Astros 2022: Candidates to progress and regress

It happens every year. Fans, teams, players enter the season, picturing the status quo with modifications. “Our infield is the best hitting group in the majors. We just have to tweak that outfield” “Our rotation is set. We just need another big arm in the bullpen”. And then reality occurs along with injuries, regression and hopefully progression. It takes no skill to say that some Astros will improve in 2022 from 2021, and some will fall back. So, who do we think will progress, and who will regress?

Candidates to Progress

Justin Verlander. Basically, if he shows up and does anything, it will be a forward step from the big fat bagel of the last two seasons. Fans want him to return to the dominating, innings eating monster he was for the team from the waiver trade deadline of 2017 through 2019. But being a good, solid starter with a little bit of a leash on his innings will work just fine.

Alex Bregman. He is Carlos Correa of a couple years ago. Can he stay healthy enough to fulfill that obvious talent? But let’s face it, Alex in 2018 and 2019 did something that Carlos really never did until last season, which was put up astounding numbers while playing an entire season. If he can tap into that MVP type talent, it would be a tremendous boost for the team.

Jose Urquidy. He put up excellent numbers (8-3, 3.62 ERA, 0.991 WHIP) in 2021 but only made 20 starts. An entire season of more of the same would take some pressure off the first guy on this list.

Candidates to Regress

Yuli Gurriel. He had a great year in 2021, leading the AL in hitting and putting up a career-high .383 On Base Percentage. But he does turn 38 in June, and it would be tough for him to repeat what he just accomplished, though he fooled us heading into 2021 after a disaster of 2020.

Lance McCullers. Last season was the best for Lance as he stayed healthy during the regular season and put up the best overall numbers on the staff. But the injury in the playoffs reminded us all that he is a bit of a ticking time bomb when it comes to health, and he may regress a bit coming back from that muscle strain in his arm.

Chas McCormick. I loved what Chas brought to the team last season as a rookie, playing terrific defense and knocking in 50 runs in only 284 ABs. But it often seemed like it was all or nothing with Chas as the Ks piled up, and with more video and info on him, he could be a candidate to struggle more the second time around in the bigs.

And as usual, we turn to you dear readers for your opinions. Who do you think may progress or regress in 2022 when it finally happens?

25 comments on “Astros 2022: Candidates to progress and regress

  1. Imagine the Astros waiting two years for Verlander to return. The work and the rehab and the x rays and MRIs and the anticipation.
    The Astros were the only team privy to his medicals, but they must have seen he was doing well. Then comes his rejection of the QO and the public display of pitching the following day as the culmination of his year-long rehab.
    So happy he is returning to the mound and very proud he chose to do it with the Astros.
    Just can’t seem to process that the last season of his career, up to this point, was a Cy Young winning season in Houston pitching in the same rotation as Gerrit Cole.
    I just have to wonder what we will be writing about Justin Verlander next offseason.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Verlander is not a concern of mine. The Astros gave him 25 mil with it being potentially 50 mil – guess he is not a concern of theirs either. I find it likely given his last 2 years the contract was uninsurable, so they are really in on the guy. Cy Young, I don’t know, but I expect he will be productive and win a lot of games.

    Bregman had almost similar peripherals this year as previous seasons with one noticeable difference – his line drive rate down, his ground ball rate up. Sounds very wristy. I think his health determines his production, but isn’t that true of everyone? I wrote Altuve off 2 years ago because he couldn’t even throw to 1st from 2nd anymore, but he was MUCH better this year and I assume it was because he got his legs healthy and back under him. Fingers crossed.

    Urquidy baffles me. When I watch him pitch I think no one with that stuff should be getting major league hitters out at that rate, but his command is excellent. His fastball is flat, but it is almost always well placed and has some giddy up. He has good speed differentials in his pitches and he has command of all 3. I still think he could be used as the centerpiece for a Matt Chapman trade, if you are putting him Perez and Odorizzi (with us picking up some of that salary). That said I think outside of one more bench player the Astros might be done and happy to go into the season like this.

    I don’t think Yuli will “regress” in a game to game sense, he is still going to be the same threat to opposing pitchers he has been for a few years but it’s going to be very difficult for him to repeat the average. I think most of the other numbers will be similar.

    I think Lance will only become better when he pitches. That when is the key. There has to be an over/under of something like 120 innings on the season.

    I think the scariest part of Chas is he had a .341 BABIP and still only hit .257. Doesn’t bode well, makes him look more like .225 guy, and even with some power that just won’t cut it. He also hit 10 of his 14 HR in the first half, and was very pedestrian in August and September, and he wasn’t a young rookie at 26. He will be 27 before opening day. Happy to see him in the competition in CF, but I don’t expect him to win it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of course the problem Steven with Jake Meyers supposedly not ready for the start of the season, it is likely McCormick (coming out of Spring Training)- unless Siri settles down a bit or Leon makes a giant leap.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Steven, good to hear from you. I’m not worried about Verlander either. 25 Million will turn out to be a good deal. But although Chapman might provide the best D in baseball at third along with those 200 K’s, I’d rather take my chances on the health of Bregman, especially if the conversationn might include Urquidy. I don’t want to share our talented young pitching with anyone. That .341 BAbip from Chas sure is a concern, especially when you notice the .352 from Jake. Then we have Brantley in left and he does not hit lefties anymore. I guess that’s why Click has been looking for outfield help.

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    • I considered adding Garcia to the list – but on the progress side I’m not sure what more to expect from him in his 2nd season and didn’t think he should be on the regress list
      Would love it if he did even more in 2022 – so I can see it

      Liked by 1 person

  3. First, I think “Progress” should come in the form of Altuve IF he sprays the ball and doesn’t try for the Crawford Boxes all the time. Second, I can’t give up on anyone that was #2 in MVP and then got hurt. He may never come back, but his showings give him a second and even third chance. His bat to ball – solid contact – was terrible last year in comparison. Third, I hope out of 3 centerfielders, one proves to be average or above. And all can be looked to be better than Straw starting out last year. Fourth, I agree with Steven in that Urquidy looks like the luckiest pitcher ever. But as long as his luck works, keep riding him.

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    • Steven and AC45
      I guess the biggest reason for concern with Urquidy is that the BAbip (batting average for balls in play) against him in 2021 was a low .239. For comparison, long time pitchers like Justin Verlander (.282 BAbip for his career) and Zack Greinke (.295) have much higher BAbip over long careers. That may point to some luck on his part.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dan – I think some of that luck is created with command. I get surprised with how many of his curveballs find the pitchers spots and not the hitters spots. His curve doesn’t have the McCullers buckle to it, but I think he has more command over it than even Lance has on his. Will be interesting to see as hitters get the book on him and the good ones adjust. Of course some of it is just luck and regression from a .239 is to be expected.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah we’ve all seen guys with great stuff that lack control that can’t make it. Obviously Urquidy does not have great stuff, but it is certainly decent stuff and tying that to great control certainly can work. He will be an interesting test case to follow…..

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      • https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/HOU/2021.shtml

        It is always interesting to me to see what a year’s worth of stats show compared to “what I remember.” Compared to others on the staff, Urquidy gives up a lot of hits and even home runs. But he seldom walks anyone. So he doesn’t give up those big innings. We watched several of our pitchers in the WS struggle with control. The Braves knew what to expect when it was a “hitter’s count.”

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  4. This is a good conversation. I just noticed that Jose Altuve rookie cards sell for less than ten bucks, considered an excellent long term investment in the collecting business. astrocolt45, I think I’d take a repeat of 2021 from Altuve. But I might think about putting Bregman and his potential .400 OBP in the leadoff role. Nobody steals bases anymore.

    What about regression from Brantley? It’s amazing that he hit .311 overall and only .219 against lefties. He still beats up on righties, but he should sit against the other guys.

    Liked by 1 person

    • https://www.fangraphs.com/players/jose-altuve/5417/stats?position=2B

      Whoever made up this chart saw the same batting style for Altuve as I did. He pulled 11% more batted balls last year over his career average. He also popped up to the infield about double his normal percent. If you look at his plate discipline stats, they are about the same. Yes, he swings a lot and makes contact with 90% of pitches in the strike zone, but we know he swings a lot at pitches out of the zone. Anyway, I love the guy and just hope he uses the entire field more and if so, he will have a better year so he won’t be hitting into the shift all season long.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What about the catchers position? Maldy caught 125 games last year, second most of his career at the age of 34. Then he caught a big batch of post season games again. Castro should get more starts against righties which will likely provide some offense. And when one of these guys goes down with an injury, the replacement will probably produce more than Stubbs did.

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  6. While looking at Fangraphs, ChasMc made contact on 73.9% of pitches in the zone. Meyers 86% in the zone was contact. Siri made contact on 72.9% on pitches in the zone. These are very limited number of games. And Myles Straw was 92.6% for the entire 2021 season.

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  7. Meant to comment on this yesterday…
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/12/kyle-seager-announces-retirement.html
    He was not expected to return to the M’s as a free agent, but was not expected to retire. Mlbtraderumors had him as their 31st ranked available free agent and thought he would earn a 2 year / $24 MM offer. I know there had been some speculation that the Astros could bring him in to 3B and move Bregman over while Pena was gaining experience.

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    • There is, apparently, one guy who has figured out that he can make due with $100 million in career earnings on a farm in the south with his family.
      Mrs. 1op and I discussed this yesterday and agreed it was great for him and good for the Astros, considering how he owned our pitching staff in 2021.
      Good job, Kyle Seager!

      Liked by 1 person

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