It is easy to get down on any team, and the very frustrating 2021 Astros are just begging for their fans to give up on them.
A team that has gone 5-2 against the Red Sox, 5-2 against the White Sox, 9-4 against the A’s, 4-2 against the Jays and 8-5 against the M’s, contenders all, has also gone 1-4 against the Royals, 2-5 against the Tigers and 3-4 against the Twins, all on the very wrong side of .500. They’ve gone 3-6 the last nine games and have missed an opportunity to really stretch that tenuous lead over the A’s in the AL West. Their offense has been so inconsistent that in those nine games, they outscored their opposition 47-36 due to a couple lopsided wins over the Mariners. They have made brain dead booboos in the field and on the bases and give the impression they are trying to coast to the end of the season. The only problem with that is the last few weeks ahead of them are mostly uphill.
But, we sell hope here. Actually, we give it away for free. So, here are 10 reasons to not despair about this team of uncertain destiny.
- Look at how far they have come. In the darkest days of the franchise 2011-2014, they were 35, 35.5, 31.5 and 23 games back in the division on August 24th. Today, despite their recent troubles, they are 3.5 games ahead in the division. This season, like the last six, we have something to watch other than a calendar showing another bad year leaking away.
- For starters. The Astros starters have the best record among AL rotations at 53-27, 2nd in ERA (3.48), Tied for second in WHIP (1.16) and second in innings pitched (691.1 IP). And Jose Urquidy, who was very good before his injury, may rejoin them soon.
- The Gold Dust Twins. It is hard to remember that sluggers Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker are only 24 years old. For perspective, they are one year younger than Jake Meyers, two years younger than Chas McCormick and three years younger than Taylor Jones. When Tucker returns this week, that reinstates one of the best young hitting duos in the majors and is a joy to watch for years to come, we hope.
- Future Famer. One of the ways to judge whether a player is a Hall of Famer is how they ran among their contemporaries playing under the same conditions and suspicions. Zack Greinke is a highly likely Hall of Famer, and we are getting to watch him every 5 days or so. He has been to 6 All Star Games, won a Cy Young, won six Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers (best hitter at his position). Among active pitchers, he is first in starts (485), first in innings pitched (3094.2), second in wins (219), second in WAR among pitchers (69.4) and 3rd in Ks (2798).
- The Arm. OK, he was dumb on the base paths Monday night but is there a better infield arm around than Carlos Correa. Not just the strength, but the accuracy, going deeper in the hole, cutting across the diamond, on outfield relays. He did not win the Gold Glove in 2020, but he should have.
- The New Swiss Army Knife. Marwin Gonzalez is long gone, but his replacement as Mr. All-Purpose, Aledmys Diaz, is making quite a name for himself moving around in the lineup and the field. This year he has played at all four infield positions and LF and RF while slashing .302 BA/ .351 OBP/ .827 OPS. Pretty impressive.
- ‘Tuve. Jose Altuve has failed us at times, and he is not threatening that .300+ mark, but he has brought real thrills to the fans with three grand slams, including a walk-off and other game-winning heroics.
- The Batting Crown Twins. The battle for the AL batting crown has been mostly fought between two Astros this year – Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel. They have both fallen a bit but are still 1-2 in the race here in late August. It will be fun to see if either of these fine hitters will win their first title.
- Twin Finishers. Yes, they failed last time out. But look at how Kendall Graveman and Ryan Pressly have performed over the length of the season, and they have been fine options.
- The Pedigree. From 2017 to 2020, the team has had various challenges, mostly related to injuries, but in each season, they made it to the ALCS and twice beyond it. This included after a sub-.500 season in 2020. We would rather they play well all the time, but they turn it on in the postseason. Of course, they have to get to the postseason first.
So, those are ten reasons to not despair about this team. What others do you have?