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