As the Astros are treading water in their AL West “race” against the Oakland A’s (they have been exactly 2-1/2 games ahead for the last eight games), it is time for another visit to Weekend Thoughts.
My, how the outfield situation has changed. Heading into the 2021 season, the Astros were looking at a very fluid situation in the outfield. Josh Reddick and George Springer were gone. Yordan Alvarez was coming off of knee surgery on both knees, so he could not be counted on to do anything but DH to start the season. The outfield was going to be Kyle Tucker (who looked good in a short 2020 season, but it was a short season) and Michael Brantley (who they tore from the clutches of the Toronto Blue Jays at the last minute in free agency) and Myles Straw (who had not shown he was even a 4th outfielder yet). The fourth outfielder ended up being Chas McCormick, who had not played at the major league level.
Straw struggled early, McCormick was not hitting for much average but was driving in runs at a high rate off the bench. Alvarez was given more left field assignments as the season went on. McCormick saw more playing time as Tucker and Brantley both missed time. Straw had a strong June and then was suddenly sent at the trade deadline to Cleveland in a trade for reliever Phil Maton and a low minor league catcher. They did this thinking that a combination of McCormick and prospect Jake Meyers, who had been tearing up AAA, would be better than Straw plus McCormick. So far, they are right.
It is a small sample, but Meyers in 36 ABs has as many home runs (3) with the Astros as Straw had in 524 ABs. But, Straw had all that speed, you say? Meyers actually has a faster high-end sprint speed than Straw. With consistent playing time after the trade, McCormick has been slashing a shiny .333 BA/ .379 OBP/ .845 OPS in August. When Kyle Tucker returns next week, the Astros will have gone from what looked liked 2-1/2 options to cover their outfield starting the season to a plethora of choices today. They will use Tucker, Brantley, McCormick, Meyers, Alvarez and even Aledmys Diaz in the outfield. It is a nice traffic jam to have.
Can we call them the Y Guys? Ok, Meyers – Y is in the middle of his last name, and Yordan and Yuli start their first names that way, but it was fun to see them all ripping home runs Friday night. Meyers tends to hit them high with lots of backspin to soar over the fence. Yordan rips them with tremendous ball speed off the bat – his home runs almost always clear with plenty to spare. Yuli’s home runs are violent rips – dipping down and slashing them somewhere into the Crawford Boxes or similar. The Astros hope to watch the two (y)ounger Y’s do this for a long time.
How weird is baseball? After making a bunch of no-name pitchers with Kansas City with ERA’s on the wrong side of 5.00 look like All Stars, the Astros face Yusei Kikuchi of the M’s, who started the game with a 3.82 ERA and rip him a new one. 2.2 innings later and a career-worst 7 runs allowed, Kikuchi is in the clubhouse, and the Astros missing offense is found.
Aces Wild. When talking about the Astros rotation ace, the only thing for certain is that Jake Odorizzi (5-6, 4.74 ERA) is not it. But the other four guys in the current rotation can put a claim out there as they are all statistically close. Zack Greinke (11-3, 3.43 ERA), Lance McCullers Jr. (10-4, 3.21 ERA), Luis Garcia (9-6, 3.39 ERA), and Framber Valdez (8-4, 3.16 ERA) are all excellent. Even Jose Urquidy (6-3, 3.38 ERA), before being MIA on the IL, could stake a claim to being their best starter. It is rare to see this many pitchers on staff so closely stacked statistically.
Must-See TV is expanded. With the emergence of Jake Meyers, the Astros Must See TV lineup is expanded. Yordan Alvarez’s every at bat is always worth checking out. Kyle Tucker, before going on the IL, was a run-producing highlight machine. Michael Brantley is leading the AL in hitting. Carlos Correa is heating up. Aledmys Diaz has been a revelation since returning from the IL. Yuli Gurriel had slumped after his IL stint, but it looks like he is heating up again. Chas McCormick, if he was headed to 500 ABs, would be headed towards 100 RBIs. And this does not include 2017 MVP and recently slumping Jose Altuve or 2019 MVP runner-up and recently rehabbing Alex Bregman.
Not flinching these days. The bullpen is not perfect, but there is less flinching on this observer’s part when Dusty Baker waves a reliever into the game. Will it be enough when the playoff pressure comes? Who knows, even the best bullpens wilt under those conditions.
What are you thinking about today?