The Astros are past the 30 per cent mark in the season as we are about to celebrate Memorial Day and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
So, we are past the Yes It’s Early point in the season. Yet, as we are reminded by the Indy 500 being run Sunday, the baseball season is a very long season and what has happened in the first 30 per cent of the season will not necessarily reflect what is coming. However, an organization better take heed of what has happened this far in the season and start addressing what has not gone well to date, while planning for regression for those things that went well and may not be sustainable.
The tendency among some fans is to panic when things are not going well, as with the Astros recent woes against the Rangers and the Padres. But it is tough to relax when it feels like opportunities are slipping through the team’s hands and problem areas are not being addressed. So, let’s take a look at a few areas of concern and argue both sides of the topic….
Dusty Baker is unable to adjust to today’s game as it has passed him by….
Reasons to Panic. He seems to be just sitting there and reacting to things (sometimes a little late) and not being proactive. His bullpen moves keep blowing up on him. His team makes too many mistakes, both mentally and physically. His placement of players in the lineup and his matchup (lefty-righty) choices don’t always make sense. The team looks like it needs a kick in the butt and that is not his style.
Reasons to Relax. The guy who has taken 5 different teams to the playoffs and most recently led the Astros to within one game of the World Series has not forgotten how to manage. He would look much better if his relievers did not stop at the Conoco pump on the way to the mound and attack the fires with gasoline. His placement of players in the lineup has not kept the team from leading the majors in runs/game at 5.22. Whenever teams have an intense manager, who is hitting a bad patch, they want a more laid-back leader. Whenever the manager is more a player’s manager like Dusty and they struggle, there is a call-out for a drill sergeant. Dusty has gotten a lot out of a team with obvious holes due to injuries and in the bullpen, due to lack of talent and depth.
This bullpen is going to sink this team….
Reasons to Panic. The bullpen has the 11th worst ERA in the AL at 4.45 and are on a bee-line downward. As a group, they have blown 10 of 20 save opportunities, the second-worst save percentage in the league behind the O’s. The bullpen has had a big hand in the last 6 losses (out of 8 games) for the team. Blown leads and late-inning losses are very psychologically disabling to a team.
Reasons to Relax. This bullpen is shallow and stinky like a stagnant pond, but this will not be the bullpen in a few weeks (we hope). With Framber Valdez and Jake Odorizzi looking strong in their returns to the rotation and with Jose Urquidy and Lance McCullers returning soon, the Astros will have not only a strong rotation base, but some surplus arms to help out in the bullpen. Cristian Javier has already given the team a big boost in the bullpen a few games ago. Likely Luis Garcia, who has been very good in spot starts will get a chance to help out in the bullpen perhaps as a set-up man or another multi-inning option. Blake Taylor looks like he is close to returning and that would give the bullpen a boost. Whether the Astros go get some more bullpen help may depend on whether Pedro Baez returns from his COVID + injury time to take over the late-inning role he was signed for.
Sure the team scores a decent amount of runs, but not when they need it….
Reasons to Panic. It does not take an analytical mind long to note that in every one of the recent losses there were opportunities to put the games away or even to walk-off wins by an offense that leaves too many runners on base. Leaving runners on base can be just as debilitating as blowing leads to a team.
Reasons to Relax. Just look at Saturday’s game. They entered the game without top offensive players Yuli Gurriel, Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley due to injuries. Yet, they scored 5 runs (4 earned) in 5 innings against Yu Darvish who had given up 5 runs (4 earned) in his previous 5 starts total. They gave the bullpen a 5 run lead that should have been enough in the last three innings but wasn’t. If this offense continues to score 5 or so runs a game, the place to look for reasons they don’t win will be elsewhere.
For being pros playing at the highest level, they sure make a lot of mental and physical errors….
Reasons to Panic. Along with making errors in the field, they get thrown out and picked off on the bases. They force throws when no out is possible. They don’t seem to know when to call each other off pop-ups. They trip over the edge of the stands trying to catch a game-ending pop-up (sorry Taylor Jones). They don’t always cover the open bases with the shift moving the fielders around. They don’t look well-coached.
Reasons to Relax. Uhhhh – you got me there.
Anyways, what are you panicking about out there and what are you relaxing about…..