The Astros have ranged from being a good to an excellent team between 2015 and 2021. You would not think that the word rebuild would be used in the same sentence as the word Astros, for a team that won a championship in the last four seasons, appeared in two World Series and appeared in four AL Championship Series.
But when you look at the Astros’ pitching, it is impossible to not think of what has been an almost complete rebuild. Here is what the Astros’ pitching staff looked like two short seasons ago. This was the opening day pitching staff in 2019.
At the 2019 trade deadline, the Astros traded for Zack Greinke, who is on the current team, but basically, from the beginning of 2019 to now, the only pitchers who are a real part of both staffs are Ryan Pressly and Framber Valdez. Current closer Pressly was the setup man back then to Roberto Osuna. Framber pitched well at AAA in 2019 and below average at the major league level bopping between a starting spot and the bullpen. Josh James is still in the organization and has gotten a late call up after recovering from injury, but he is a question mark heading to the playoffs.
The Astros have replaced the whole starting rotation in two short years, the closer and most of the bullpen.
That is a startling rebuild for such a successful team, driven mostly by free agency and injury losses. But the interesting thing about the changeout is the continued success of the staff. The 2019 staff led by co-Cy Young contenders Verlander and Cole was 1st in the AL with a 3.66 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and .221 Batting Average against. But the 2021 staff is just a hair off of that as they are Tied for 2nd with 3.67 ERA, 4th in WHIP with 1.13 and Tied for 2nd in BAA at .226.
The most fun part of the Astros going forward may be that they have control of most of their current starting staff, other than Zack Greinke for a number of years. Building around Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers, Luis Garcia, and Jose Urquidy should be an enjoyable exercise going forward.
The one question mark about the Astros pitching staff is how dependent they are on coach Brent Strom, who turns 73 in 6 weeks. Hopefully, he has groomed his assistants to pick up the torch when he decides to take it easy. Or maybe he will outstay another manager.