Why to panic, why to relax

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…..

 

40 comments on “Why to panic, why to relax

  1. As much as I’d like to blame Dusty I feel like he’s doing the best he can with the cards he’s been dealt. The pen is what it is and that’s the problem right now.
    On the other hand a younger manager, someone nearer the age of the players, is sure to have a positive effect on these guys.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. If Dusty Baker had a pen, everyone would be happy right now and we’d be comfortably in first place despite all the injuries.. If Earl Strom can’t help this bunch, who can? Baker will be here all year. He’ll be doing something else next year. I just wish our organization would tell us what’s up with the injured guys. Luhnow used to tell us more than we hear now and that wasn’t much. Does keeping everyone in the dark help us beat our opponents?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Reasons to relax: In the past 50 years, teams that had the best regular season record only won the world series 13 times. We are obviously sandbagging so that we don’t end up with the best record, and we’ll win in the postseason when it counts.

    Of our regular starting lineup, only Correa and Tucker have lower career OPS rates in the second half compared to the first half of the season. And with Carlos, I attribute that to him missing a lot of games in August/September as his June/July career OPS is over .900.

    Like

  4. OMG

    I got to see the last game of the Padres series, being an evening start for my UK time zone.

    OMG

    It was deja vu all over again. Twice.

    What amount of a lead is safe?!?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Simon – good to hear from you. We miss our UK connection.
      I was going crazy in the 9th inning.

      Solo home run
      One out
      Two run home run
      Second out
      My engineer’s brain said the next progression would be a 3 run home run, a tie game and a 6 run lead wiped out
      OMG indeed

      Like

  5. A minor league report based upon “eye test” and only talking about as of yesterday.

    1. If Jonathan Bermudez were brought up, he is very hittable but has good control with less than 1 walk per 9 innings. So he might give up 3 home runs in the late innings but they would most likely be solos.
    2. Pedro Leon is still very overmatched with AA pitching. Decent in the field with a good arm.
    3. Siri makes hard contact and is still hitting over .350. Leads the team in Ks but just barely over De Goti and De La Cruz.
    5. Marty Costes makes good contact but with little power batting .362.
    5. Michael Papierski appears to be a better hitting prospect at catcher than either Stubbs.

    I have never played “Major League Scout” in any movies.

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    • Thanks you for the scouting reports. I especially enjoyed the Bermudez triangle information. How does a guy get 33 K’s and only walk 2? Maybe he should stop being so polite.

      Like

  6. Thought Dusty was temporary until
    They could find us a coach . He’s ok but sometimes I feel he’s sitting on his hands and doing nothing . It’s sad to have this quality of a team and can’t keep pitchers going .
    Think we need to spend some money and find a good manager ! AJ is hard to beat . Wish he was back . Right the wrongs and forgive !!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Welcome Karen. I believe you are a new commenter and welcome.
      I always struggle with how much is on the manager with teams performance. A.J. Hinch the most successful manager in our history, stunk in Arizona and is 9 games under .500 with the Tigers this year. Manager’s can make a few games difference over a season (maybe +/- 5 wins), but they can’t overcome bad performance by the players they are given.
      Considering all the injuries they have had the last two years, especially on the pitching side, the team has done OK. I don’t think Dusty is the long term answer. But frankly they need to get out from under some of their contracts, like Verlander’s 2 years of waste and bring in some relief help and possibly a new shortstop for next year. If Correa, Greinke and Verlander are not with them next year, that is a good chunk of change, but they may have to bring in some starting pitching too.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s just so dang hard not to blame the manager. All managers make a few bad decisions each game but they are magnified in a situation like the Padres series.

        Like

  7. A couple of comments:
    *According to Fangraphs’ Roster Resource, Bermudez has the highest power rank of any Astros minor leaguer so far this year. He is a tandem LH starter who is listed as a Relief Pitcher by Roster Resource. His numbers against LH batters so far this season are teeny and against RH batters are way better than average. He was graded well as a prospect coming out of high school and was small. and not drafted until after college. He is now BIG at 6’2″ and 235 lbs.
    Bermudez needs to be protected from Rule 5 after the ’21 season. If he continues to dominate in the minors, he could get a looksee in September.
    * The Astros had control of all three games in a series against the team with the best record in baseball and their bullpen blew two of them and looked horrible in the other one. If the Astros fix their pen they will be a contender.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bermudez has some intriguing stats. Now he’s got 39 K’s and 3BB’s. In an organization that collectively has trouble throwing strikes, that stands out a bit. The other thing I just noticed is that his BAbip is .361, so his early work can’t be considered good fortune alone.

      How long do you leave him on Corpus? Does anyone know how hard or soft the big guy throws?

      Like

      • MILB TV for Corpus does not show the pitch count nor mph of the pitch. He appears to throw in low 90’s. He is throwing against young AA batters. He does not appear to dominate them but is effective. As I said before, he looks like a poor man’s Brandon Bielak, and is the same age (25). He must be on a tight pitch count of 70 because they took him out mid-inning last time.

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      • Yes, it appears his hiccup is that he strikes out a lot of batters, but when they make contact it is in the air. He does not get enough grounders. So, downward movement on his offspeed stuff is something he is going to need if he is to make it to MMP.
        After a whole year without pitching, he needs to refine his stuff.
        Still, 39 K’s in 23.2 innings is pretty good. It appears the young guys can’t lay off his stuff and older guys have been waiting him out and getting their pitch.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe we are looking at this all wrong. Maybe he is a left handed Fred (Freddie Flintstone) Gladding. Who lead the league in saves with 29 in 1969. This was a .500 team. And if Loel Passe could be believed, Jimmy Wynn, Norm Miller and Jesus Alou spent most of the summer catching fly balls with their backs against the wall.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. On Memorial Day I do want to recognize one specific person. My middle name is Lee and I was named after my father’s uncle, Leroy Klug. Leroy was a PFC from Wisconsin with the Marines who was lost as the second man in an Avenger (torpedo bomber) shot down in the Solomon Islands on December 3rd, 1943. He was 23 years old and his body was never found.
    They did not find out about his death until days later, but the day he died, my grandma (his sister) would talk about how his picture fell off the wall in her parent’s house.
    Please remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this wonderful country.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. *Luis Garcia has done such a good job as a starter that it has allowed the Astros to take the time to get Urquidy and Odorizzi healthy and effective with MILB rehabs. Now, Garcia can, hopefully, do the same thing to help the Astros get LMJ healthy and effective so he can come back and get the rotation complete.
    If and when LMJ completes his rehab and returns, the Astros can keep Garcia up, if they wish, and have him and Javier in the bullpen. I’m guessing that they would want Garcia to be effective in the BP, as opposed to sending him to AAA to start and keep a reliever in his place who cant get people out.
    * I doubt if we hear anything about Josh James or Pedro Baez until the day they show up on a minor league rehab assignment with an announcement and a cloudy plan and a foggy hopeful target date for their imminent return.
    * Martin Maldonado has been one of the least effective catchers at the plate, but has been elite defensively. One of the areas that have no stats to rank catcher is the handling of the pitchers and I would think that, considering the injuries the Astros’ staff has incurred thus far, Martin is probably also considered elite in handling a pitching staff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I meant to write this the other day when someone (maybe you) commented on Maldonado calling the trainer out on Emanuel.
      In all my years I’ve been watching baseball I can never remember a catcher doing this multiple times as Maldonado has done this season. That takes a lot of confidence and leadership on his part because the pitchers could get hacked at him for doing it. But in reality he notices something wrong like sudden lower velocity and waves the flag and perhaps catches something before it gets to be a serious injury.
      I love Luis Garcia – he has been terrific for us. Being able to bring him and Javier out of the bullpen soon gives us a shot in the arm. It also may keep the both of them from piling up too much of an inning increase at a “tender” pitching age.
      It felt great getting top line pitching from Framber Valdez, Jake Odorizzi, Zack Greinke and Jose Urquidy. Even though we blew a couple of those, it is a signal that we do have a lot of starting depth, which we will need as the season unwinds.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I ran into Billy Joel over the weekend. We were lamenting how the Astros series with the Padres had us all in a ‘Pop-a-Cork State of Mind’, how some of our relievers should be known as ‘Gas-Can -a-man’, and how ‘They Can’t Put out the Fire’. I said: “Don’t Ask Me Why’, but that I think that’s “Just the Way We Are’. Then he chuckled and said: ‘You May Be Right’ – and he sang this little ditty:

    Friday night we were crusin’ hometown;
    then came a big-time bullpen melt-down;
    we lost 10-3 in ugly extra frames.
    The Pads teed-off on Brooks;
    and gave Bielak dirty looks,
    we shook our heads and said ‘It’s just one game!’

    Saturday night we went up by five;
    Odorizzi wasout there thowin’ knives;
    we treated Darvish like a washed-out bum;
    Then Tatis took Pressly yard;
    and they hit the kid so hard,
    that we dug a hole we couldn’t overcome!

    You may be right! We may be schizo!
    But it still beats watching politics or the NBA!
    Pop the Bud Light; pour the wife some Merlot!
    The pen may choke, and we may get smoked;
    but why get uptight!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wish I could give you more than one like Mr. Bill….
      – Well as AC45 talks about below – sometimes we think Dusty is An Innocent Man.
      – Many times he gets caught up with his bullpen and its A Matter of Trust (or not trust).
      – Can’t wait for LMJ to get back even if sometimes he is An Angry Young Man.
      – I wish Jones had caught that pop-up, because it led to Tatis’ Big Shot
      – Sometimes when Click and/or Dusty talk to the press I think they lack Honesty
      – You just knew the way Scrubb had been pitching lately that he would be Movin’ Out
      – Sometimes these young guys in the bullpen succumb to Pressure
      – When Strom heads to the mound to talk to the relievers, he probably tells them You’re Only Human
      – I just love Greinke when he has it going even if he can be The Stranger
      – Doesn’t it seem that the period since we won the World Series is The Longest Time?
      – Thinking about winning another one this year is probably just a River of Dreams

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t think everything that goes wrong is Dusty’s fault. But he does make strange bullpen changes with 1 or 2 out and no one on base. And I don’t understand with several players out, why he chose to make his utility guy (Diaz) DH. In fact the next game after the loss, he realized his mistake and put Diaz at first and Jones the DH. So his inconsistencies REALLY show up when they backfire on him. Sometimes it seems that if he wanted to send a message, he would ignore the cheetah and use a 3 toed sloth.

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  12. If Clint Eastwood made a movie about the 2021 Astros, what do you think it would it be called. Here are some suggestions:

    – The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Ugly
    – A Fistful of Blown Leads
    – For a Few Blown Leads More
    – Failed Slider
    – High Pain Threshold
    – Paint Your Bullpen
    – Dirty Dusty
    – Slay Dusty for Me
    – Every Which Way to Lose

    Others?

    Liked by 3 people

    • – (Sliders) Hang ’em High
      – In the Line of Fire (and line drives up the middle)
      – Heartbreak Pitch
      – The Rookie
      – Unforgiven (the Carlos Beltran Story)
      – Absolute Power (the Yordan Alvarez Story)
      – (Extra Innings on the West Coast) – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
      – Million Dollar Baby (the Joe Kelly Story)
      – The Mule (the Zack Greinke Story)
      – Coogan’s Bluff (the Polo Grounds Story)

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  13. I’m 72 years old and I think I can tell you why Baker makes mistakes. In two weeks Baker will be 72 years old and that’s why he makes mistakes.
    But, the very last game he ever managed for the Houston Astros, I think AJ Hinch made a bigger baseball mistake than Dusty Baker ever has as a manager! Pulling Greinke and leaving Cole in the bullpen.
    Losing the World Series 101 should be a required class.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Many years ago we had only two high school football coaches. The head coach was a mean, nasty sort that no student every got near if possible. His only assistant was lovable and taught us Driver’s Ed. One day a student ask the Assistant what it was like coaching with the head coach. He said, he is the smartest coach I have every seen. When asked to elaborate, he said one game I was getting ready to substitute two of my linemen on the next play. He stopped me from doing that by saying, “Look, we are gaining yards on every play as we march down the field. Don’t screw it up by over-coaching.” Sometimes, over-coaching is worse than just letting the players play.

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    • I’m 66 and already a knucklehead. And if we must go back again to game 7, indeed, I knew AJ was going to bring Cole in for the last 9 outs. I knew we had the thing won. I knew we did.

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