Are the Astros going to be okay?

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…..

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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).
  10. 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.

58 comments on “Are the Astros going to be okay?

  1. It might be an appropriate time to note that the Astros were 6 and 6 after 12 games last year too.

    But on a more serious note, the Astros will lose a couple of arms on May 1. Can they afford to send Odorizzi back out to start another game next week? It’s one thing to throw a game away in the first, but now the pen has to get 25 outs tonight. Even with the day off tomorrow, we won’t have a fully rested pen for the weekend series. That’s all on Odorizzi.

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  2. My dad, may he Rest In Peace, was a boxer in his youth, and really liked to watch boxing as I was growing up. He would always tell me to watch for the point in the fight where the guy who was taking the most hard blows stopped throwing punches with anything on them, and started basically just to survive until the bell rang. The Astros appear to be at that point. No fire. No punch. No chance.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Harsh, but, I get you. They seem lifeless. The thrill is gone. Going deep into the post season for 5 straight years and the trickling loss of your best players over the same period will do that to you. This is up to Dusty to fix.

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      • Don’t count on it. These guys are about as exciting as watching paint dry. And although some might disagree with me I think those “Space City” uniforms suck. They are downright ugly. You couldn’t give me one.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Count me in favor of dropping these dumb uniforms clearly intended to bleed fan’s wallets and nothing more.

        I’m not sure who the clubhouse leader is this year, but it’s time to toss some trash cans and make some noise to wake them up.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. And on your write up – whole heartedly agree. Way to early for anyone to hit any red buttons.

    JV has looked like the phenom most of us knew he was.

    Yordan was swinging well even his start “looked slow” they just weren’t falling.

    Bregman also looks super confident. I still think that off day on game 3 was a mistake he was really wiggling out there and his body language said I am here to keep it going, off day comes, rhythm was still good but not quite as wiggly.

    Pena impresses me not only on results so far but that he carries himself like this is what he expected. There is no doubt in that young mans face right now. He looks like he reads Chipalatta and specifically the comments section and got a “chip” on his shoulder about it.

    Goodrum and Maldy are just south of the mendoza kinda guys. No biggie if they provide other things and aren’t slated for 500 PAs anyway. Tucker looks like last years April – he was peppering things last year too but they weren’t finding spots. He has hit some really hard balls right into shifts and had a few warning track outs, exactly how it went last year.

    Garcia has to find just a smidgen more consistency outside of the zone – try and work to make his balls look like strikes to the hitter a little more often, and the skies the limit for him. He has the rest of the toolkit to be a upper half of the rotation guy.

    I’m not going to be fooled by 2 good weeks. Heck Chas was good for 2 months last year but its a season. Pretty sure our CF’er in 2024 or maybe even 2023 isn’t in the organization at the moment, but yes, Siri and McCormick have made the water treading exercise fruitful so far.

    The Astros moving McCullers to the 60 day means we can’t see him until June. I am starting to suspect that will be more like 20 June as they will not rush his throwing program, rehab, and rehab starts probably in CC. Wouldn’t surprise me if its as late as early July. That’s fine with me, if he only gets 12-15 starts to work up the lather he will be at his best in October.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Or as a bottle opener as I was thinking, “is it too early in the game to start opening and drinking numerous beers?” That is if they don’t have twist off caps. Time to put Garcia or a call up into the rotation.

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    • It’s embarrassingly bad for the Astros to continue to trot him out there simply because they are trying to find value in his contract. Javier is a much much much better option. If Javier has to be lifted in the 5th after giving up 3 you are still in the game, and that would be a “bad start.” Give me 3 in 5 from Odorizzi and I am celebrating because I know the offense has a chance.

      Dusty trusts veterans. In this case that trust is detriment to the teams chances to win in 1/5th of their games. Odorizzi has a better chance of walking out and making a game unwinnable as he does “keeping it close.”

      And I don’t feel this way because of 2 bad starts and 1 most other pitchers would call bad but he got out of. I’ve felt this way since the day we signed him. I have no idea how this guy ever won 15 games in a year other than he had some good luck and he played for a team that led the league in homeruns that year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Odorizzi in his All Star season of 2019, won 15 because overall he put up the best numbers of his career. 15 wins – 4 more than any other season, 3.59 ERA – second best of his career, 10.1 Ks / 9 IP – best of his career, 1.208 WHIP – best of his career, 7.9 hits/ 9 IP best of his career and so on.
        His numbers last season were decent – not that far off his best season, but this year he has been an on base machine, just awful.
        I will explore this further in my next post (probably tomorrow).

        Liked by 2 people

      • My point Dan – his BAA, BABIP against, xERA, all of it said he wasn’t that different of a pitcher that year than any year before or his cumulative since. His LD rates given up, exit velocities, etc., all say in 2019 he was slightly better in some regards, actually slightly worse in others.

        We gave the guy 3 years and money based on believing 2019 was no aberration and 2020 was just injury. That was not accurate. He wasn’t really a different pitcher in 2019 than the years before by a large stretch, he was just darn right luckier, leaving a lot of batters stranded and lucky alot of those hard hit balls were not yarded as much.

        Even his velocity, its the same today as it was in 2019. If anything, he might need to slow his cutter down, in 2019 he was putting almost 6mph between his four seam and his cutter, now its less than 4. It’s possible that 6 is needed as part of his deception. I am just speculating because his O-swing rate against is down a bit, and his BAA against his FB is up, which tells me he is either being scouted really well and not adjusting, or he is missing his spots and not being deceptive enough out of the zone.

        Now that he has that contract, there is going to be some insisting from the top that Baker gives him first crack, some for trying to find some value in the deal, and maybe some to try and make him a more tradeable commodity when Lance is back. Javier is clearly the better pitcher. Now the problem is when the roster goes down do you even waste a spot on Odorizzi, because his trade value has to have taken a hit. Mushinski, Blanco and Abreu all have options. They are all 3 probably better at getting outs right now than Jake.

        Its a tough spot. Odorizzi clearly can get outs. He did in 2019. All the velocity and movement stats suggest he is still the same pitcher, he just isn’t getting the same results. I think in 2019 he was pitching over his head, and this year he is a much better pitcher than we have seen, but even at what I think is his ceiling, where he can get back too, he isn’t Javier.

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      • [McTaggart] Despite struggling over his last two starts, Astros manager Dusty Baker said Odorizzi would remain in the starting rotation. “It’s only been two starts,” Baker said. “That would be the shortest leash in history. Hopefully, his next start, he’ll be better.”

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  4. As bad as the start was for Odorizzi last night, and as bad as Valdez’s fifth inning disaster was in the previous game – and both were atrocious – what bothers me most about the last two games is that we mounted NO OFFENSIVE RESPONSE WHATEVER in either game once we got behind. Good teams get back up off the mat and fight back; our guys just basically laid down and died. Get behind – aw, shucks, guess it’s time to go home. If a team with this much offensive firepower can’t even mount a fight to get back into a game repeatedly something is wrong in the motivation department. DUSTY? BREGMAN? UNCLE MIKE?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That offensive production is going to have to come from a struggling set of guys that can’t struggle like this for us to have consistency. I keep waiting on Tucker, Gurriel, and even Alvarez and Altuve to a point to get a hot week in but we are still waiting. I am sure its coming, I just hope we don’t find ourselves at .500 at the end of April waiting on one.

      I get the lack of fire. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of urgency in their at bats right now. If they lose this next series I would expect a little more urgency at the plate, but you wonder if the team is just too “veteran” and not panicking about each individual start – but as a group the slow starts can be pressing. Until the last 2 games the pitching was making up the difference.

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  5. There is something distasteful in sports when you don’t play your best players. I don’t care if it the coach’s son at quarterback or a MLB executive not admitting a bad decision. A negative WAR for 2 of the past 3 seasons should tell you something. Currently Odorizzi is NOT one of the top 13 pitchers on the Astros.

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  6. Who of you thought that 12 games into the season our offensive leader board would read ‘Jeremy Pena’ way out in front of everyone else [top in BA, OBP, Slugging, OPS, hits (tied for first with Brantley in this category, and runs scored?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Did I mention that Pena is 2nd in doubles behind Gurriel, and tied for 2nd in HRs behind Alvarez?

      It is good to see Pena out to a good start – especially for a rookie. But the real story is not that Pena is doing well – it is that everybody else who plays regularly (McCormick and Siri don’t have enough at bats to qualify for the leader board) has been consistently performing somewhere between ‘meh’ and atrocious

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry, Pena is actually second in slugging [.590] behind Alvarez [.600]. But he’s over 100 points higher than Bregman, over 200 points higher than Brantley, and over 300 points higher than Altuve, Tucker, or Gurriel.

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  7. I wouldn’t be clamoring for the hook on Odorozzi if there wasn’t a clearly better option sitting there. I get it, 2 games is the shortest hook in history, but it isn’t about the results of the pitching its the quality of it. Javier is clearly the better pitcher. He throws more strikes, more often, with more velocity, and a much lower BAA. Sticking with Jake out of some misguided loyalty, contract status, trade ability, or downright veteran status means roughly 20% of our games in the next 3 months will be 80% unwinnable.

    I don’t get it. Is there a higher power? Are we alone in the universe? Who actually invented shoe umbrellas? Why would Jake Odorizzi get another start to lose?

    Maybe Dan is ready to explore the mysteries of the universe in his next installment.

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    • Steven, my though on Odorizzi was that his starts were basically going to be a coinflip for the Astros. If it’s closer to 20/80 like you suggest we won’t see him long. However, I think you have it wrong – I think Baker is defending his player and not throwing the front office under the bus. I don’t think Jake is starting because Dusty likes him better than Javier.

      I’m always annoyed when the Astros lose, but their early record doesn’t concern me unless they let another team get a big lead like in 2020. If you look at our division, the Rangers are going to score runs and lose a lot of games. The A’s are going to lose a lot of games because of the talent gap. The Angels have half a lineup and a couple scary pitchers. The Mariners don’t realize they’re not as good as they’re playing…which is dangerous. If we get to July it’s clear the Angels and M’s have some payroll move to make moves. Losing games to those two teams concerns me more than the overall record.

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  8. What … was … Dusty … thinking? Castro batting for McCormick with men at first and third with one out in the bottom of the ninth? Then, after Castro predictably strikes out, pinch-hitting Matijevich [first major league at bat] for Maldonado?

    It just goes to show what utter disdain that Baker has for McCormick [who happens to be hitting .313, with a .708 OPS] – and how totally useless he knows Niko Goodrum, who was his other option off the bench, is to this team.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Folks I have to beg your patience right now – I’ve been inundated with my work and so the next post is slow in coming out. Hope to catch up on the weekend.

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  10. Springer with a leadoff homer in what I believe is his first game against his old team. He always was good with the dramatics. But Bregman 2 run homer has us ahead early….

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  11. Anatomy of our latest total eclipse of the start [3-2 to Toronto, Saturday 4/23]

    1. Pitching was good enough that we’d win with a decent offense;
    2. Defense was good enough to win – no errors;
    3. Double-digit offensive strikeouts again (3 for Maldy, 2 each for Siri & Gurriel)
    4. Only in one inning did we score (8 innings we produced squat)
    5. Once again, our only runs came via big fly – we can’t string together hits.
    6. Brantley’s bat was awake – 3 hits (all singles)
    7. Kyle Tucker’s luck finally changed – 3 hits (all singles)
    8. Gurriel got one hit;
    9. Bregman hit a 2-run Crawford-Box Special (went 1 for 4);
    10. Pena continues his crash back back toward rookie reality;
    11. Alvarez can’t find his stroke (0-4 at clean-up, now hitting .152)
    12. Siri reminds us he’s just a skinnier, far less-likeable version of Chris Carter;
    13. Goodrum … totally useless once again; why do we ever play this guy?
    14. Maldonado – loveable, and great behind the dish, but as always, helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless at the plate.

    I would like to blame our continuing offensive woes on the absence of Jose Altuve from the line-up; but, the reality is that he wasn’t exactly tearing it up on offense before his injury either.

    We were just not ready to start the season. We were better off locked out .

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  12. If the Astros keep playing like this, there may be a glimmer of hope that Crane will figure out that Click and Baker don’t know what they are doing with a $200 million payroll.

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  13. One of my issues: Everyone is complaining about Goodrum being worthless. He pretty much is against righty pitching. But he’s got that .830 lifetime OPS against lefties. He’s again sitting today against a lefthander. He sat earlier in the week against a lefty. Diaz is has a lifetime OPS of .716 against lefties. If Goodrum is going to be on the roster, use him where he’s most likely to succeed.

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    • Dave, I agree -he should never start against RH pitching.

      He’s had 19 ABs this year – he’s struck out 9 times (47.3%)
      Last year for Detroit he had 290 ABs – he struck out 107 times [36.8%]
      Lifetime he’s had 1351 at bats – he’s struck out 465 of those [34.4 %]

      He is not aging like fine wine. His bat is aging like swiss cheese. We simply cannot afford to have Niko, Siri, and Maldonado in the same line-up.

      Ideal position for Niko:

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  14. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Astros:

    1. Have the third LOWEST batting average in the entire league;
    2. rank 25th of the 30 teams in OBP;
    3. rank 22nd of the 30 teams in both Slugging percentage and OPS

    Today, in the 2nd ending an opposing pitcher was wild as a march hare and loaded the bases with one out – top of our order coming up. We got an infield hit (one run, single RBI McCormick), a horribly timed strikeout (Brantley), another walk (RBI Bregman), and a fly out to retire the side (Alvarez). In other words, we scored two ‘excuse me runs’, and wasted an incredible opportunity to blow the game open.

    This group has NO PUNCH AT ALL!

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  15. Strikeouts have been killing our offense. Our team leaders as of today’s game are:
    1. Kyle Tucker [12];
    2. Jeremy Pena [11];
    3. Altuve, Brantley, and Siri [tied with 10];
    4. Bregman, Goodrum & Maldonado [tied with 9].

    Yes, Houston, we have a …. [Bangarang!]

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  16. The Blue Jays tried over and over again to give the Astros this game. Alas, nothing they have done has worked. There is simply no ‘W’ in this group of Astros.

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  17. Mr. Pena, please report to the Manager’s office. You apparently did not get the memo. What part of ‘last place in the division or BUST’ do you not understand?

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  18. I watched the last inning of the Astros game, the last 20 laps at Talladega and the last two holes of the golf from New Orleans. It was very exciting.
    Now we’re going to watch “Please Don’t Eat The Daisies”. I hope this is worth it.
    Oh, I also watched two fishing shows today. Do you think those guys will ever have a show where they don’t catch any fish? Nah! They are either really good or it took two weeks to catch that many fish in a half hour show.

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  19. Jeremy Pena is strong. Really strong. 425 feet on a pitch that wasn’t really a terrible pitch.

    Post game interview I thought the camera man needed to back up. All I could see was his shoulders. He looks like he has pipelines that go from his shoulder into his neck but then I realized those were his traps.

    Garcia looked like he did in the playoffs. Cruises until he gets into a spot then acts like he has forgotten how to pitch. When Collins stepped up I told my wife he is about to get popped, and he got popped. Really what I told her is that he doesn’t need a mound visit right now, he needs to be taken out. Its almost predictable. I really do wonder if he is in the stretch and doesn’t get to do his dance is it messing with something mechanically and leaves it a little flatter? I don’t know where to get stats on stretch vs. windup but it would be a cool case study.

    Close series, disappointing to get the series loss at home, but that Blue Jays team is a real offensive sparkplug, they are good 1-9 and great 1-5. Talk about exit velocity, Vlad can take your head off.

    So cool to see the Jays though – so many ties with the Gurriels, Biggio, Springer.

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