The Astros’ first half: Is this what we expected?

In the comments to the last post – a good friend of the blog and our in-house island inn-keeper, uncleknuckle (previously known as Daveb) – mentioned that he didn’t think any of us thought this team would be this good. It is a good point.

Look back to where we were before the season started.

  • The Astros lost the best shortstop the franchise had ever suited up in Carlos Correa. They were heading into the season, handing the shortstop spot to rookie Jeremy Pena, who had played as many major league games as I had.
  • They had lost a faltering Zack Greinke, who had pitched well for most of the season before faltering due to COVID and perhaps an injury down the stretch.
  • They did not know when Lance McCullers Jr. would return in 2022 after 2021, where he had been very good until he went down in the playoffs.
  • They had to depend on Justin Verlander, who had been great in 2019 but had only pitched 6 innings in 2020 and 2021.
  • They were wondering if the huge load put on their younger starters (Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia) in their World Series run in 2021 would cause a hangover in 2022.
  • The hole left in their centerfield spot by the loss of George Springer in 2021 had been filled by Myles Straw. Then after the Straw trade, it was filled by a totally unsustainable performance by Jose Siri and by small sample numbers from Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers. There was even more uncertainty with Meyers starting the season on the IL after his shoulder surgery.
  • The bullpen had several question marks. Kendall Graveman, Yimi Garcia and Brooks Raley had left after the season (not all of this was negative). Pedro Baez and Rafael Montero were both fighting injuries. Cristian Javier would likely be unavailable for the bullpen as he had to go bandaid the rotation. Was Hector Neris going to fill a high leverage spot, or would he be Pedro Baez 2.0?

So, what did we think back in April…. Well, we do have a record of what at least some of us thought….

Opening Day questions for loyal readers | CHIPALATTA

OK, not everyone made predictions for the season, but those that did were quite positive – predicting 94-97 wins and an AL West championship. The Astros were on a 106-win pace at the 81-game break, and who the heck would predict that even in the 2018 and 2019 years?

The critical thing is that the Astros have been winning at a terrific pace, even with a few chinks in the armor. As their offense has finally warmed up, they have been even better, and it will be fun to see what they look like heading into the stretch towards another possible playoff appearance.

So, are the Astros living up to your expectations or beyond them?

55 comments on “The Astros’ first half: Is this what we expected?

  1. My goodness! I sat on the fence in April like an old cowboy who had a huge wad of tobaccy in his mouth and a brain that had been kicked too many times.

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    • Hey – it was an odd time for all of us.
      Looking at my predictions – I thought 96 wins might be a bit optimistic. I came very close on the Pena slash (so far) – I predicted .265 BA/ .330 OBP/ .785 OPS and he is actually at .266 BA/.314 OBP/ .779 OPS
      I must have had a stroke as I picked Tucker and Bregman as co-MVPs and Bregman topping the home run totals. Did Yordan Alvarez completely slip from my mind?

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  2. Back in April my questions were:
    1. Could Justin Verlander come back from TJ? Answer: Ahh’ll be backkkk!
    2. Could McCullers get back by June? Ans.: Frankly m’dear, I don’ givva damn?
    3. Could Brantley perform at Brantley levels? Ans.: I feel the need … for speed!
    4. Could McCormick/Siri win CF away from injured Meyers? Ans.: Ho, ho, ho!
    5. Would our pen be any good? Answer: Life is like a box of chocolates …
    6. Could Jeremy Pena replace Carlos Correa? Answer: Here’s lookin’ at you, kid
    7. Could Odo become an asset instead of a liability? Answer: I’m Spartacus!
    8. Can Rhyne Stanek throw that heat for strikes? Answer: Duya feel lucky punk?
    9. Will Dusty let the hot hand/bat play? Answer: You’re killin’ me, Smallz!
    10. How good/bad will the rest of our division be? Answer: Hasta la vista, Baby!
    11. Is Yuli getting too long in the tooth? Answer: You can’t handle the tooth!
    12. Is Bregman ever going to look healthy again? Ans: So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance.

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  3. Far exceeds expectations.

    Everyone knew some potential was there, but Pena has been an impact. I knew JV was going to be good, but who on this earth was predicting Cy Young good? Well someone did his name was Click – hence 25 million to a guy that he already gave a crazy amount of money to for not pitching. Framber and Javier are for real. I am not sure Framber is a “playoff” pitcher, but the only way to know is to get there again and see if he is better than last year. Javier is a guy I would trust in any situation. Alot of the same names pitching as last year but there is definitely been progression.

    This team is still so young. Tucker, Alvarez, Framber, Garcia, Urquidy, Pena, Javier, it is likely we haven’t seen the best from half of them yet. Bregman should be in his prime, and while he is looking up the last few weeks, it needs to be more consistent. If this team was winning on shoestrings and bubble gum built around Altuve, Brantley, JV and Pressley I would be concerned for the future, but they aren’t. I don’t think they will be bad again for a very long time, so Stankee fans should get used to it.

    Having Straw in CF is a hole. He was just a slower Gerald Young. Meyers is our last shot at filling it in with someone that can be respectable and play under cost certainty. Fingers crossed, if he is hitting .220 on July 30th they might be forced into something – or not – because we have been winning with our catcher hitting .140 most of the season and getting lackluster (and sometimes outright bad) from CF already.

    We are winning because we have one of the top 3 rotations in baseball. I would argue the best, but Dodgers fans have a good argument too. They have been so good that most sportswriters Cy Young favorite going into the season has been their WORST starter so far, and its not like he has fallen completely off the rails.

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    • Steven –
      I think the “youth” situation is the key to sustainability with this team. To have a big chunk of guys controllable at reasonable prices is a key – it allows you to fill in with shorter term – higher priced folks.
      They filled in early with some high draft picks (Correa, McCullers, Springer, Bregman) – but really their ability to pick up international players for peanuts – Altuve, Framber, Javier, Garcia, Urquidy, Abreu, etc has been a big edge up for them. I think Yuli being here has certainly helped with picking up other higher profile international and Cuban players. Getting Alvarez in exchange for a veteran relief pitcher was a Bagwellian steal.
      Can they keep this going with later draft picks? Well if they are guys like Pena, Korey Lee and Hunter Brown – they have a shot.

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  4. Nothing like blowing a 4 run lead. 2 errors, a passed ball. Maton shouldn’t be pitching. He can be the human gas can. Lots of brain farts by Bregman, Maton. Hopefully we can get it back. Way to waste a great outing by Garcia.

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  5. I went to bed when we had lost most of the lead (5-4). We literally gave them all the runs in the rally. A walk, an error by Maton, an error by Bregman and the hit by pitch….followed by a couple hits. If both Maton and Bregman had taken the easy out, they would have been back in the dugout.
    But they somehow came back and won and so we move on to today’s interesting matchup of Ohtani and Javier. May the worst hitter win.

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  6. * I didn’t expect the Astros to be able to open up this big of a lead. They have done it by dominating their division opponents in head to head play.
    * Verlander is really something. He also appears willing to allow the Astros brass to set his pace.
    * The Astros offense is not as good as I expected as a team. That is the result of constant minor injuries disrupting individual player contribution and Maldonado’s bad performance in the nine spot.
    * Maton is like a right handed Brooks Raley, but the rest of the one-inning guys have been great.
    * Pena’s contributions have been more than expected from a timely RBI standpoint. He is typically coming through in big situations. His homers don’t surprise me because MMP was made for him.
    * August’s schedule gets harder and the better teams will have swallowed up the better players from weak teams at the deadline, making September’s schedule easier for the Astros. I think the Astros could possibly chase down the Yankees, if they get their injured guys healthy.

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    • In my mind, the Blue Jays current poor play started the day their coach’s daughter died in that boating accident. I don’t think they have been the same since that tragedy. It happened on July 2nd and they are 2-9 since it happened.
      I’m just stating what my impressions have been about their play since then, as I have been following their turmoil since that Saturday afternoon.

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    • An asset is an asset. The question we need to address is which character will show up for us at the draft: the identity, the ultimatum, or the supremacy?

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  7. This is an exhausted team, reeling from injuries. Most nights we manage to win anyway. But last night the undisputed mega-superstar of this generation did what he does, and our decimated lineup just had no answer for his talent. Shotani is simply head and shoulders above any other player on the planet – at leas any player wearing an Astro jersey on the field last night.

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    • Ohtani (.258BA/.347 OBP/ .841 OPS / 19 HR/ 56 RBIs) hits like Kyle Tucker (.256/.350/.830/17 HR/ 60 RBIs), while pitching (9-4/2.38 ERA/ 12.7 K per 9 IP) like Dylan Cease (8-4/2.30 ERA/ 13.1 K per 9 IP).
      Its pretty amazing and what would he do if he only concentrated on one of those?

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  8. Never thought I’d feel cool getting back to the tropics in mid July! But those trade winds and rain shower while sitting on the screened in porch sure were welcoming last evening. That’s it for my Nevis marketing today.

    Dan, no doubt, Ohtani is a singular talent. I think he’d be pretty remarkable as a pitcher or a hitter. What if he became a full time hitter and a closer?

    Zanuda, don’t give up on Abreu yet. I did not see the game, but the replay showed a couple of seeing eye hits. And he did throw 24 of 34 for strikes. He’s grown a whole lot this season. I don’t think he’s hit his ceiling. And for what it’s worth, that guy Strom always thought he’d become an excellent starter. I’d hate to lose him, but he could end up being an important piece in a deal.

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    • Maybe true about Abreu, but I just get frustrated when he doesn’t seem to have it. It’s the inconsistency that drives me crazy. Same for Maton. As for Ohtani, he’s a 12 on a scale of 10. Should he continue along his present path, can you even imagine what kind of money he’ll command when he becomes a free agent in ’24?

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    • Yeah I don’t know if it was a matter of Abreu not pitching to the right spots, but you had three left handed hitters beat the shift with singles to left field. You had the righty Adell sneak one up the middle and you had the one that Pena threw away. Really not knocking down the walls against Abreu.

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      • Speaking of shifts, I really do not want to have MLB mandate where or where not a defensive player can position himself on the field. Let the players make shifting largely extinct over time by learning how to bunt and hit the ball where there are holes. I say this even as I know our largely pull hitting offense would certainly benefit from new shift reduction rules.

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  9. Maybe not this year but if Brantley or Yuli don’t play for us next year then we’ll need to go get an outfielder and 1st baseman. I don’t see us having anybody ready to take over at this point unless I’m missing something. I don’t think McCormick or Siri is the answer and at 1st Jones or Matejevic hasn’t shown me much either.
    I know Ohtani is a great pitcher but Pena was swinging at at pitches a foot off the plate. A lot of the K’s that Ohtani got last night were pitches out of the zone. A better plate discipline is needed. Of course I have no idea what is looks like to see a 100 mph fastball coming at you and then an 85 mph slider on the next pitch. That’s why I’m commenting form the “cheap seats”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just watching on television, it appears to me that ohtani has the best combination of pitches that I have ever seen. The Movement on everything he throws is incredible. All he lacks is Maddux control. If he ever learns to put that nasty splitter where he wants it he will be as close to unhittable as a human being can get.

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  10. The Mariners, who are suddenly looking like a playoff team again, close out the first half of the season with four games against Texas in Arlington. The M’s have a 10 game win streak going which includes sweeps of the Padres [2 game set], the Nats [2 game set], and the Blue Jays [4 game set]. We meet them for 4 games at Minute Maid July 28-31. I sure hope Brantley and Alvarez are back and rolling by then.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Another nail biter but we came through with a win. Pressley with 2 innings of great work. Valdez shaky but came through as did the bull pen.

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  12. That’s got to be a demoralizing loss for the Angels. I don’t mind. Our patched together Astros made it tough on themselves. I hate it when the bat gets taken out of Jakes hands in a big situation. Got to give him a chance. He had just worked a 2-0 count. Trying the old double delayed steal of home does not work unless the other guys screw up. Could have been a big inning in the first. But alas, a happy, tired trip home. I don’t know why they did not play a day game. I hope they sent Odorizzi home early. One more thing. Chas pinch hit for Siri. Siri is the definition of a AAAA bat. And that goofy stance. He had to create that on his own.

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    • Siri is so embarrassingly bad that even when Chaz struck out for him I were at least glad it was Chaz doing it somewhat respectably instead of Siri doing it while imitating Jerry Lewis.

      Somehow we won that game – on fumes and Red Bull.

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      • That should, of course, read “I *was at least glad*… “; not I *were* at least glad … Dang this multiple personality disorder!

        Liked by 2 people

  13. A few thoughts….
    – I thought it was amazing that Framber made it through 6 innings. He looked like he was going to end up toast after 4 or 5. Got more efficient or the Angels were more anxious. He looked like he was sweating like a basketball player when he came off the mound each inning.
    – I hope the guys are just tired and can recharge with the All Star break. A lot more fielding flubs than this team normally makes occurring lately.
    – I see a headline this morning about Altuve – “he’s going to be sore”. I’ll take that. I remember when a batting practice line drive off Joe Morgan’s knee derailed an All Star season long ago.
    – It would not kill me if Jose sits out the ASG and heals up and rests up
    – Pressly has been looking much better lately. That was a gutty two inning piece of work there. Keys were getting lefty Marsh to strike out and not move the runner from second over and Dubon making a great run and catch on the jam shot looper from Stassi.
    – Could use a deep start by Odorizzi tonight
    – Pena’s game winning hit in the 10th was a thing of beauty that our veterans should study. Go with the pitch – line it to right – get the runner in from 3rd. I think he has gotten the runner in from third with less than 2 out – like 7 of 8 times, while the league average hovers around 50%.
    – Assuming Altuve misses a few games here – we sure will have a lot of firepower sitting out between Uncle Mike, Yordan and Jose. Hope Dusty doesn’t decide to give any other regulars time off in here.
    – I understood that Siri went to this new stance that looks like a guy trying to hide behind an S-shaped tree when he was sent down and hit a bunch of homers with it. Doesn’t quite translate to the majors. Again, he needs to swing at the right pitches and take the wrong pitches first and worry about his stance second.
    – There sure are a lot of hit by pitches in the foot on these extreme breaking pitches. Seeing a lot of passed balls too where catchers are trying to frame pitches and miss them. The game is different.
    – Along those lines we won a game (and only gave up two runs) when the Angels had 8 hits, 5 walks, we made two errors, threw a wild pitch and had two passed balls. That’s not going to happen too often.

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  14. Find it interesting that mlbtraderumors, which normally documents every hiccup of mlb players did not post anything on Altuve coming out of the game and being day to day with a sore knee.

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    • Well I heard that someone told somebody, and then somebody else was overheard by mlbtraderumors, that after the game last night Dusty Baker tossed Jose Altuve two rolls of athletic tape, an ace bandage, and a bottle of aspirin, and asked him “You good to go now?” Altuve reportedly nodded, so … end of story.

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  15. I’m doing this on my phone after hearing this on the radio so I might miss this a bit but this may be our weakest lineup of the season as I heard it
    Dubon
    Meyers
    Tucker
    Bregman
    Peña
    McCormick
    Matijevic
    Siri
    Lee

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    • Where are Matt Dominguez, LJ. Hoes, Carlos Corporal, and Brett Wallace?

      Where are Preston Wilson, Justin Maxwell, and Chris Carter?

      Looks like one of our nightmare line-up from the disastro years.

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    • Yesterday, the club sent Oddorizzi into Houston, early, to make certain he received plenty of rest and to avoid the early morning flight back into town. Then they decide to pitch Urquidy instead and he had to suffer through the flight. Then Baker fills out this mismash of a lineup card. Seems he is sending up the surrender flag for the rest of the first half of the season.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I want to win every night. But I’d rather have a mostly healthy, rested group next Thursday. I don’t know why MLB schedules a “twilight” start when a club has to get on a plane and reverse back through 2 time zones with a game the next day. And with the process of squeezing two lost strike weeks into the schedule, every team has played more games in a shorter period of time. We’ve been excellent and find ourselves just 3.5 behind the Yankees right now. We’re in a good position. I’m not sure how many of todays managers have played as much MLB as Dusty Baker. He knows what it’s like. I’m going to trust him on the use of his roster.

    But our lineup last night was telling in some ways. Dubon should hit 10th. Korey Lee needs to play more, regardless of where. I wish Siri could hit. He would have gone to the wall on the ball that Jake did not. In fact, I don’t know if any of Chas, Jake, Siri will ever hit enough. We’ll be real good if we ever get our first 9 playing together. That’s the goal. And what is the phantom, James Click going to surprise us with?

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  17. I consider the all-Star game a shameless scam. But after watching the Stro’s fumble and bumble recently – continuing with the pathetic first inning I just watched today, I am becoming a big fan of the all-star BREAK. These guys need a week, before they totally embarrass themselves. Hope jV strikes everyone out, because suddenl nobody on our team can play defense.

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  18. A couple of early thoughts today.

    I’m sure glad Maldy hit that 4 run shot because the big galoot on the mound looks entirely hittable.

    I think we’re a little hard on our club sometimes. Am I going soft?

    The Astros should never make Verlander put on that goofy space man uniform again.

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