Astros 2021: Early season concerns

After last season, it may feel strange to say that the Astros are in the early season after 29 games since that would have been just short of half a season a year ago. But, they have covered less than 20% of the 2021 season, and so some concerns may be the result of small sample syndrome, while others may be true concerns that are not going away.

Here are some concerns at this time in the season…

  • Top-end. Let’s face it. As fans, we have been spoiled by the top end of our rotation over the last half-decade. Whether it was Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole or Charlie Morton, the top end of the rotation has been dominant. With Verlander out for the year and Framber Valdez perhaps debuting next month, the top end has been anchored by the dual inconsistent “rocks” – Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. In two of his last four outings, Greinke has not gotten to the fifth inning. Is he the pitcher who has dominated the A’s and the Mariners in outings or the guy who struggles when the umpire is squeezing, and the hitters are patient? At times McCullers has looked absolutely unhittable this season, and the most hits he’s given up in an outing has been 4 (Greinke has given up 10 hits twice). But he always seems to be about one step away from an emotional meltdown. He has the talent to be the Astros best starter, but he has to control himself.
  • The Little Big Man. It is impressive yet disconcerting to see Jose Altuve drop 100 pts off his batting average in a week. Yes, it is an early-season slump, but after a terrible 2020, fans thought he might be beyond all this when he was the “old” Altuve in the 2020 playoffs and hot to start off 2021. Is this the new normal (a terrible COVID term) for Jose? Is it psychological? Is he a person taking it very personally that his greatest accomplishments have been tarnished by his and his teammates’ actions or even inaction when it comes to stopping things? Anyways, the Astros cannot survive with a leadoff hitter who is hitting like Martin Maldonado.
  • The Big Little Man. Speaking of El Machete, Martin has been about as bad a hitter in the first 5 weeks as one could think is possible. His .091 BA/ .167 OBP/ .303 OPS slash is almost impossibly bad for someone who does not take the mound. He has no home runs or RBIs so far this year. He has no multi-hit games, and in fact, he has hit in only 6 of his 21 games this year. And for those concerned, Martin is one Astro who had no problem signing an in-season extension. This is just a slump. Oh Lord, it better be.
  • Sum Total. Even though the Astros are the fourth-best about preventing runs in the AL (3.90 runs/game) and 3rd best at scoring (4.86 runs/game), they still have won only one more game than they have lost at 15-14. The sum of the parts seems to be less than the value of each of them.
  • The Kid. Even though he has a decent 5 HRs (tied for first on the team) and 15 RBIs (tied for third), Kyle Tucker, even hitting in bad luck, should not be slashing at a pitiful .183 BA/ .241 OBP/ .597 OPS. It has not helped Tucker that he has had to face left-handers in 45% of his at bats, though he must find a way to hit better than his current.149 BA against the portsiders. We hope this is part of the maturing process.
  • Nothing for Something. What if Jake Odorizzi and Pedro Baez do nothing but collect checks (like Verlander) this year? I’ve nothing more to say on that subject.
  • After the Fire’s Gone. What happens when Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Michael Brantley and heck, even Jason Castro cool down? Correa’s been solid but not hot. Maldonado, Myles Straw, Tucker and Altuve (lately) cold. Will this offense roll up in a small ball and die?

OK, that is what this writer is concerned about. What about you, readers?  

77 comments on “Astros 2021: Early season concerns

  1. A think I am less concerned than I am seeing what I expected. I don’t think it was a fluke that this team with the loss of starting pitchers over the past few years, was a .500 team last year. Then got hot for the playoffs. Then Springer leaves. So for us to think they would play .700 ball was not realistic. Altuve is not making contact with pitches he used to drive. Same with Correa. I am not knocking any current starter but I don’t see a long career with any of the new guys and Hall talk. YES, they can do great for an inning or two, but then control issues do them in. If this team wins 90+ games, Dusty should be manager of the year.

    Like

  2. Yes, we were able to count on a good start from the 1,2 guys in our rotation for years. Grienke is winding down from a Hall of Fame career. He was not very good during the 2020 exhibition season. Can he still be consistent? Or is he the guy we saw last year? McCullers, same thing. Which guy do we get? All in all though, I think our starters are potentially the most reliable aspect of our club.

    I’m convinced Straw is not our guy in center. And as long as Tucker struggles, that’s two big offensive holes in the outfield. Can we still assume that Kyle is going to give us an .850 OPS ultimately? And is it possible that Altuve is an old 31 tomorrow? Dan, maybe you’re right. He’s a sensitive guy. Maybe he’s still beat up mentally. Don’t forget the yips episode. I’d sure like to see Carlos start having his career contract year.

    The pen remains a scary proposition. There is talent. But which guys will reliably settle into theirs roles? Losing Baez sure was not expected. And there are still guys like Raley and Scrubb I’m on the fence about. We’re going to need reinforcements from below. Which guys?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh where oh where has our bullpen gone.
    Oh where oh where can it be.
    (I’ll let Mr. Bill finish. He’s much better at this than me.)

    Like

    • Z, after that mess last night about all I get is:

      ‘Where have our reliever’s gone – I’m just askin”;
      Where have all our stoppers gone – does anybody know?
      Where have all our firemen gone, they turn to gas cans, every one!
      Stand back and watch ’em burn!
      Stand back and watch ’em burn!’

      Like

  4. If anyone takes the times and scrolls through the box scores from opening day, one will notice far too many runs being given up in the late innings. Maybe it is because the bullpen is weak. Maybe it is caused by the starters leaving early. But any time that a team gives up late runs will soon find themselves discouraged.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The 2021 Astros are the Cosmetologists of baseball. We come in to a town, do our magic, and make ugly teams look really good. Tigers. Rockies. Yanks. Next?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. On a happier front, both Corpus Christi and Asheville notched their first victories on the season last night. Unfortunately, Fayetteville lost again. The Skeeters start their season tonight at Albuquerque.

    BTW: Highly-touted Cuban signee Pedro Leon is off to a rocky start at Corpus. In two games against AA pitching [in both of which he was our lead-off batter] he is 0-8 with six strikeouts.

    Like

  7. In reference to your post Dan it’s obvious to me that something is just not clicking with this team. The obvious things that we know about is the lack of a bonified ace on the staff. JV is not in the mix and Zack has seen better days. That’s not saying that he’s not a good pitcher and he can usually be counted on to give us an opportunity to win games but he is not what he used to be. LMJ either runs hot or cold and our younger components are good but not quite there yet. Overall I give our starters a 6 out of 10. The bull pen is another story. When you walk more batters than strike out that doesn’t bode well. It seems that we have a few AAAA relievers and a few that may never be. Without naming names it just looks like the game is lost when that call to the bull pen is made. I give them a 4 out of 10. Without getting into the offensive side of things our pitching staff enables us to be right where we are, a .500 team.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I guess with the bullpen I am hopeful (my favorite word lately) that if we get some help off the injury list (Enoli Paredes, Blake Taylor and maybe Pedro Baez) we will be better. The trouble right now is that we have to keep going back to guys who are struggling Brooks Raley and Joe Smith. Smith has looked a bit better lately, Raley looks hurt. It is odd that the guy with the worst ERA (9.49) has pitched in the most games (15) on the staff. Just because he is a lefty does not mean that 1) he can get out lefties and 2) he should be tossed out there every time a lefty is batting. I’d rather they go pull back a Peter Solomon than keep rolling Raley out.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think the bullpen is more important in the short term. An ace really only gives you an advantage once every five games…so the impact is much bigger in October. But…you need to win enough games during the summer months to even worry about that. The big question in my mind is whether Click will utilize some of those arms from our minor league system to stabilize things. I assume he’s trying to string things out until at least July.

      If we continue down this path the wild card is not an option, but we’re only 3 games behind Oakland and the rest of the division looks pretty weak. Based on the coverage of Trout and Ohtani one might think the Angels were on pace to catch the 2001 Mariners, but they’re 3 games under .500. The longer the Astros keep their head above water and stay within striking distance the more options we’ll have.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The other consideration with the bullpen is that IF Jake Odorizzi and Framber Valdez return in good shape – someone goes to the bullpen. Likely Luis Garcia – but beyond that I don’t know. Javier to keep his innings under control? Urquidy as the odd man out? Framber as he gets back into shape?

    This has to help the bullpen too.

    Like

  9. On our end – Altuve finally gets a hit in the first off Cole, but then Brantley grounds into our 30th (slight exaggeration) of the series.
    McCullers continues to be unhittable, but ends up walking the bases loaded and getting out of it on a screaming liner to Yuli.
    Lance was actually really close (or even in the zone) on most of those balls. And he did not melt down – so that is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Even with a leadoff single, a much better second inning for Lance as he follows the single with a 3 pitch K, a first pitch forceout and a 3 pitch K.

      Like

    • A much better, more efficient inning for Lance in the 2nd! A hit allowed, but only 8 pitches thrown [two 3-pitch strikeouts and two first-pitch in-play] and no damage done. Now if we could just generate a little offense . . .

      Like

  10. I feel like I would walk right past the clean shaven Gerrit Cole on the street without recognizing him. Of course he would be on the $300 million street that I would not be allowed to walk down.

    Like

    • Stanton hit a laser shot and Alvarez hit a laser shot, both the kind of no doubters where the outfielders just turn and watch and the pitcher asks for a new ball.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Frazier sees Alvarez and raises him an RBI. Yanks lead 3-1 – but at least we finally got Giancarlo Stanton out!

    Like

  12. Well we have a better minor league update from a game we actually won and a prospect on “THE List” in Kessinger.
    Nice to see Enoli pitched a scoreless inning for Corpus
    I don’t know which Alvarez home run went farther or harder
    Astros trying to rally in the 8th

    Like

  13. The Astros get the Little league award of the day – allowing a guy to score from first on an infield hit because no one covers third in time – Maldonado is late getting there and no one covering home behind Maldy

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was on Pressley. He should have covered third base and allowed Maldanado to stay at home. A total mind meltdown there. He never left the mound area.

      Like

      • What I saw were at least 3 brain dead. 1. No reason for Carlos to stand behind 2nd and watch a runner come past him and 3rd. He could have thrown it early to Maldonado. (Or Carlos could have beaten the runner home) 2. Pressley was a spectator. 3. After the DP was gone, Yuli was a spectator. 4. Maldonado was late to 3rd and way late back to home.

        And it was actually a T-Ball play. Coach Pitch would have known better.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve watched it about 3 times now and still can’t believe what I saw. AC45 pretty much nailed it but Correa could have just thrown the ball back to Pressley and called time. I put the percentages as 60% Correa, 20% Pressley, 15% Maldonado (at least he tried to get to third to stop the runner), and 5% Yuli. Of course the stupid shift got the whole thing started in the first place. You have Bregman playing a modified SS to the 2nd base side of the bag so nobody is any where near third. Hell a guy could push bunt the ball towards third and get a double without the ball barely reaching the outfield. And yes kudos to Gleyber Torres for being smart enough to see what was going on.
        Glad to see Altuve and Maldonado get back in the hit column big time, Alvarez launching two HR’s and LMJ and the BP coming through.

        Liked by 2 people

      • According to MLB…

        “Torres expected Maldonado to cover third base, with Pressly at home plate, but Pressly was still standing near the mound. Astros manager Dusty Baker said it was actually first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s responsibility to cover home plate in that situation.”

        WHAT??!! Yuli had to be near first to keep Hicks close in case of a throw to the plate or third base. If this article is true, then Baker needs to be replaced yesterday! The 3P ideology was at work here.

        Like

  14. Good win today as two of our “concerns” – Altuve and Maldonado had the huge hits that won this game for them.
    And as bad as the play was that allowed the Yanks to get a “Little League” run in the 8th …..that’s how good the game ending double play was – where Bregman made a terrific diving stop and perfect throw to second, Altuve turned it despite having the runner into his knees and Yuli made a nice scoop on the bounced throw to end it…..
    Maldy had a 50% increase in hits today from 6 to 9 on the season!!
    Tucker with two walks so he could ride in on the two late home runs
    Yordan looking like the menacing hitter we saw in 2019 launched two giant home runs
    McCullers wasn’t great but did not meltdown and Pressly could have gone south after his failure to cover 3rd/ home but he pitched solidly to the end.
    Scrubb with a scoreless inning against the heart of the order

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Dan P’s Pujols plan. We wait until he clears waivers, which he will. We sign him to the minimum, put him on the back of the bench and he can never hurt us again.
    OK maybe a little over the top

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Awesome win today in front of the most despicable fans on earth. Since I couldn’t see the game it was hard to tell if Altuve’s homerun quieted those despicable fans….anybody can let me know? AND….that homerun Maldonaldo hit must have felt mighty delicious! I was pleased to see McCullers didn’t do his usual melt down by the 4th inning, let’s hope that continues. Now as for Uncle Albert:
    Although I hated to see him come to Minute Maid, because he hit like a ZILLION homeruns here, kidding it was ONLY *69*!
    That man was the absolutely the BEST MAN I’ve ever seen when it came to being a great man, father and husband….EVER!
    His charity work with special needs children is beyond awesome. He married a woman who had a young daughter with special needs and reared her as his own….never having children of his own. So when he goes into the HOF I’ll be clapping very loud to see him on that stage❤ Love the man….hated when he came here to say hello to the Crawford boxes!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Becky, fans out in the unshaded beer inclusive grounds at a cricket match in the West Indies, maybe 6 hours into a hot Saturday afternoon on day 3 of a test match, would frighten the pipi (local vernacular) out of even those most despicable wimpy lads from New York.

      The Astro played three rather untidy baseball games in Yankee Stadium and got a win. Yes, Yuli gets the award for doing nothing on that play. He snoozed. The first baseman has to cover the plate. It’s like ringaleevio.

      Yordan Alvarez in famous in New York.

      Carlos Correa is not.

      Like

      • Dusty and daveb are both right. It breaks down into a rundown play. Once Maldonado takes off for third base, Gurriel is supposed to rotate down to cover home. Frankly, it was a bad read by Maldonado though. He should have immediately known he could not win a footrace to third and just yielded the bag. That leaves runners at 1st and 3rd. The ball is already at 2B, so there is no reason for Gurriel to be hanging out at 1st to prevent the runner there from advancing. At this point, if he leaves to cover home, Correa can simply walk the ball back to the mound and any runner who tries to advance would be an easy out.

        My take is that Dusty assumes the players know their roles in these situations and doesn’t really go over them in spring training. It’s probably insulting to millionaires to suggest they don’t know how to play the game. Then again, our fastest (maybe?) runner doesn’t even know how to bunt.

        Like

    • The three days were peaceful and loving, but the lake was inaccessible to us because it was impossible for 2 people of our age to get to it. We were very disappointed in not being able to fish. It took me an hour to walk to it and back and I was exhausted, as it was not even accessible in a four-wheel drive truck because of the steep trail.
      Some might say older folk have no filters, but we took this in stride and vow that we will find a place to fish when we get another chance. Or, at least I vow to find a place to fish!
      Hope you are doing better. Praying for you by name every night.

      Like

    • He walked the bases loaded in the first inning- to be fair, he was being squeezed to the max. No corners, nothing above the belt or below the thighs; indeed nothing but the center of the power tunnel was a strike. All series the umps seemed determined to get Stanton, Judge, and Torres a ball they could tee up.

      Like

      • Always in the most critical times, the ump seemed to make a terrible call, and then like a true clown, knowing they’d be judged on a report card on # missed calls, they quickly do a “make-up” when it didn’t matter and the Yankee had enough time in the at-bat to hit. There were several strikeouts with the full baseball in the zone, but called BB! And then this one made me furious.

        Look how the media portrays it as easy for human error to miss it.

        Like

  17. I’ve watched the Altuve home run a dozen times, and still can’t believe what he did – or that anyone else in the league could have/would have done it. The count was 3-2. The ball was nowhere close to even Angel Hernandez’ strike zone. It was coming at Jose at 96 mph, at eye level, and riding in. That’s ball four, to load the bases. Plus, as every hitting coach ever taught any kid, that is a ball you simply must lay off. Nobody can get their arms up, their bat around, and catch up to a major league power fastball that high and tight.

    But then . . . along comes Jose. Start spreadin’ the news!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. * That was a series the 2017-19 Astros would have swept. The 2021 Astros could have swept it, had they brought their A game. Walks and errors were the difference.
    * I told my wife that as long as pitchers don’t throw a fastball on the inside half of the plate they would be safe from Maldonado hurting them. What was that Yankee pitcher thinking?
    * The AAA Sugarland Skeeters won their first ever MILB game last night on the road in Albaquatever. Don’t pay any attention to the stats, as that location is like playing in Denver. Just pay attention to the win and the fact that there were 7,100 people in attendance, as there was only 10,000 in attendance in Yankee stadium.
    * The only guy I ever saw come close to hitting the fastball that Altuve hit yesterday was Evan Gattis. Memories.

    Like

    • It’s funny OP – I was thinking about this driving into work (for the second time since the pandemic I am at work to unpack boxes at my cubicle) and I was thinking about Evan Gattis also, because these are like the only two guys I can remember who can catch up with an elevated (out of the zone) fastball. I had texted my kids yesterday that most major league hitters would be fortunate to foul off a ball that high. That ball was neck high and he squared it up. Gattis had more of a tomahawk chop on those things, Altuve somehow manages to almost get a normal swing on it – even though its a couple feet above his prime zone. Amazing

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dan, I believe Altuve’s ability to make that swing is a personal ability connected to his swing and similar to Yuli’s ability to pull his hands in close to his body after he starts his swing.
        However, Altuve’s ability is rarer in baseball than Yuli’s.

        Like

  19. What he [Dusty Baker] said: “it was actually first baseman Yuli Gurriel’s responsibility to cover home plate in that situation.”

    What he meant: “Strange things happen when you employ extreme shifts. To be honest, I have no idea who should’ve covered home. Maybe Carlos Correa, who had the ball, should have immediately taken off running home to cut off Torres, kind of like the best fielder on infield does in little league when they don’t trust anyone else to make a catch and apply a tag.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like that Little League deal Mr. Bill.
      It was such a weird play. Carlos had no reaction as though he did not know the runner was headed to third. Carlos gives a feeble flip to (Bregman or Altuve) I don’t remember which. Pressly and Yuli never take a step until the guy is passing Maldonado.
      But again the extreme shift had nobody near third and other infielders trying to cover 2nd and 1st in case Correa comes up with it.
      What gets me is nobody even yelled at someone to cover home.
      We need to get a sprinter in place of Maldy at catcher. When there is an extreme shift on a left handed hitter and he pops up down the third base line, Maldonado has had to try and sprint all the way to even with third to cover the ground. The poor man is going to have a heart attack one of these times.
      I hope some coach is going over some of these shift scenarios with the team to remind them of responsibilities.

      Like

      • I looked at the replay several times and the player who did nothing is the guy should have covered home: Ryan Pressly might as well have been sitting in the stands.
        Maldy should have stayed at home but that was a physical mistake by a catcher who was, at least, thinking and then doing. Pressly was just standing there.
        The hero was Torres, who saw there was nobody at 3B before he ever reached 2B and saw there was nobody at home before he ever got to 3B. Fabulous baserunning and terrible defense by the pitcher is how to describe what happened.

        Liked by 2 people

  20. I always disliked the return on the J.D. Davis trade. Lordy, someone talk me off the cliff, we probably couldn’t even use his current slash .390/.479./.610 anyway.

    So, this young man, Luis Santana, was supposed to be the crown jewel of that exchange. Keep in mind we’re talking Hi-A ball, he is R5 eligible in Dec., but it doth appear he has one of the best “eyes” at the plate & has added some muscle. He hit 2 HR’s last night when his exit velocities in ’19 were extremely concerning.

    It looks like in the meantime, he’s been working on a unique bat flip as well. Must say, I’ve never seen anything approaching that swag.

    Ashville has hosted the Rockies for years, and must now embrace the Mini Stros. What a beautiful venue.

    Like

    • I have learned to live with the damn bat flips, but this seems like stupid. The catcher was watching the ball flight and not the bat flight. I’m glad no one was hurt. Wondering if anyone on either team was happy this happened.

      Like

    • I heard, but haven’t verified, that Asheville is the oldest operating ballpark in MiLB now. I’m hoping to make it there this summer for a game.

      That bat flip was stupid. I hope he gets suspended for it. I don’t mind hitters showing off a bit, but doing things like that can get someone hurt.

      Like

      • I’m planning to watch them when they play the Grasshoppers in July. Hopefully, he will still be hitting home runs with out the ridiculous bat flips.

        Like

  21. On days our baes play the Jays, the A’s will be playing the Rays.

    There has to be a rap song in there somewhere.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s