The Ultimate YIE Post

This is the ultimate YIE (Yes, It’s Early) post. The Astros have played 4 whole games and have not even gone through the rotation once. If this were a 26.2-mile marathon, the team would be just past the half-mile marker. But after many months of speculative writing, it is undoubtedly fun to finally write about the results of real games. So what did we glean from the first series as the Astros beat the Angels three out of four?

  • The big stage is not too big for Jeremy Peña. Not saying that he will be hitting .375 for the year or anything like that. He will have slumps and adjust as scouts and electronic surveillance pick him apart, but he looked very comfortable in his first few games with the team, both on the field and at bat. And that is all we ask.
  • Alex Bregman of 2019 may be back. He is still not running freely, but he has recovered from his wrist surgery. The pop is back in his bat, and he has put up 2 RBIs in each of the three games he started. If that holds, the offensive hole left by Carlos Correa leaving may be covered by the first two bullets here.
  • The Chas and Siri battle may be good for the team. It’s an ultimate small sample, but they have both started out well at the plate and having them both on the field (Jose Siri in CF and Chas McCormick in LF) is undoubtedly the strongest defensive configuration teamed with Kyle Tucker in right field.
  • JV is still JV thru one start. He looked like vintage Justin Verlander in spring training, and he continued to look like he was back in his first start of the season. That they lost, the game did not take away from the feeling that he will keep us in every game.
  • Pressly likes that new contract. He’s still building up his velocity, but Pressly looked on top of everything in his first two appearances against the Angels – two appearances – two saves.
  • The rotation is in a pretty good place. Outside of Verlander’s stellar start, the other three who pitched were pretty solid, spanning from Jake Odorizzi’s OK outing (4 innings – 2 runs) to Framber Valdez’s best of the series (6.2 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs). Jose Urquidy was very good on getaway day, allowing 1 run in 5 innings and Luis Garcia debuts on Tuesday.
  • The team doesn’t have to have all its bullets available to get a few good shots. The team has won 3 of 4 with their catchers, Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro batting a combined .000, Jose Altuve with 1 hit in 12 ABs, Kyle Tucker hitting .200, Yordan Alvarez hitting .143  and Yuli Gurriel only having 4 ABs due to maternity leave. But even those who are not hitting that well have contributed something with Maldy’s 2 walks and 2 runs scored, Tucker’s 2 dingers and 4 RBIs and Yordan’s 2 RBIs and 1 dinger. Meanwhile, they have had good starts from Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Jeremy Pena, Jose Siri and Chas McCormick. If those five fall off a bit, there will undoubtedly be room for better hitting from those who have started slow.
  • Relief from many places. Pressly, Rafael Montero, Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, Cristian Javier and Blake Taylor have all been unscored upon in their appearances. Pedro Baez gave up 3 unearned runs in a rough outing, while Ryne Stanek, Phil Maton and Ronel Blanco have given up one run each in their appearances. The relievers have been good at holding the rope so far.

Overall, winning three-out-of-four on the road against one of your division rivals is an excellent start to the season. They need to keep it rolling through Arizona and Seattle.

53 comments on “The Ultimate YIE Post

  1. The Astros just might have struck gold with Pena. I know the league will study him hard and there will be adjustments, but with his demeanor and ability, I’m hoping that he will be one of the better shortstops in the league and affordable for the near future.

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    • Larry – as I was saying this is YIE territory, but I find that you can look at how some guys carry themselves and tell whether they have it or not. He was playing well within himself. He seems to have fit in very well with Altuve on the double play relays, after those first really bad at bats against Ohtani – he has had mostly very good at bats. I liked his approach, he’s not trying to jerk everything out of the park after his homer in game 2 and had some really nice singles and doubles.
      I’m happy – I know there will be challenges, but he looks like he can handle it and I believe he has plenty of elder leadership around him to help him through the tough spots.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well so far Chas has lost the battle to the first base bag. The bad slide and the trip up were great TV, and this guy hustles.

    I said it last post, I’ll say it again, Pena has counted me on the list of doubters until I actually saw him. He isn’t Correa, but he isn’t a stiff out there, and he isn’t an all star with the bat (yet) but he isn’t lost at the plate. I think his forearms are bigger than his legs.

    Pitching pitching pitching wins. It has so far. Outside of the 13 run explosion we scored 7 in 3 games, and won 2 of them. Offense can win a game, as it did in game 2, but pitching wins titles.

    Not a fan of Dusty’s decision to sit people, with Gurriel already out having McCormick, NotGoodrum, Maldy, and Diaz all in the lineup together while sitting Bregman put the offense to sleep in game 3. Sure Syndergaard had something to do with it, but they couldn’t get anything going.

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  3. Offensively, early in the season, I always focus on three things: OBP, BB/K, and RBI/game. Small sample size affects those areas less than things like BA, SLG, and OPS. Looking at OBP, even the good news on Bregman [a tremendous OBP of .429, and 6 RBI over the 3 games in which he played] carries a bit of a concern. He has not taken a single BB -so his OBP is equal to his BA. If he continues to hit .429, of course, no one will care. But does anyone think he’ll keep the BA anywhere close to that high as the season goes on? We need to start seeing some BBs. At least he isn’t striking out much [1 K in 14 PAs].

    Looking at Pena’s early stats, the high BA and OBP look great [shades of Tyler White’s great start a few years ago?], and he, unlike Bregs, has a BB under his belt. But the strikeout numbers – perhaps a product of nerves in his first game – suggest an area of concern. 5 Ks in 17 PAs is not horrible for a rookie, but not great either.

    Altuve is not starting all that well. He has five Ks and only 1 BB in 13 PAs. I’d sure like to see more BBs and less Ks from our lead-off guy in the next few series.

    Alvarez is taking walks [3], and is not striking out [0], but he’s also not hitting, so his OBP is under .300.

    McCormick’s 4 Ks and 0 BBs in 14 PAs is not encouraging. At least he’s hitting the ball hard when he hits it, so he can contribute from time to time. Siri, on the other hand, is off to a great start – 2 BBs to only one K, and 3 singles that didn’t drive anyone in, but led to him scoring 3 runs for us because he’s a straight-out demon on the base-paths. I haven’t been a Siri fan, but I’m becoming one.

    Maldonado is Maldonado. We expect zero offense from him, and he is hitting our expectations on the head. Goodrum is Maldonado with a little more speed and a different kind of glove.

    Gurriel and Tucker are two of the most important keys to the offense (along with Altuve, Bregman, and Alvarez) – and they really haven’t gotten started yet. Hopefully our hits and runs per game numbers will improve significantly as La Pina and Ted’s numbers come up.

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    • Reasons Bregman is not taking walks is because of Correa’s departure, Gurriel’s absence, Altuve doing nothing and Tucker being so far down in the batting order that Bregman cannot afford patience.

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      • Add to that Alvarez is behind him, and pitchers knowing a 2 run homer hurts more than a 1 run homer, and its a perfect recipe. Aggressive hitter with a monster behind him.

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    • It’s definitely worth looking for trends as we get more series under our belts. Thus far, Bregman has only one ball in play on the first pitch and it was a HR. He’s also only gone to two, three ball counts thus far. It looks to me more as though the Angels were attacking the zone and not trying to make him chase. As for the Pena and Altuve strikeouts, five of those came against Ohtani. One of Pena’s Ks on Sunday came on a pitch he took which was clearly not a strike.

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  4. As far as the starting pitching goes, it has [except for Jake O., who still hasn’t shown us anything close to what we pay him for] been EXCELLENT AS EXPECTED – and they’re doing it without McCullers.

    The bullpen has had its good innings [Pressly, Neris, Maton, Abreu, and B. Taylor]; unfortunately it also has exposed the much bally-hooed Pedro Baez as a low-velocity, poor-control, waste of time and money. Stanek will get better, but he looked like he was wound up way too tight in his first appearance – giving up 2 BBS and a HR in his one inning of work. Blanco looked more hittable than he appeared in ST. Javier has been okay, but not impressive, in his meager 1.2 innings.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yuli Gurriel only having 4 ABs due to maternity leave? Well, it must have been an easy delivery for him since he is expected back for the AZ series and Joe Perez went back to Corpus Christi.

    Dusty used Neris as the 8th inning set-up man in games 1 & 4 with success. I doubt that would change anytime soon.

    Goodrum has answered the nagging question of who takes over for Robel Garcia.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t know why Goodrum is.

        I do know our new back up 1st baseman, Niko NotVeryGoodrum. I hear he can play 2nd, SS, or 3rd as well, but I haven’t seen signs of this fabled great glove yet.

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  6. In defense of Bregman and his lack of walks – I have not seen him swinging at junk – he has been swinging at good pitches.
    Perhaps the league, based on last year would rather pitch to him rather than Yordan. That might be a mistake.

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  7. Way too early to pick out any trends. But it was an excellent opening four game series on the road against a team with a pretty potent lineup when you look at their 1-4 guys especially. I’m just very pleased to see guys like Siri, Chas, and Pena get off to a good start. It’s much easier than getting off to a rough start. Our pitching has been as good as we could have expected. And several other clubs are already losing guys. Dan, let’s revisit this one at the end of April and hope for good health all month.

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  8. Yes, too early for trends. Every player will have 2 weeks where they tear the leather off the ball, they will have 2 weeks where they go 1-19 with 8 Ks, 2 weeks where they hit .180 but hit 4 HR, etc. It’s about who puts together the most good 2 weeks trends over the long haul. Consistency.

    It’s good to see the kids get off to the good start. Vets like Altuve or Gurriel or even Alvarez at this point know the deal. They aren’t going to let so so starts affect their confidence the way that Siri, McCormick, or Pena might, so it is good to see those guys play well early.

    The pitching staff deserves the most credit so far though. Again, early season, they are all capable of good starts that’s why they are here, but to see the first 4 games be left in a winnable state by the pitching and not seeing a 5-1 deficit in the 4th at any point – against an offense with Ohtani, Trout, Rendon and Walsh in it nonetheless, is awesome.

    I’m hoping for a 2 game sweep of a rebuilding D-backs, but its on the road, so 1-1 split would still be good.

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  9. Some more YIE data -after 4 games, the Astros are
    – First in the majors in ERA (1.80)
    – Tied for 5th in WHIP (1.057)
    – Tied for 2nd best in walks given up per 9 innings (1.8)
    – Second on the pitching side in Ks/walks (4.57 – that means they strikeout 4.57 batters for every walk they give up)
    – They are 16th in the majors in BA (.225)
    – They are 19th in OBP (.296)
    – They are 10th in OPS (.753)

    So it is true they have been riding great pitching as their team struggles to start hitting.

    I’m a little worried playing the D’Backs – their hitting has been so pitiful – I hope they don’t wake up any time soon.
    So far they are worst in the majors with a .129 batting average and a .516 OPS.
    Of the 13 position players on the roster – 9 are hitting .167 BA or less and the other 4 are .250 BA. Former Astro prospect Seth Beer is one of the four hitting .222 BA and is second on the team in OPS – .778 OPS

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  10. If this year is a repeat of last, we will lose 2 to the D’Backs as they march to the number 1 pick in the draft. (I typed this with my fingers crossed so as to not jinx the hometown nine)

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  11. I’m sure pleased waking up to a win this morning. With Bumgarner getting the start late, I knew it would not be a great match up.
    Luis only got us four somewhat erratic innings with his 71 pitches, but got it up to 97 a couple of times and did not let anyone score. Must be annoying looking at the line up and finding 8 lefties penciled in.
    This one turned into a Siri game. It’s his win. And that a was quite a homer. Interesting to read and hear last night as I watched the first two innings that Siri is getting the starts in center off lefties and Chas the righties. I don’t know how this will work out long term, but Chas did post an .810 OPS against southpaws last year. I’m sure he’d enjoy hitting against them too. Advantage Siri.

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    • In the end, Strom’s idea of stacking the lineup with lefties backfires as they had pinch hit for their LHB catcher, hitting .000, with their RHB catcher, hitting .000, in the ninth. With a runner on 3B, Pressly struck out Kelly to end the game.
      I was dreading to go into extra innings, where real baseball is replaced by ghost baseball. Siri, Brantley and Pressly took care of that.

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      • At the end of the day, our righty pitching was better than their lefty hitting. But we can bet that when Framber is not starting, clubs will be using all the lefthanded bats they’ve got against us.

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  12. It is always nice to get a win when the hitting up and down is suspect, Taylor can’t throw a strike, a couple gambles work and a couple don’t. It is a long season, and next week, this will just a “Win.”

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  13. I guess it could be considered a bit of an ugly win, but as AC says when you look back at it – it is still a win.
    Jose Siri is becoming a bit of Must See TV as we don’t know what he will do or what the outcome will be. His steal attempt in the 7th was thwarted by a bad jump on his part and a terrific throw by the catcher. His double in the 9th was only because of a poor throw by the outfielder as a good throw would have nailed him. His home run was just a monster shot.
    But I will give Siri credit for not trying to pull everything – he hit the home run just a little left of center – his double was a bit right of center. Altuve did his job in the 9th with Siri on second, by not swinging at pitches out of the zone and taking what he was given in a walk. Uncle Mike hit it the other way for the winning run, Siri tearing around 3rd to easily score.
    Pitching was a little up and down, but got great results as only a solo home run dented the plate.
    Framber is back up this afternoon – then they have tomorrow off as they travel to Seattle for a weekend series there. The Astros enter today tied for the best record in the majors at 4-1 with the Rays and the …..Rockies??

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    • There is definitely refinement needed. He can run into one, that homerun was well over 400 feet. Pretty much agree with what Blummer said, he was never committed to stealing that base, he stared into the pitch the entire way down and was out by a country mile.

      I know Brantley made an incredible play in LF, but if Alvarez isn’t playing, I prefer Uncle Mike to DH every game Yordan is out for. In some regards I think he is over managing the roster in days off, but if Brantley ends up DH in 80% of the starts Yordan misses with whatever he has, the better off we will be in September and October. Plays like that are special, but when you are older they also take just a little bit of your soul with them every time.

      Abreu was pitching so well. He wasn’t only hitting triple digits he was spotting. All the way until one pitch. That homerun he gave up was batting practice, 98, flat, down the middle fast ball.

      I fell asleep before the top of the 8th. Getting old can’t keep up with em anymore lol. Good to wake up and see the small ball win, only possible by the outstanding pitching.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Michael Conforto turned down an 18.4 million qualifying offer from the Mets after a crappy season in 2021, opting for Free Agency hoping for a big multi year contract with help from Mr. Boras. He had a 1.3 oWAR and a -0.9 dWAR in 2021. Allegedly he strained his shoulder during drills in January. Wonder if he was hurt last year? Nobody seems to want him right now.

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    • Shoulder strain, qualifying offer on his head, shortened offseason, all reasons for him to back into a short term deal right after the draft and try again next offseason.

      If you can stomach a lot of flyballs in CF being an adventure, he could be your answer. I don’t think the Astros would look at Conforto unless there is an injury to Brantley, Alvarez or Tucker. They already have 3 lefty hitting offense minded corner outfielders with one of them able to play CF in a pinch. Why add another corner guy, they can’t be in the lineup all at the same time and have to give him 15 million to boot?

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      • Yeah, no way I’d pay Conforto until I’m convinced we don’t already have the outfielders in house that we need, with 3 excellent defenders all at essentially minimum wage.

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    • I will say though, the Angels could sign him tomorrow and be instantly better. Adell and Rojas are part of the reason they couldn’t score, when they are in the lineup with Suzuki and Wade and Fletcher they put no pressure on opposing pitchers to look past their 4 quality batters. Of course, he turns them lefty heavy, but he is out there, available, can play LF every day, and will hit 25 HR, and give one more batter to have to pitch to if you dont get around Ohtani and Trout.

      Do the Angels have 15-17 mil in flexibility? The way they do contracts, I don’t think they care.

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      • Right, my knee jerk reaction was there is no way they have the space, but spotrac says they’re at ~$190M for the year. I’m not shedding any tears over them owing $28M to Justin Upton. That’s even worse than our Greinke situation.

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  15. Lineup for this afternoon’s game

    Altuve 2B
    Brantley DH
    Bregman 3B
    Tucker RF
    Gurriel 1B
    Diaz LF
    McCormick CF
    Pena SS
    Maldonado C

    Siri’s big night gets rewarded with a day off. Tucker getting moved up even though he is not hitting much right now. Altuve is below the uber-Mendoza line at .067 stays at the top of the lineup no matter what.

    Merrill Kelly who threw 4 scoreless innings with 7 Ks in his first start faces Framber today

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  16. Framber is having just a little trouble finding the strike zone today. 5 walks and a hit batter in 3 innings. He’s been behind hitters a LOT, and is already at 75 pitches! I suspect he’s done for the day.

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  17. We finally get an RBI – from, of all people, Machete Maldonado! Worry not, though friends – he still has a BA of a cool .000.

    Oh, and like last night, all our runs have been scored by our center-fielder de jure.

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  18. It took me six games to get pissed off. In spite of all the hopeless baseball played today, the game was pretty much handed to us in the 10th inning when we loaded the bases with nobody out and the top of the order coming up. That one run delivered on a first pitch pop up to right field after a strike out pretty much finished us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t look for that to change any time soon. And for the life of me I can’t see why guys won’t try to exploit these ridiculous shifts that the opposition imposes on us. Is it that hard to try going the opposite field?
      On a positive note we are in 1st place with a winning record.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. If you had asked me ten days ago if I would take a 4-2 record [on the road] at this point in the season, I would have jumped on it in a New York minute. Of course I don’t like watching our high-octane offense struggle the way they have, or see Altuve, Tucker, Alvarez, Gurriel, and Diaz all hitting under the Mendoza line at the same time, but at least we haven’t seen the bullpen blow these low-scoring games this year like in years past.

    Meanwhile – Dusty, please never consider Chaz McCormick as a late-inning defensive replacement for Michael Brantley again.

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  20. Pressley probably should have walked Beer. Set up the double play and not have the infield in.

    Tough loss, we didn’t get it done in the 10th, they did. Our offense has had one outburst in 6 games and has been in a coma 4 of the other 5.

    Poppen beat Altuve on a pitch that Altuve normally handles, at 89MPH to boot. No way Altuve gets beat on a 89MPH high fastball in the zone 3 years ago, and 6 years ago by any velocity on a high fastball in the zone. I am sure he is going to come around and take advantage of some pitches and break out of this thing he is in, but at his best he only looks like a league average hitter with plus power.

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    • The other day the A’s and Rays were in the same situation in extra innings. On MLB Network Dan Plesac suggested they walk Wander Franco to make it easier on the pitcher. Instead, they threw him a splitter that didn’t drop and he lined a double into right-center tying the game. Then, a hitter or two later he ended up scoring the winning run. With the dumb rule where a team starts the extra frame with a man on second these managers need to start thinking a bit more dynamically. Until teams start bunting runners over I’d load the bases every time when it gives me a better matchup at the plate or something I can turn into a defensive advantage.

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