April was a physical and emotional roller coaster for the Astros as they swung from a 6-1 start to the season, down to a 1-9 middle of the month, over to a 7-2 finish. The Astros were hit hard with COVID related losses (Pedro Baez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado and Robel Garcia) and injury losses (Framber Valdez, Jake Odorizzi, Baez, Andre Scrubb, Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes). The plus .500 record was good, all things considered.
So, on to our Chipalatta Awards for April……
Starting Pitcher of the Month. Cristian Javier – It may feel strange to give it to the one starter who was sent down to the Alternate Training site, but Javier has been their best starter, and it’s not even close. He leads the starters in wins (3), ERA (0.87) and WHIP (0.823) and hasn’t given up a run since his first start, 17 scoreless innings ago. He also hasn’t given up a home run and sports an excellent 11.3 K/ 9 IP and equally good 2.6 walks / 9 IP.
Runner-up. Lance McCullers Jr. – Yes, he has been inconsistent, but less inconsistent than the other possible choices. He sports a 2-1 record with a good 3.38 ERA, 1.050 WHIP, 10.1 K/ 9 IP and a premium 4.7 hits / 9 IP. Frankly, only his poor 4.7 walks/ 9 IP is holding him back, plus a hair-trigger personality that snaps when breaks go against him.
Positional Player of the Month. Yuli Gurriel – He leads the team in hits (31), OBP (.445 by a large margin), OPS (.999), RBIs (16), is one point behind Michael Brantley with a .344 BA, and tied for second with 4 HRs and 7 doubles on the season. Oh, and he has 16 walks when no one else on the team has 10, and his patience seems to be the key to a terrific start to the 2021 season.
Runner-up. Michael Brantley. Michael may be leading the team in Chipalatta runner-ups since he joined the team in 2019. He is so very consistent, but normally not over the top in any one month. He seemed to be heading that way before a hit by pitch seemed to throw him off-stride and out of the lineup for a few games. His beautiful stroke, demonstrated by his 4 line drive singles on the last day of the month and his three doubles a week ago, is back and a thing to behold.
Relief Pitcher of the Month. Ryan Pressly – Pressly is not quite a shutdown closer, and perhaps he never will be, but he has been outstanding to start the season with a 1-0 record, 3 saves, a pristine 0.82 ERA and an excellent 1.6 walks/ 9 IP. The more he is used, the more he seems to be getting comfortable with the role he only took up last season when Roberto Osuna went down for the year.
Runner-up. Ryne Stanek. Stanek and his Thor mane of hair are becoming crowd favorites along with his 98-99 mph heater. He notched his second career save in a recent appearance and has been stellar with a 2.19 ERA, 0.568 WHIP and 13.1 K/ 9 IP stats. He has been boosted into the set-up man, back-up closer role.
Biggest Surprise (Positive). Stanek. When they picked him up, he looked like just a piece to fill out the bullpen. He has quickly earned high leverage appearances from the bullpen and, at times, has been as overpowering as anyone on the staff.
Runner-up. Luis Garcia. He looked good in one regular-season start in 2020 and a two-inning opener in the playoffs, but he has fulfilled all expectations in 2021 while pitching in buzzard’s luck. He has had to flip flop from a start to a relief appearance to a start, etc., in his five appearances so far and given the Astros a shot in every game with his 2.70 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Lack of teammate run support has left his record at 0-3, but he looks like he belongs in the majors.
Biggest Disappointment. Jake Odorizzi – When the Astros picked him up following the injury to Framber Valdez, he was expected to fill one of the rotation spots in his normal workmanlike manner. Instead, he has paired minimal pitching (3 starts / 8 innings) with poor pitching (0-2, 10.13 ERA. 3 HRs) before ending up on the IL. Hopefully, he will return and pitch more like his career norm.
The we’d like to see more award (Tie) – Luis Garcia, Kent Emmanuel, Brandon Bielak – While the breakout young pitchers from 2020 (Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes and Andre Scrubb) have all been dealing with injuries, these young bucks have been pitching effectively between spot starts and long relief. One of the most exciting parts of the last two unusual seasons has been seeing the young pitchers, including Cristian Javier, along with those listed above, who had previously been just a name or a youtube highlight in our minds.
Anyway, bottom line, do you agree with these awards?
Want to propose awards of your own?