How would you rank areas of concern?

OK, so this is the post I almost wrote last week before the Astros went on a four-game winning streak. After choking off a couple of losses to the so-so Angels and the bad Royals, the same subject returns to the top of the pile. All teams have weaknesses. All teams have ups and downs. But the 2021 Astros, as good as they are playing overall, seem to lack that “It” factor (not the cheating scandal “IT” factor).

We will make this simple today. How would you rank the following areas of concern?

  • The Astros inability to tromp on and put away inferior opposition. So far, they have held on to the lead in the AL West despite this flaw. But if they yack up the lead to the A’s at the end of the season, this area will stand out.
  • The lack of Urgency? Spirit? Caring? Whatever you want to call it. The team just does not seem to play on fire. Is this simply because the spiritual furnace for this team, George Springer, plays north of the border now?
  • The inability to field their top position players due to injuries and “health and safety” protocols? Ever since they had the first games missed for COVID protocol, it seems that someone(s) from their normal lineup has been missing. The irony is that the guy considered Mr. Fragile, Carlos Correa, has played the most games (108 out of 118) of any regulars.
  • The effect of going from a 60 game season to 162 games on their pitchers, especially the younger ones like Luis Garcia. Will someone burn out? Will Garcia be OK now and then have a bum shoulder next season?
  • The high marks on the dumb meter continuing. Maybe it is the dog days of summer, but hardly a game goes by (sometimes it seems like hardly an inning goes by) without a dumb running mistake. Whether it is getting thrown out at third on a grounder to the left side, getting picked off, getting tossed out trying to take an extra base or just the plain old thrown out stealing, the team has been hard to watch on the bases.
  • The seesaw of starting pitching performances popping up (or down) at the wrong times. The starters can be very effective, but they also can cough up a furball of a bad and short outing that hurts the team’s consistency. Whether it is Framber Valdez not finding the plate, Jake Odorizzi not missing bats, Zack Greinke not getting calls or Lance McCullers channelling his much younger immature self, the rotation can be a mystery.
  • The starting pitching inconsistency rolling over to affect the bullpen. Even with the successful moves to firm up the bullpen, too many poor outings can still tire out the bullpen and unveil the weakness in the underbelly of the ‘pen.
  • The Manager Dusty Baker getting outmanaged could be a concern. Has he lost a step at his age? Is giving guys days off when a team day off is just around the corner a smart move? Do his lineups make sense? Or does he look good in wins and bad in losses like most managers?

There are a few concerns to toss out there? How would you rank them? What else would you like us to chew on?

66 comments on “How would you rank areas of concern?

  1. Alveraz is out with a upset stomach, which means he will be out for at least a week…if not longer, If Dusty has any say in it.
    ALARMING NEWS…Chris Bassett got hit in the side of the head about 30 min ago by a come backer. He had to be carted off the field bleeding. Every pitchers worst nightmare.
    Framber is pitching pretty well so far!

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  2. If you have the talent to beat the good teams and then lose to the teams with losing records, you have a non-physical problem.
    The team I love has problems other than lesser talent.
    I think they know what the problem is and aren’t going to be able to fix it until the season is done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad I went to bed early 1OP. I think it was Framber’s post game quote last night, “Things just don’t happen for us”. If that’s the mentality in our dugout, then this club needs a real wake up call. As far as a players leader goes, we don’t have one. George Springer has not been replaced in that regard. It’s not all about statistics. Our record against inferior teams that work harder clearly illustrates that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Two nights in a row…two VERY winnable games. Have our guys quit trying because they hold a very small lead over the A’s? Have they run out of gas? Clearly our young guys have not. These guys can’t keep depending on Oakland to lose, at some point they have to get with the program and WIN.
    I’m WAAY past over this WORTHLESS manager😠

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is a strange thing. It is not like I am watching them and going – oh they are not even trying. Correa made some great plays last night for instance. But when they needed that clutch hit last night they didn’t get it. The night before when they needed that clutch pitch they didn’t get it.
    Framber pitched very well, but his failure to cover first base led to the winning runs. He did have some bad luck there when his pitch grazed the toe of the hitter and nullified a brilliant block and throw out by Maldy. But we had that dumb play by Framber and we had Maldy getting thrown out at home and it seemed like as soon as we got someone on base we had to hit into a double play.
    Frustrating baseball.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan, the fish at the top can’t stink. And Crane has gotten very good at always being positive publicly. But the fan support has not been great. The club just recently put out a marketing effort that for 60.00 a fan can go to every Sunday through Thursday game for the balance of the season. I’m sure Covid is playing a role, but there have been some very thin crowds at the park. Is some of it the apathy or dissatisfaction most of us here are expressing?

      Of course, Crane might be right. If everyone shows back up healthy by the 1st of September, maybe we’ll get our dookie together and own our own destiny. We don’t want to be a Wild Card. And we don’t want Tampa Bay to leave us in the home field dust. Last, I’ve come around to accepting Dusty is a dinosaur that we’d be better off without. And if the Astros should fold down the stretch ( I still can’t envision that outcome) then our manager would have to be retired.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I read the article as Crane trying to be kind about Baker. He shouldn’t go out and claim Baker is a bad manager when the team is still in the race and he didn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Many on here have complained all year about bad base running, pitchers failing to cover first, assuming flay balls will always be caught and not running out ground balls, getting thrown out at third for no reason, etc. etc. At those times, we each said “It is going to cost the Astros runs and wins if they continue.” In the end it is on the players, but it also shows poor coaching and management. These guys have played baseball for decades but there is a reason every team goes to Spring Training and works on the fundamentals. Poor coaching and poor leadership leads to sloppy execution on the field and even in a working office. POOR LEADERSHIP.

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    • I think almost all would agree with you but we will not see a management change this year for obvious reasons.
      I like both of our catchers but as hitters they’re a disaster. I think it a mistake to have signed Castro for two years. Who knows what will be Maldy’s status next year. He’s never been much of a hitter but his skill behind the plate is his strong point. Castro’s ability speaks for itself. He’s no hitter either but he’s signed through next year.
      Then there’s the enigma called Odorizzi whose signed through next year with a 2023 player option. I listened to part of a podcast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfwMHg0XyiE&ab_channel=SportsMapHouston that was an interesting take on our not so star pitching acquisition.
      Maybe Springer could be hired to sit in our dugout and motivate these guys while he rehabs to light a fire under these guys. (sarcasm)

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  6. Since the beginning of the Angels’ series [our record 2-3] here is how our players [not counting catchers or players now on the IL] have been hitting [sorry, all I could calculate quickly was BA -but in this case BA tells quite a tale!]

    1. Alvarez – .400
    2. Meyers – .357
    3. Diaz – .315
    4. Chaz – .294
    5. Correa – .277
    6. Brantley – .250
    7. Altuve – .181
    8. Gurriel – .000

    The three names at the bottom of this chart go a long way toward explaining why our record in these games is not 5-0, or at least 4-1, instead of 2-3. These guys are our bread and butter; if they don’t hit, we don’t win.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And there are two names missing, Mr. Bill – Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. Bregman they’ve been living without for awhile, but Tucker has been such a great run producer later in the lineup.

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      • Yes, and one of our two wins in the aforesaid five games came courtesy of a grand slam by Tucker. We won that game by a final score of 4-1 – meaning without his bat, we would have been shut out.

        As far as Bregman, I find it hard to believe he would be doing any more for us than Aledmys Diaz has been doing. Hey, but I hear the dude from LSU makes a mean salsa.

        Well, at least we don’t have to fret over why Robel Garcia is on the roster these days.

        Liked by 1 person

      • In 2019, Bregman was an undeniable force. He slashed .296/.423/1.015, crushed 41 home runs, and drove in 112 runs. He also had a pretty good 2019 post-season, blasting 4 HRs and driving in 12 runs. But that was then. In the short season of 2020 he slashed at the much more pedestrian rate of .242/.350/.801, with only 6 HRs and 22 RBI. In the 2020 post-season his numbers were pretty horrible, with just 1 HR and 2 RBI. This year, before his quad problems, he was hitting .275/.359/.787, with 7 HRs and 34 RBI across 59 games.

        I would love to see the 2019 version of Alex Bregman back. But we haven’t seen that guy in a long time. I suspect that when he comes back, if he comes back, he will be just another maddening, under-performing guy sitting squarely in the bottom tier of the production charts in every category except OBP.

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  7. All of the above is exactly what we have been seeing. And when comfortably in first place, no one wants to talk about it. That is expected. Also, we have been told to “ignore the eye test as it is faulty if not wrong.” We can talk about anyone but I will just say Altuve has always swung at pitches 6 pitches outside the strike zone. Most he was able to foul off. But in the zone, he consistently made hard contact which many times led to ground into double play. But he is not making contact outside the zone and he is not making hard contact on strikes down the middle many times. Now the experts may say that is incorrect, but the old batting stats show the same. Perhaps the spin rate off his bat has improved, or perhaps the distance per revolution has improved but swinging for the fences leads to more feast and famine. He is not Joey Gallo yet, but is headed that way. And he is not the only passenger in that boat.

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    • At some point we will have to revisit the question of whether Jose’ is an asset or a liability at the lead-off position. At least since the ASB he has been looking like a pretty average 6-hole or 7-hole hitter. At the top of the line-up he has just not been very good. Unfortunately, we really don’t have anybody else to lead off. If Tucker winds up being out for a long time, and Meyers could just get his present .346 OBP up a little closer to his minor league levels, he might be a better choice than Jose for the lead off role. He is still striking out too much right now, though, and I suspect by the time he gets that under control, Tucker will be back on the field and Jake will be wreaking havoc at Skeeter-land again.

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      • The first half Altuve would have been excellent to have anywhere in the lineup including lead off. He had a lead off worthy OBP, his OPS would certainly have worked in the three spot and his 20 homers would have been great hitting clean up. Funny thing is, he’s only got 16 doubles. I think he’s just in a long slump. Maybe he thinks he needs to hit homers to help this team win.

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      • He probably thinks that he needs to hit homers to help the team win, Dave – but he is not even coming close to doing that. I suspect he’s slated next on Dusty’s IL ‘rest protocol’ bandwagon. That will probably mean another ‘booster’ shot of Robel Garcia serum

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Getting back to DanP’s – areas of concern. 1. This team will probably lose Greinke, Correa and a few others. 2. Most of the team and $70+ million more will return. 3. Obviously there are couple that will probably return that I wish could be used a trade pieces for something or anything. 4. So going forward, in order to compete and win, Click needs to do a better job than he has to date. He should have money to improve the team except probably at defensive shortstop. That is my big concern. For the rest of this season and post season, we are riding the horse and at the final furlong. Not the time to change the horse or jockey, even if we could.

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    • YA K’s in the first by taking to 90MPH right down the middle and then missing a slider down and in. Correa with a slow roller to third for another out. Altuve lined out and Brantley walked. As Elton John used to sing, “I’ve seen that movie too”.

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  9. Our offense has a new team walk-up song: the old crosby, stills, Nash, and young classic: ‘Helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless.’

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  10. Castro is the guy who knocked in the two runs to get the lead and he is the same guy who called for two 82 MPH curves in a row to Hunter Dozier to lose the game..

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The Astros have to go 30 and 12 to win 100 games. The battle tested Rays need to go 26 and 15. At this point it does not matter what teams we play or what teams the Rays play. We’ve proven strength of schedule means nothing. I don’t think we’re going to have the best record in the American League. And maybe it does not matter too much. Norms don’t apply to the Astros. But I’m sure the M’s are excited to be playing 3 against us this weekend. They are alive. I know the Royals will come in next week confident they can take another series from our club. And I know the A’s have to be encouraged to remain just 2.5 games out. Our situation is legitimately precarious. Even the recently left for dead Yankees pretty much control their own Wild Card destiny. We are just 1.5 games better than NY. If we slip out of first place a previously not considered outcome becomes a real possibility. We might go home without any post season baseball.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Once again, we are being beaten soundly by a doormat team that clearly has our signs, our playbook, and our number. The mighty Royals own us. They have exposed every area of weakness we have, and beaten us like a drum in every area of the game. They are deconstructing us piece by piece. Knowing what we will do before we do it, they have exploited our shifts masterfully – and given other, better teams all the pattern they need to beat us down any night. They have shown that a team that plays the game on the field half-way well beats a team that tries plays the game on paper half-way well. They have thrown guys with high ERAS at us and let us make each one of them look like Cy Young candidates. They have exposed our pitiful lack of practical baseball instincts both in regard to covering the bases on defense and running them on offense. They have been patient at the plate, letting our pitchers beat themselves with first and often second pitches out of the zone, then taking real advantage of the count – while our high-profile hitters seem totally oblivious.

    It is best that I boycott today’s game. This total eclipse of the heart is just too embarrassing to watch. The division is ours to lose; we are doing everything we can to lose it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s pretty obvious that other teams have figured out out to beat the Astro hitters exploiting their weaknesses. I bet any of us with enough baseball knowledge and ability could do the same. It’s obvious that our guys have not adjusted their approach and there you have it. As for the defense it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the whole left or right side of the infield open to take advantage of it or not trying to hit the ball out of the park every time you step up to the plate. If we are fortunate to make the playoffs this year we may not get through the first round. How did we get so bad so fast?
      Who cares that we lead the AL in all of these hitting statistics? As Janet Jackson sings, “What have you done for me lately”?

      Liked by 2 people

      • …or maybe our team is shrewdly setting the opponents up by presenting these weaknesses as a facade that they will tear away once the games really matter…ruining the carefully scouted and planned approaches and letting our offense run roughshod through the playoffs. Ok, yeah, we probably just need to hope a couple guys catch fire to carry us later on.

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  13. For some reason – this comment from old pro just posted on a previous post – so adding it here for everyone’s enjoyment

    The new Astros Top 30 Prospect list is out from MLB:
    1. Korey Lee Catcher. Was placed on injured list Wednesday.
    2. Pedro Leon OF/SS. Is on injured list.
    3. Hunter Brown RHP. Is in AAA and not injured yet.
    4. Jeremy Pena SS/2B. Is on injured list.
    5. Forrest Whitley RHP. Is on injured list
    6. Tyler Whitaker OF. Still using training wheels.
    7. Tyler Barber OF. Is on 60 day injured list.
    8. Alex Santos RHP. Doing fine in Low A. ETA is 2024
    9. Jake Meyers OF. First time on list! Already here.
    10. Joe Perez 3B in AA. ETA 2023. Rule 5 eligible? This December!
    The list: https://www.mlb.com/prospects/astros/
    Nobody on Astros top 30 is in MLB’s Top 100!

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  14. The Pencil and the Damage Done [Kneel Yung]

    I hear you talkin’ saber-metric terms;
    and somethin’ down inside me just twists and squirms;
    FIP . . . BABIP . . . and damage done!

    I’ve seen the shifting and the Royals plan;
    the saber-metrics guys with hats in hands;
    runs, runs . . . the damage done!

    I sing this song ’cause I’m an Astro fan;
    I don’t think Click or Dusty understand,
    we keep losing games we should have won . . . .

    I’ve seen the pencil and the damage done . . .
    a walk, a bloop, a fluke a long home run . . .
    gone, gone . . . the damage done.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’ve got an important decision to make this afternoon and I need your advice.
    1. Watch the Astros game at 2:10 EDT
    2. Walk 9 nine holes while carrying my bag in 90 degree heat
    3. Take a nap
    4. Continue cleaning all the baseboards in my town home
    5. Read a book & listen to Liz Story and George Winston
    6. none of the above

    Tough choice huh?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. By the way, Norel Gonzalez, who is one of our best minor league players, but is not one of our best prospects, was quietly put on the injured list on August, 15th. Add him to the list.

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  17. I was reading about the various prospects. I saw this article about Delmarva (Orioles) two nights ago.

    Farm report
    Down in the Minors, several interesting developments occurred on Tuesday. At Low-A Delmarva, the Shorebirds comprised a lineup entirely of 2021 Draft picks and 2020 fourth-rounder Coby Mayo, including ‘21 first-round pick Colton Cowser in his affiliated ball debut. The result was a 10-1 rout of Fredericksburg where every Shorebirds starter either collected at least one hit or drove in at least one run, highlighted by Connor Pavalony’s two-hit, four-RBI night. Delmarva struck out only once in nine innings, indicative of the contact-heavy approach the Orioles used in this year’s Draft. Cowser finished 1-for-3 with a walk, run scored and RBI in his debut.

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