I can definitively answer my own question. Who knows?
We know that even the best organizations will hit speed bumps on the road to sustainable excellence. In many ways, that speed bump for the Astros was the 2020 COVID ravaged season, when they still managed to reach the ALCS despite really sucking in the regular season.
I have always been an optimist when it comes to the Astros. Even in the depths of despair in the 100+ loss years, I would spar with blog cynic, Bopert on his assertion that the Astros would never succeed under Jim Crane and that the owner would never spend money to be competitive. There were times when I was not sure whether I was backing the right horse, but the turnaround has been remarkable over the last seven+ seasons.
Could this season be another step down for the Astros? Sure, it could be another downer, especially if the injury bug goes nuts like it did in 2020. But I will put on my Mitzi Gaynor Cockeyed Optimist hat and try to raise everyone’s spirits.
Here are ten reasons to think the Astros are going to be OK…..
- Justin Verlander has come back like he wants to make up for making $66 million for six innings of work. He was outstanding in his first start, and frankly, 2019 Cy Young brilliant in his second start.
- Yordan Alvarez is back from his illness and looked like his 2019 self in his first game back. The man hit two very long home runs and amazingly hit a single with a higher exit velocity than the dingers on Monday. (We will conveniently ignore his 0-fer on Tuesday).
- Alex Bregman is back to being very productive with 8 RBIs in 11 games, and he has some room to improve as he is only hitting .263.
- Jeremy Pena will undoubtedly have his slumps and hit some bumps, but he looks like he belongs, hitting for average, hitting for power, dropping bunts for hits, playing his position well and showing off some speed.
- The Astros have won more than they’ve lost, even with Yuli Gurriel (.161 BA, 1 run, 0 RBIs), Jose Altuve (.167 BA, 2 runs), Kyle Tucker (.105 BA), Aledmys Diaz (.154 BA), Jason Castro (.000 BA), Niko Goodrum (.167 BA) and Martin Maldonado (.043 BA) all flying way south of the Mendoza line. For heaven’s sake, the catchers have combined for 1 hit in 52 plate appearances. This will not continue.
- Luis Garcia, the best AL Rookie pitcher in 2021, has picked up where he left off last season. He is 1-0, with a solid 2.79 ERA and an excellent 0.931 WHIP and is pushing to be the #2 pitcher behind JV on this staff.
- Jose Siri and Chas McCormick have taken their “competition” to heart and have used it to push each other to very good performances on the field. Yes, Chas had that one bad error, but everyone is allowed a mistake once in a while. Except me.
- As much as I rag on Dusty Baker, the man has seen it all, done it all and will never panic about things. This team should not have a winning record in their stats, but it does. We just need to see them turn things around and dominate their division. Not much to ask.
- It did not work on Tuesday night, but the Astros have a lot of home games in their pocket as they’ve played 9 on the road and 2 at home so far. Last year they won 63% of the home games and only 54% on the road, so it does mean something. (For us engineers, it means about one more win, but we will take it).
- This team knows how to win, and that knowledge did not move to Minnesota with Carlos Correa. Could they get derailed by too many injuries or too much regression in performance? Yes, they could. Will they? Hopefully, they will fix themselves and get back on the road to another deep playoff run.
Other things can help this team. A return from injury by Jose Altuve, Ryan Pressly, Jake Meyers and (big wish here) Lance McCullers Jr. would be a shot in the arm. Better performances from the Mendoza-lite batters, plus Jose Urquidy and Framber Valdez and even Jake Odorizzi. Help from prospects like Korey Lee, Pedro Leon, Shawn Dubin, Hunter Brown, Jonathan Bermudez or Peter Solomon might give them a boost. The fact that Jim Crane said he is ready to open those purse strings during the season to fill in any holes is not a hollow promise, as he has backed up his words in the past.
So don’t despair. Enjoy the fact that we can be depressed by a 6-5 start to the season. These are the good ol’ days of Astros baseball.