2 Topics: Tucker and the rotation choices

The Astros’ New York/New York tour continues on Sunday after the good guys rebounded from a Thursday heartbreaker loss with a solid win on Friday behind another great start by Justin Verlander. Then they followed it with the Cristian Javier, Hector Neris, and Ryan Pressly no-hit win on Saturday. The team is now 4-1 on this nine-game run through the Yanks and Mets.

Today, based on Dan P being in control of the subject matter here – we will talk about a couple subjects of Astro interest…to me.

Kyle Tucker. Offensive problem?

This is the ultimate troll heading. Kyle is not an offensive problem, but one of his statistics demonstrates a terrible problem with the Astros’ offense. Besides being one of the best fielding right fielders in the majors, he is also one of the best hitters. He would be vying for the best hitter on the Astros except for one Yordan Alvarez, who is helped by the fact that he has Tucker behind him.

Kyle is second with the Astros with 14 HRs (T 13th in AL), second with 48 RBIs (T sixth in the AL), third with  .851 OPS  (14th in the AL) and first with 13 SBs (T 8th in AL). The stat that shows a big Astros offensive problem is that he has only scored 28 runs this season – tied for fourth on the Astros but tied for 48th in the AL. Lord knows where he would be if he was not unprotected in the fifth or higher spot in the lineup. And that is the rub.

Think about it. He has knocked himself in 14 times with his own home runs, so his compadres have only knocked him in 14 other times on the season. Outside his 14 HRs, he has been on base with hits 46 other times, including 12 doubles. He has taken 33 walks on the season, and he has 13 stolen bases with only getting caught once. So ignoring any time he may have gotten on base on a fielder’s choice or an error, his teammates have only knocked him in 14 out of 79 times, including an approximate 25 times where he got himself to second or third base on his own.

It doesn’t take long to figure out who is falling down here. Of the folks hitting behind him, 2021 batting champ Yuli Gurriel is hitting .127 with runners in scoring position, Jose Siri – .172, Chas McCormick an almost robust .226, Martin Maldonado – .162 and Jason Castro a Blutarsky-ish .000. One guy who is injured right now but was hitting .304 with runners in scoring position is Jeremy Pena. Maybe moving him up in front of Gurriel will help, even if it further weakens the back three in the order. Or perhaps we could get a real hitter to play catcher and possibly CF.

Note 1. Yes, I know Siri and Chas are now down in Sugar Land, but they had a lot of at bats behind Tucker on the season.

Note 2. Rather interesting that in a game where he was given a rest, Yuli Gurriel came off the bench late for a big RBI hit after seeing his sub, JJ Matijevic, hit a critical home run in the seventh inning. It was a bloop of a hit. Competition is good?

Playoffs? We’re talking playoffs?

Yes, I’m jumping ahead here, but Cristian Javier’s brilliant seven no-no innings, along with his very good performance to date as a starter, brings to mind a daisy chain of ifs. If Jake Odorizzi comes back and picks up where he left off and if Lance McCullers Jr. comes back and pitches like he’s capable, and if the Astros make the playoffs and if the Astros go to a four-man rotation in the playoffs, who would those four starters be?

YIE (Yes, it’s early), but how are these pitchers performing?

Name W-L ERA WHIP IP K/9 IP
Justin Verlander 9-3 2.22 0.873 89.1 8.5
Framber Valdez 7-3 2.90 1.126 87 7.8
Cristian Javier 5-3 2.73 1.053 62.2 11.6
Luis Garcia 5-5 3.68 1.070 71 9.4
Jose Urquidy 6-3 4.68 1.455 67.1 7.0
Jake Odorizzi 3-2 3.13 1.168 31.2 6.0
Lance McCullers** 13-5 3.16 1.220 162.1 10.3

** Lance’s stats from 2021

This gets very interesting if all of these pitchers are available and pitching, as shown above. Urquidy would be the sure thing to be out in this scenario. Verlander and Framber would be the sure things to be in. Then there are decisions to be made for the next two spots.

McCullers – He would be likely in the rotation if he is healthy, performing like normal and stretched out, though remember he did have some significantly important appearances out of the bullpen in the Astros 2017 to run to the World Series and the 2018 run to the ALCS.

Javier has been excellent no matter what role they have asked him to take on since his debut in 2020. You would think the way he pitched in the starting rotation this season would have earned him a starting role in the playoffs, but who knows.

Garcia – He has been a solid addition to the Astros rotation since his debut in 2021, but he has not been that great in the playoffs and would seem to be the odd man out in a playoff rotation set-up.

Odorizzi – When he went on the IL, he had been on the best roll since he came to the Astros. He had two relief appearances with the Astros in the 2021 playoffs, one of which did not go well and one that did.

Dan P’s pick – If it’s my call – the four would be Verlander, Valdez, Javier and McCullers. This will be a crucial point to watch as the season develops.

So what are your thoughts about the two topics above?

142 comments on “2 Topics: Tucker and the rotation choices

  1. Thoughts
    – It’s strange how the universe works. We all turned against Castro together – I certainly thought he should be anywhere but in yesterday’s lineup, but there he was. I’m driving when the 9th inning occurs and listening on the radio. Castro comes up and Steve Sparks says straight out that Castro had been taking the best swings yesterday than all season. And I realize he’s going to do it. And there it goes.
    – I guess the team has a tendency in some of these very well pitched games to get a bolt out of the blue. Castro and Matijevic here lately
    – Is Meyers the answer in CF? Just like with Siri and Chas he’s got to hit around .250 to stick I think
    – If Peña and Alvarez were being looked at for concussion would they even be allowed on the plane home?

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    • This entire ‘Astros-take-on-the-borough-rats-and-their-rowdy-friends’ experience has been surreal. Our heroes have looked like a totally different team while playing the ‘big boys’ of the Bronx and Queens compared to the way they have played against the rest of the league. Even our zeroes [Castro, Dubon, Matejevich] and our slump-rats [Bregman, Gurriel] have found ways to contribute. And have you ever seen Jose Urquidy or Christian Javier dominate opposing hitters the way they did against the Big Apple-Dumpling Gang?

      Do we have to go back to playing teams with lesser talent and losing records?

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  2. Since we’re apparently doing bullet points today:
    – MLB Network broadcast had the Mets guys on for the game. Ron Darling had some good observations. It’s such a stark contrast from the Yankees crew.
    – Taijaun Walker has been dominating with the split finger on 2 strike counts…and our guys sure couldn’t figure it out.
    – Castro can’t get around on fastballs up in and in…so the Mets tried to throw him a curveball low and down the middle.
    – Appel looked good last night
    – I’m going to put some of the blame on the shift for that Alvarez- Pena collision. The rest of the blame goes to Alvarez not having enough reps in the outfield, but that’s also a play that Myers could have made. If you watch the replay, all three guys had to cover about the same amount of ground. The only guy you don’t want trying to make that catch was Pena…who of course did catch it.
    – Myers made a really nice diving catch in the second inning.

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    • That Myers catch showed that he was not trying to protect his shoulder. He went all out. So defensively it appears he is back. I didn’t see him take any chances during his rehab.

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      • Hopefully both of our guys will be okay. At some point, however, the team will have to review and update ‘call off’ protocols. Generally, a popout that far into the outfield is the outfielder’s ball if he can get to it, and the outfielder should call out loudly to the infielder to halt pursuit. I suspect we had a perfect storm of unfortunate events that led to this mishap: 1. Alvarez is not completely comfortable in the outfield, and Pena knows that he, not Alvarez, is the better athlete defensively; 2. because Meyers has been out all year recovering from injury, Pena has not gotten use to having a truly good CF with speed (sorry, Siri – you can play D better than Chaz, but your skills don’t measure up to Jake’s); and 3. Meyers, just coming back, does not have full ‘quarterback of the outfield’ confidence or undisputed ‘quarterback of the outfield’ respect yet.

        The good news is that Pena is ONE HECK OF AN ATHLETE -he somehow avoided a full-on collision with Yordan (just big, strong flailing arms) and somehow managed to hold onto the ball for out. I want that guy on my team now more than ever!

        Let’s hope we escaped this potential disaster without any lasting or serious damage to either player.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The Jason Castro home run is accepted as charity, but I still think it it has more to do with blind hog luck. That breaking ball he hit just sat there on a tee, but he did jump all over it!
    Jordan at DH has always been my plan. Now I want to think of it as a long term health plan for the entire team.
    I love what Meyers has shone since his return. Defensively and also beating out that infield hit with great speed to 1B.
    Some familiar signs are starting to emerge from the Astros. Offensively, they have crept up to the #7 team in baseball at drawing walks and are now the 2nd best team at not striking out. Sound familiar?
    They are 4th in HRs and are one of the best teams for not hitting into DPs
    Pitching wise, they are 25th in number of walks given, so they are trending towards their norm of being one of the best in that category.
    Yordan Alvarez has the highest OPS of any MLB player, at 1.070.

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    • I fully agree that Yordan should play enough leftfield to stay familiar with the role but the guy is just too valuable to be running into walls and other people out there. While willing, he’s not a good outfielder. He will always put up negative dWAR.

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  4. HOW SOON WE FORGET

    Whatever happened to Peter Solomon? He’s still at Sugar Land, and is not exactly killing it. He ha started 11 games and pitched 57 innings. He has a 6.12 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP. He has struck out 52 [vs. 61 hits allowed], walked 26, and given up 12 HRs.

    Whatever happened to Tyler Ivey? Details are sketchy, but he apparently has serious elbow issues. He is on the ‘Restricted List’, which means he has gone inactive and might or might not ever come back to organized baseball. If he does come back at some point, he either comes back to the Astros organization, who put him on the restricted list, or whatever team signs him has to compensate the Astros.

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  5. I watched Dusty’s post game press conference and he said it is tough to hear for fly ball call-offs because of the noisy fans in NY and because of the plane traffic near the stadium. I have no idea if that is what was happening, but it sure could have.

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  6. I see Juan Soto discussion again today. 13 years for 425? Why would a team that is for sale lay that money out?

    My point though is how we get a deal done with Tucker that stays within the
    framework of Houston philosophy? Soto is a great talent, but because Tucker is a much better right fielder, he’s already put up a 3.8 WAR. Soto is not close. In fact, using the Baseball Reference version, Tucker has a slightly better WAR than Yordan.

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  7. Wow, 7-2 against New York. I’m pretty sure none of us were thinking in that direction.

    What continued remarkable pitching.

    Brian Abreu gave up zero runs in June. Course he only threw 7 innings, 12 K’s, 1 BB. Are we hiding him to be a secret weapon down the road or is there just not enough work for him?

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  8. I think I need to re-watch Moneyball. Seems Billy couldn’t stand the tension to watch the team play. I am getting close to that with this team. They walk more high wires than The Flying Wallendas.

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  9. 2-1 is a win for the good guys. I would have liked a little more run support but I didn’t want to stop at 3. 3’s were not a good # for us in NY. And if I recall the saying, “good pitching always beats good hitting”.

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  10. In the month of July the Astros play 2 games against teams with a record over .500. That is the double header against the Yankees in Houston on July 21.
    All the other games are against teams currently under .500.

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  11. Let’s talk Pedro Leon for a few minutes.
    When you go to his stats for the year you gasp and say “OMG, a .223 BA”!
    But look further. Look at what he did last year when he got promoted to AAA. If that doesn’t make you gasp, you are blind.
    Then you look at RBIs(42), DBLS(18), HRs(11), Stolen Bases(22), and Caught Stealing(5), HBP(11), hit into DP’s(1), you realize that his strikeouts are what are keeping him from blossoming, although his walk rate is really good.
    Leon doesn’t have to be rushed. He is errorless in CF and has played RF, SS, and 2B(last night) and he does not need to be added to the major league roster until after the end of the 2023 season. If you double his stats, because we are just at the half season mark, he is very productive. Continued improvement in his hit tool is his ticket to the Astros outfield.
    I’m hoping that happens.
    Colin Barber had 5 hits for Asheville last night and is raking there. I expect he will be moved up to AA before long.

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