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?