2021 Astros at the quarter pole

After watching the Preakness on Saturday and seeing the underdog (under horse?) Rombauer surge from a sixth position early in the race to a win at the end, it was just a reminder that position early is not always a harbinger of things to come. However, with the Astros at the quarter pole, some things are fairly evident at this point in the season.

Offensive Proficiency. Even with some obvious holes at the end of the lineup with Myles Straw normally in the 8th spot and Martin Maldonado in the 9th, the team has been an outstanding offensive team to date. The Astros are 2nd in the AL behind the White Sox with 5.27 runs/game. They are at or near the top with a .266 BA (1st), .333 OBP (2nd) and .765 OPS (3rd). While it may seem like they depend on the long ball a lot, they are actually 10th in the AL with 48 HRs to date. Their offense, which was the middle of the road in 2020, is being driven by the return of Yordan Alvarez, the continued excellence of Michael Brantley and the bounce-back seasons of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Yuli Gurriel. Kyle Tucker is still working on raising his batting average, but he leads the team in runs scored and HRs and is second in RBIs. They are also getting some decent production off the bench from Aledmys Diaz and Jason Castro, and even though Chas McCormick is below the Mendoza line in BA, his 12 RBIs in 34 ABs equates to 176 RBIs in a 500 AB season.

Starting Pitcher Proficiency. It almost seems like a minor miracle the Astros’ starting pitching is as good as it has been to date. They don’t have their planned-on ace, Justin Verlander. They don’t have their arguably best starter from 2020, Framber Valdez. The pitcher they picked up to fill in for Valdez, Jake Odorizzi, was bad and then injured. Their supposed ace with Verlander gone, Zack Greinke (3-1, 4.18 ERA), has been inconsistent. But there they sit with the 3rd best ERA in the AL (3.63), the third most innings pitched (218) and tied for the 3rd best WHIP (1.13). They have been bolstered by the improved pitching of Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.70 ERA) and the very good pitching of youngsters Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.08 ERA), Jose Urquidy (3-2, 3.22 ERA) and Luis Garcia (1-3, 3.34 ERA). The story of the next quarter of the season may well be how the Astros deal with the injury to Urquidy (on the 10-day IL) and how they incorporate Odorizzi and Valdez back into the rotation. Who gets moved out of the rotation? And do they move them into the bullpen, or do they send them to the minors to keep them stretched out as starters?

Relief Pitcher Proficiency. The Astros bullpen has been in the bottom half of the AL for the whole season, but lately has been straining to get up close to average. They are 10th in the AL in ERA (4.01) and 7th in WHIP (1.24) in 2021. Ryan Pressly has looked a lot more comfortable in the closer’s role as he has gone 7-for-7 in saves and has a 2-0 record with a 1.50 ERA. Ryne Stanek had a rough last appearance but has been good to this point in the set-up role. Bryan Abreu has been improving in his role as middle innings filler, and Kent Emanuel has been a great addition to the pen since his terrific 8+ inning relief appearance a few weeks ago. Adding Enoli Paredes back into the mix should help things in the late innings, and both Joe Smith and Brooks Raley have looked better in their last few appearances.

Coming Up. Next up for the 24-17 Astros are three games with the first place (by ½ game) Oakland A’s. Yes, fans, we are back to either late-night viewing or early morning DVR playing following our boys of near summer. The Astros have a current 6 game winning streak and have taken 9 of their last 11 games. They have taken 5 of 7 from the A’s on the season. The A’s have taken 9 of their last 14 games, but they have been closer to .500 lately, winning 6 of 11.

The matchups are as follows –

  • Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.08 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea (3-2, 4.40 ERA)
  • Zack Greinke (3-1, 4.18 ERA) vs. Frankie Montas (5-2, 4.93 ERA)
  • Luis Garcia (1-3, 3.34 ERA) vs. Cole Irvin (3-4, 3.02 ERA)

The A’s are scoring more than a run less per game than the Astros. Their starting pitching has an ERA 0.7 higher than the Astros. Their bullpen is marginally better than the Astros. But just like in 2020 and other years, Oakland figures a way to win. They’ve given up 8 more runs than they have scored but still are 8 games over .500. The Astros have scored 56 more runs than they have allowed and still trail the A’s in the standings.

As usual, you never know how an Astros-A’s series will go, but you know it will likely run late and be intriguing.

112 comments on “2021 Astros at the quarter pole

    • Dan, the lack of any really good hitters in the upper levels of our farm system is becoming increasingly evident – and is probably one reason why only one of our Milb affiliates – the pitching-prospect loaded Skeeters – even has a winning record.

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      • Umm, excuse me, please, but the Sugarland Skeeters lead all 30 teams in AAA with a team batting slash line of .328 BA/ .409 OBP/.515 SLG/.923 OPS.
        Round Rock has a .536 SLG, the only stat that Sugarland isn’t #1 in. They are #2 in that stat.
        The Skeeters currently have 8 position players hitting .340 or higher.

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      • Point taken OP. I was primarily thinking about AA and high A, but I did not state that specifically. So far the Skeeters have indeed hit for average and slugging % – especially in the high altitude of Albuquerque and the dry desert air of El Paso. I am curious, though – do you think anyone of that group other than Taylor Jones and perhaps Ronnie Dawson has a legitimate shot at ever starting regularly in the major leagues?

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      • I think Siri, Jones and De La Cruz have a chance to start regularly for somebody.
        I think Papierski has a chance to play regularly in MLB baseball.

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  1. Dan, I believe the intimation here is that no hitter in the Astros organization is pure any more.
    Perhaps we should eagerly await the article on impure hitters.

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  2. I was thinking that maybe none of the ones off the Top 30 prospect list are hitting well – but a quick glance just at he Skeeter stats shows that Taylor Jones and Ronnie Dawson are both off to good starts. I’m sure I would find others at other levels

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  3. I’ll chime in here.

    At Low-A Fayettville, it’s hard to find a really talented hitter because the ones doing well should be up a level, like Matthew Barefoot. He was a 6th round kid, like Wrenn, so *some pedigree a little closer to Zach Daniels who IS definitely a prospect to watch. He like Leon have an explosive bat, but they both strikeout too much. I’d expect lots of promotions this year; Whitcomb, Corona, Dirden, Daniels. Really like Catcher Nerio Rodriguez’ bat there!

    CC Hooks, looking at their K rates, there’s not a hitter of the bunch. Comps are getting better, other farms have stockpiled. It would be very sad if Marty Costes and David Hensley ever make it out of there as “the best of the bunch”. How did Scott Manea and CJ Stubbs just crack the Top 30, and turn in this early report card? They all have a lot of work to do, including both Brown pitchers, who stunk up the joint yesterday. Not good signs.

    Ashville, the best hitters have been Korey Lee, Nova, Schreiber and McKenna. There’s a little hope in these names to get better this season too. Nove we’d love to see be the class of AA by end of season.

    Overall, AAA yes has been fabulous. I like De La Cruz is pushing the envelope, and so is Jake Meyers! Taylor Jones deserved the UTIL spot over Robel Garcia imo. And Siri offers some depth. The problem we have is the 40-man is full, and Garcia is probably going to be the casualty when someone needs to enter.

    Btw, I am STILL awaiting what I suspect to be bad news. Austin Hansen came out of the game the other night wincing and trainers on hand. His scout hasn’t reported back and nothing on the net. I’m hoping this the 3rd day now, they have had some exam… I would have considered him someone they’d call up before Sept. At least Torres had a good stadium debut yesterday, and like Solis who had surgery for bone spurs, another few pitchers that would have to be added, Jojanse, Garza, Blanco believe it or not are in the conversation. And what of James, Pruitt, Baez, Martes — Astros very hush hush this year.

    So excited Tyler Ivey is getting his shot!
    What do you all expect of him tonight? As good as Corbin Martin’s debut?
    I suspect he’ll get good run support, even though Kyle Gibson is pitching, and Ian Kennedy is rested.

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    • I am pleased with the improvement I have noticed from Leon. Considering he hasn’t been in a game in 2.5 years, He is showing something now, compared to where he was at the beginning of the season.

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      • Just because the kid hasn’t played in 2.5 years and is at a new position (SS) and playing in the U.S. for the first time at the highest minor league level – I don’t think you should cut him any slack…..oh well, quite a bit of slack?
        Yeah he went from the Blutarsky (Zero Point Zero) to right below Maldonado territory. You just have to see how he adjusts.

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    • If this is the same Erik Kratz that played for the Astros a few years ago, then you can discount what he says he saw. His eye sight led him to hitting about 75 cents so it would appear to not be dependable.

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    • I told the Mrs. that Baker was wasting Presley. Then, when Abreu appeared, I told her that the game was lost now. Baker needs to go… and take Click with him. What was Ivey doing starting a game when his era was 7.10 in the minors this year???

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      • First, I can’t place any fault on Ivey. As expected, he gave us an ERA of 7.71 last night. I have watched parts of several CC and Skeeters games this year on MILB TV. There is not a single pitcher that appears to be any better. The only pitcher on either team that appears to know where his pitches are going is Jonathan Bermudez. But he is very hittable. Sort of a Poor Man’s Brandon Bielak. (Yes it is still early)

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    • I made a similar comment about a week ago. What a waste! Abreu pitching is like throwing gasoline of a fire. If not he’ll sure start one. Stupid is as stupid does and that was pretty stupid. The headline was “Ivey was throwing strikes” and he gave up 4 runs in 4.2 innings for a sparking 7.71 era. Yes, that was exciting and enthusiastic (not).

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Have you ever heard of a team walking 20 batters and still winning a nine-inning game? Fayetteville did it tonight winning 11-10.
    You just can’t make this stuff up.
    CC had the winning run on third with the bases loaded and nobody out in the tenth inning of their game and didn’t score. Their pitcher got out of the top of the 11th without giving up a run and CC won it in the bottom with a runner placed on second and a two-run leadoff homer from David Hensley.
    Skeeters got a walkoff single from De La Cruz in the bottom of the ninth and Ashville fell behind 6-0 in the first inning and came back to win 7-6.

    Liked by 1 person

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