Dan P: The big interview

Your humble writer is not so humbly borrowing the title from another Dan …. Rather.  And my big interview is with me.

Question. Are you spoiled by this run of successful seasons by the Astros?

Answer. I’ve been a fan of this team for many, many years. As the TV announcers mentioned the other night, even with the big run of winning seasons since 2015, the team is still under .500 in its history – sitting at 4806 wins and 4810 losses heading into Saturday’s game. Only those fans or the Colt .45’s in 1962 have ever seen the team above .500 as they swept the Cubs in their first three games as a franchise and held it above .500 until they fell to 6-6 and then 6-7 in their twelfth and thirteenth games of the season.

Bottom line, like most fans, I’ve sat through so many seasons of bad or mediocre that I deserve to be spoiled a bit. So, yes, I’m a bit spoiled. I’ve earned it.

Question. The Astros have the best record in the American League yet have some obvious holes, health issues, and questions as they head towards the playoffs for the 6th time in a row. Can they break through and win a championship that can put the trash can era in the rearview mirror?

Answer. Too easy a question….any team that makes the playoffs has a shot at winning it all. But, this team does have the type of starting pitching depth they did not have the last two seasons, so they may have a better shot at winning it all this time.

Question. Pick out two reasons the team can win it all and two reasons to be concerned.

Answer. Reasons for …. 1) The starting pitching depth as discussed above. They have 6 pitchers that would likely be accepted on 90% of the rotations in the majors.  2) Been there, done that. This team knows how to win. By losing a ton of fine players, they have made it to the ALCS and/or the World Series for the last five seasons. That is pretty impressive.

Reasons for concern …. 1) Their overachieving bullpen seems to be gravitating downward towards their norm. Nothing derails a team faster than a bullpen that can’t hold a lead.  2) Their offense has a bad tendency to just disappear for games at a time. Their only championship came behind an offense that carried them in a big chunk of the playoffs.

Question. Where would you rank this team vs. 2015 thru 2021 teams?

Answer. This would make a great post all by itself, but here is my simplified ranking….

#1 – 2019

#2 – 2017

#3 – 2022

#4 – 2021

#5 – 2015

#6 – 2020

I truly thought the 2019 team was the best of the bunch, but when you get into the playoffs, a play here or there can make the difference.

How would you answer these questions?

54 comments on “Dan P: The big interview

  1. Bad time to ask this question. We’ve pitched well against the O’s but were never really in either game, the offense getting shut down against young, mostly unproven pitching. We have to have more bats in the post season. We can’t win in October with our present ineptness. Maybe we’ll hit next week and I’ll feel differently.

    Hypothetically we can win because of excellent overall pitching ( I include the pen) and there are four or five guys that can get hot all at once and carry the offense. But we can go home early with a bad start or the pen giving up a game late, or more likely the result what we’ve seen all year, a sputtering offense. We’ve lost Brantley, we
    essentially lost Gurriel sometime in April and of course we lost Correa which was not a big deal initially, but Pena is struggling like so many rookies do. And have not really replaced those three veteran bats.

    2019. I still believe that giving Grienke a big hug for a wonderful six innings and then giving the ball to Cole to start the seventh was the best use of the best pitching staff in the majors. We were that close.

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  2. “2 reasons the team can win it all- and 2 reasons to be concerned.”

    The team can win it all 1. if we don’t have to face the Orioles; and 2. if none of the following are on the playoff roster: Dubon, Meyers, Smith, or Maton.

    Two reasons for concern are: 1. the hitting coach does not prepare the hitters to face the specific pitchers the other teams throws at us; and 2. our guys HATE – and therefore simply refuse – to hit bloop singles to the opposite field instead of pulling everything with power. All any team has to do to humiliate us, therefore, is to do what the Orioles have done. Tease us with pitches just off, or barely on, the outside corner. We keep waiting for a ball on the tee that we can pull.

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    • Some smart-alecs are saying ‘every offense goes through slumps’ to justify what we have been seeing against the Orioles [and many other times this year]. What garbage! Look, Yordan Alvarez isn’t in a slump. [the same could be said of Yuli Gurriel and Jeremy Pena. Opposing teams have figured out Yordan’s, Yuli’s, and Jeremy’s common glaring weakness (which is, alas, a big part of Astros culture). We can’t/won’t adjust to pitchers who live almost exclusively on and off the outside corner. The Orioles figured this out – as have some other teams. They are exploiting this weakness. Yordan, Yuli, and Jeremy have, to date, made no adjustment. Few Astros hitters do. They just get frustrated and swings all the harder, resulting in rolling over – into easy grounders and GIDPs. Yordan, Yuli, and Jeremy won’t get ‘hot’ again unless/until they learn to take what they are given instead of trying to muscle cutters and sliders that come in off the plate into the cheap seats. Kyle Tucker and Jose Altuve are the only Astros that have started making that adjustment; that is why their BAs and OBPs are steadily going up.

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      • Mr. Bill, everything is going to be okay. They’ve benched Yordan for the day and moved Yuli down to the 6th position, gosh, I hope not just for today! Alas, our rookie Pena is hitting second, gosh, I hope just for today! And our tall drink of water is our DH, followed by Frenchy and Maldy. I hope Verlander can blank the O’s today. It might give us a shot. I’m already thinking ahead to September 1, our last real chance to tweak our roster for post season eligibility.

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  3. The centerfield position has gotten weaker recently – as both Meyers and Dubon have not only forgotten what little they knew about both hitting and fielding. Both look as lost in the wild green wonder of CF as they do in the tiny white rectangle we call the batter’s box. Meyers is now ‘slashing’ [wink, wink] all of .209/.255/.557 on the year and hitting .159 over the last 30 games in which he has played. Dubon is now ‘slashing’ all of .207/.259/.549 on the year and hitting .215 in his last 30.

    I have no expectations of Chaz McCormick [.238/.327/.746 on the year] waking up one day and hitting or playing CF like George Springer; but when he gets back he needs to get every start in CF the rest of the season. Meyers and Dubon need a long, long rest.

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  4. Gloom-Despair-Agony!
    Toronto got shut out again at home by the lowly Angels.
    Tampa Bay lost to the last place Red Sox.
    The Mighty Dodgers lost to the Marlins.
    The Bronx Bombers got beat by the AAAAthletics.
    The Desperate White Sox got trounced at home by Arizona.
    The So-Close to the Playoffs Mariners lost at home to the Guardians of the League.
    The Sky….. is Burnin’
    The Astros have Bad Company.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not typically a line up writer, but here is my offense first starting 9, just to stir the pot a bit on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

      Altuve
      Tucker
      Bregman
      Alvarez
      Mancini
      Dirden*/Diaz
      Vazquez
      McCormick
      Pena

      *Dirden plays left against righties. Why bring him up? Because he’s a full time competent lefthanded hitting outfielder and I don’t see anyway based on his combined AA/AAA .344 BA/.420 OBP/.653 SLG/1.073 OPS against righthanded pitching that he won’t produce more than either Dubon or Meyers. We lose defense at first base, no doubt. But we get better in leftfield. Now don’t pick on me. We already know this would not be a Dusty Baker card.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Stir Dave stir.

        Mancini has a career fielding percentage of .996 at 1B. It is the only position he has positive range factors from (just barely). You can see he isn’t quite Gurriel with the glove – but he is a competent major league 1B, just not much of an outfielder.

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  5. So JV goes for an MRI tomorrow. This feels like time for a precaution stay on the IL at least. Would Hunter Brown get that call up we’ve been anticipating? Or do we get Brandon Bielak one more time since he’s on the 40 man (I think)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s Hunter Brown’s Birthday! If JV goes on the shelf, we need the guy the club thinks will help most, maybe even going into the post season. Brown has also thrown 106 innings, his career max. But Bielak is having a hard time throwing strikes again at 4.6 per nine in AAA. I’m just hoping for a few September 1 changes. I’ll leave it to the experts and complain later.

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  6. Losing Diaz who was productive offensively has hurt as has losing Chaz. I like that Hensley got called up to provide infield depth but what is he doing as the DH? What’s wrong with using Vasquez as the DH? He’s a proven hitter and if Maldy went down or had to be hit for all we lose is the DH. This offense will look a whole lot better when Yordan returns to productivity. I do not see him as pull happy but do wonder what is going on with his hands. It would also help if Altuve developed a bit more consistency but Jose is Jose.

    I think the bullpen woes can be laid at the feet of the six man rotation and seven one inning relievers. Things should be better with Javier doing long relief and Abreu showed some grit today. I
    think Montero will be OK if not overused while Presley is gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The only issue with using Vasquez at DH is he could enter the game to catch if something happens to Maldy in the 4th with a caveat. If a DH is moved into the field the pitcher has to bat the rest of the game. Probably only a minor inconvenience because presumably you would be doing some pinch hitting but a better solution could be –

      Sit Gurriel, put Alvarez or Mancini in LF, the other at DH, and put Vazquez at 1B, which he has played some. That way he is available to move to C if he has too without giving up the DH.

      There is no doubt Vazquez is going to be a better hitter than almost anyone else he would replace by being creative and getting him more ABs.

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      • Not at all, it just puts Vazquez back at DH, and from DH he can’t enter a game to catch unless the pitcher hits. That’s why you put him out there, in case in the 4th Maldy doesn’t take one off a knee or a foul tip to the head and need to leave the game.

        If we are going for creativity its how you can put Vazquez in a game with Maldy at the same time and still be able to catch if necessary without giving up the DH spot in the order, especially if that spot is say 5 or 6 in the batting order.

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  7. I am really confused about this Astros team. I am wondering if we are all missing a bright shiny object someplace. Or is that bright shiny object actually a record of 82-47. Some of the at bats are unwatchable. But if winning is the answer, we need to just keep focused on that bright shiny object. Time for me to go back to Walden Pond.

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    • I get confused too, sitting on this little island surrounded by a larger pond. Why do I keep finding that bright shiny object to be so frustratingly fleeting? The Yankees lost again. But this Verlander business could be a real curve ball. It’s a roller coaster ride.

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  8. One of the players the Astros could protect from the December Rule 5 draft is RHP, Jayden Murray. This is his year to get protected and it would be hard to figure trading for him and then letting him go for free.

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  9. Speaking of Mr. Brown, Happy 24th Birthday! Now, hopefully the Astros tell him go take a break the rest of the offseason, keep your workouts up, and get ready to win a major league job next year.

    I’m skeptical that will be, or even should be, as a starter. We have no idea what the Astros brain trust is thinking, but they at least have to be thinking this is their number 1 shot at the next home grown pitcher. If he is going to start, he has to throw more strikes. He can’t consistently keep approaching 100 pitches in the 4th inning at AAA because major league hitters lay off even more.

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      • Hey I know he is a top flight prospect.

        His best start of the year – 7 IP, 10 SO, 0 BB on just 88 pitches.

        He followed that up with 3.2 with 4 Ks and 4 BB where he was out after 76 pitches not even finishing the 4th, and 5 IP where it took him 96 pitches to get through that 5. Yes, I also understand minor league managers are given different direction on leashes.

        I also get that matches up pretty well some of our guys, there are runs by Garcia and Javier that look similar. But Brown is doing that with less selective hitters. Flipside – McCullers makes a living out of 5 IP, 95 pitches thrown.

        I don’t know, maybe he is the next big thing. He has the arm for it. I would say so far, a 4.4 BB/9 rate career wise in the minors suggests he will frustrate us a bit too. Why not shut down the kid when he has already hit his career high in IP? He has 1,781 pitches on the year, also more than he has ever thrown in a single season.

        Doesn’t matter what I think that will have zero affect on what Click and Baker do, we may see him if Verlander is out for an extended period. If we do, I’m rootin for him.

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  10. 1. Are we spoiled? No, we need more WS wins to be spoiled.
    2. We can win the 2022 WS if we are healthy and rested. We have the talent.
    3. Reasons for winning: JV’s arm & Bregman’s bat. Reasons for concern: JV’s calf & Yordan’s hand.
    4. The 2022 team will be #1 when they win the WS. I would rank the 2018 team above 2015 and the 2016 team last.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think you can make interchanging arguments for 2019 and 2017. 2017 had the better big game pitchers. I even trusted Peacock, Morton and Devenski more than I trust a lot of the guys on this staff.

    I do think though in 2019 the better team lost that WS, a game 7 at home in that environment with that lineup we win 75% of those games.

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  12. The 2022 starting rotation has the potential to be our best ever – but, alas, no other aspect of the team matches up to that level of quality. Offensively, the 2019 line-up was by far the most explosive we have ever had – we don’t have anything close to that level of firepower up and down the line-up this year.

    In 2017 we won the WS because we were hungrier, scrappier, and hotter than any of the teams we met in the play-offs. We didn’t win the WS in any year after because we weren’t as hungry, weren’t as scrappy, and didn’t enter the playoffs as hot as the teams that beat us – though we were probably at least equal to those teams in raw talent.

    In 2022 we have several gaping holes in our line-up and our bullpen. Add to that the fact that the offense seems to have no plan but to try to pull everything into the bleachers, and we can look really bad any given night. We also have a bullpen which looked okay early on against weak competition, but which has recently been exposed as weak by facing a string of quality opponents. How did we win so many of our first 129 games in 2022? We have ridden good starting pitching and been extremely lucky. Unfortunately, luck has a really bad habit of running out when the playoffs start.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Can Hunter Brown and Yanier Diaz make this Astros team better? We hope so, of course, but how? Will Matijevich contribute more than Meyers? JJ can’t play centerfield, and hasn’t exactly torn up major league pitching. This should mean Chaz is finally going to get his chance to either shine or crash and burn.

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    • I feel bad for Jake. I don’t think he’s physically well. And at this point, his head is not in the right place. Hopefully he can regroup over the next 6 months and come back and enjoy baseball again.

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      • This is a post about everyone in the minors and majors. Jake Meyers EARNED a promotion in 2021. However his career numbers in the minors would not earn him a promotion. I hope it is not the case but there are thousands of players that earned the promotion but did not have the talent to stay. And I hope Hensley is not another. Both of them hit around .270 for their minors career. Moving up to MLB is TOUGH.

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  14. I understand that Yanier needs to get on the 40 man at some point this year. But I don’t really understand why he’d be brought up now for two reasons.

    1. All indications are that our starting first baseman will not be benched by Dusty Baker. He owns the bag. And if he gets hurt, Mancini is already an option. So is J.J.

    2. We already have two excellent catchers and one of them does not get a whole lot of playing time as it is. What would a third one do besides chart pitches?

    So where does Yainer play? Is this move all about securing him on the 40 man?

    I mentioned Dirden, the outfielder with the 1.073 OPS against right handed pitching on Sunday. At the time I did not know that Yordan was having problems with his left hand. But if Yordan keeps having problems hitting the baseball going forward, don’t we have a dire need for a lefthanded hitting power bat? Sure Dirden could flop, but he would not be the first guy to come out of AA with spectacular stats and a couple of weeks of quality stats in AAA and succeed. The kid has hit everywhere they’ve sent him. And he’s a pretty good outfielder too. This guy, based on our present needs, has a bigger chance to make an impact on the Astros this week.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi folks – have been out of the loop for the last day as Mrs. Dan P had a minor surgery (isn’t it always minor when it is someone else’s body) yesterday. She is home and doing well.
    So, you have to assume Hunter is coming up to be a big bullpen arm as they may not want to pile up too many innings on him, but that is pure speculation here. It seems the most likely with the off days and all unless they just want to give the rest of the rotation extra days off.
    Diaz? I don’t know. He’s not known for his fielding wherever they put him. I guess they could rotate him between 1B and DH some and use as a pinch hitter. Can’t see him taking up catcher reps.

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  16. Brown is the best pitcher in our minor league system and has to be added to the 40-man at the end of the season.
    Diaz is the best hitter in our minor league system and has to be added to the 40-man at the end of the season.
    By rule of the new CBA the Astros have to add two players to the Active 26-man roster for September.
    These two being added makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Best hitter in the system? He might be. But I’d rather have a lefthanded hitting outfielder right now and into the playoffs than an excellent prospect with no obvious play to play. We could end up with Mauricio Dubon out in center come October.

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      • I’m the guy who said we needed to get a LH bat at the deadline!
        Bringing these two guys up does not eliminate Dirden being added if need be in September, especially if it means replacing an injured player.

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      • If Alvarez goes on the DL, we sure do need that lefty bat. And I wish they would have listened to you earlier. Any bat we bring up now would have to come up by midnight tomorrow in order to be eligible for the post season. Verlander or Alvarez going on the DL would make room for him temporarily. Or we could drop a guy like Dubon, but I think Dusty sees upside that most of us don’t. (oops, Verlander has just gone on the IR and Bielak has taken his place) And then if someone else gets hurt in September, someone can still come up to help fill a playoff roster.

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      • Your other issue is Dirden is not on the 40 man. You will have to clear that spot to bring him up first. You could probably outright Jones at this point though.

        I would like to see him here. People can say alot about age but you can’t say he can’t hit. He has hit everywhere, alot.

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      • Steven, yes, the 40 man is certainly a factor too. And Jones would probably be the best option at this point. Technically we have Yuli, Hensley, J.J., Mancini, Vazquez and Y. Diaz that can all play first.

        Some might say losing Jones is a mistake with no first base solution for next year. I say use your best resources now to try and go deep into the post season and worry about next year in November.

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  17. Angel Hernadez calling his typical bad game, missed opportunities (Yuli and Matejevic), but Framber holding his own save for those two pitches that were right in the middle of the plate for solo shots. Need more runs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gurriel was kissed by an Angel. In the record books it was an RBI walk. But … well, what it really was is what Yuli’s been doing way too much all this year.

      Jeremy Pena got three [3] hits – all singles, but hits.

      Altuve showed the team what taking the outside corner stuff everyone’s throwing at us now to the opposite field in the first, and forced their starter to try coming in on him the next time up (result, Altuve Bomb # 22). [Were you watching, Yuli? Chaz? Yordan? Bregs? Maldy? Frenchy?]

      Framber keeps dazzling. Neris was nails (rare for an Astro reliever).

      Next up: their ace, Martin Perez. We know what we need to do – but will we?

      Liked by 1 person

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