Dan P interviews Dan P again

Today, the blog questions the most brilliant and humble baseball analyst it knows. (Writer holds up a mirror and blushes).

  1. Are the 2022 Astros one of the toughest Astro teams to figure out?  To me, the 2022 Astros are like many of the great teams the Astros have faced in the past. They have flaws. They don’t always play up to their talent. They hit bumps in the road. But when the chips are down, they know how to win, and they do it almost two-thirds of the time.
  2. Does this team have enough offense to win it all?  In many ways, this is an excellent question. There is no doubt that, unlike a number of years in this Astros Renaissance, the team’s offense is lagging significantly behind the pitching. But they are not a bad offense, and more importantly, they are about as healthy as they have been all year. Between Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker, they have four guys who can carry the team for a week almost by themselves. The key will be how much consistency can they get out of players like Jeremy Pena, Trey Mancini, Chas McCormick, and Yuli Gurriel.  Aledmys Diaz coming back from the IL is a nice addition for their stretch run.
  3. Where are the Astros headed with that fourth starter for the playoffs? The assumption here is that the threesome of Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, and Lance McCullers Jr. is a lock for the top three spots during the playoffs. The wild card addition of Hunter Brown has shifted the thinking here. Brown looks like he can fill that long relief role that looked like it would be filled by Cristian Javier. If the Astros trust Brown can do that, and nothing he has shown so far would make one doubt that, then Javier should be the fourth starter instead of Jose Urquidy or Luis Garcia. This would really strengthen that top four, not that the Astros would be sending out bad pitchers if it was one of the other two.
  4. How much do the Astros miss Michael Brantley? A lot. He was not the fastest guy, the greatest fielder, or the big power hitter and sometimes would struggle against left-handers. But he was a professional hitter who would always be around that .300 BA/ .370 OBP range and would either be moving Altuve around or be on base for Alvarez, Bregman, and Tucker. The Astros’ offense has been less consistent with him gone.
  5. Do you trust the Astros’ bullpen?  The one thing I’ve learned is that no fandom can ever completely trust their bullpen in the playoffs. It is the one spot that can come undone game to game under the pressure of the playoffs. My opinion may change when I actually see who is chosen for the playoff roster, but at least I feel like the Astros have plenty of options to utilize, who have been a part of this year’s successful ‘pen.
  6. If you could add back in peak Carlos Correa or peak George Springer to this roster, who would you choose? Very tough question as they both were stellar playoff performers much of the time. I would pick Springer as I believe Jeremy Pena comes closer to Correa than Chas McCormick or Mauricio Dubon come to Springer. One of the keys to the playoffs will be someone getting hot and/or clutch as Correa and Springer would.
  7. Where do you rank this team vs. 2017, 2019, and 2021 teams that all went to the World Series?

I think 2019 was the best team but didn’t win it. 2017 was a half step behind, then this team (having Verlander is the difference and perhaps having McCullers for the whole thing), and then the 2021 team. If someone wants to flip 2017 with 2019, I am OK with that, but this is my punishment for cheating when they didn’t need to.

  • If the Astros could get to the World Series and face the Dodgers, would they have a chance?  Sure, the World Series is often not about the best overall team but the team that is the hottest at that time (hello, Nats and Braves). The Astros have the kind of starting pitching that will give them a shot in 90% of their games, and that is worth a ton in the playoffs. That would be a heck of a series as the Dodgers would want to take their 2017 anger out on the Astros, and the Astros would want to shut up the baseball world in general.

And as usual, you folks get the final say. Where do you stand on these issues of the day?

74 comments on “Dan P interviews Dan P again

  1. 1. Yeah, the Astros have won 100 games now. But until last night, they have not hit much, even going back to the TB series. Good pitching has been able to slow them down. I’m just glad they got the champagne celebration out of the way (premature) and Framber can start a new streak. Hopefully he’s not gassed. But things like Yordan going to third on a grounder to short, Tucker getting thrown out at third on a steal attempt and fumbled easy double play balls tell me the club is in a funk. And suddenly the pen is struggling. I’ll say this. The Yankees are not even thinking about giving someone a day off and are still trying to get the number one seed.

    2. If the guys we expect to hit do hit, we’ll be alright. But a couple of the secondary guys are going to have to get big hits too.

    3. Totally in agreement on Javier. And the kid got himself out of his own bases loaded no out jam last night. Brown will be a weapon in October.

    4. I sure miss Brantley in that 2 slot, but the Astros have won without him. Would like to have his experience in the post season, but he’s done and we need to get younger in 2023. For now, I really hope Dusty will bat Pena second and leave him alone.

    5. I trust the Astro bullpen as much as any pen we’ve had in the last five years. It’s been a very busy week for them and these Baltimore guys are a pretty good club, battle tested in the toughest division in MLB. Hopefully the pen gets some rest.

    6. Springer no contest. That would mean no Dubon. By the way, what was Frenchy doing out in left last night?

    7. I can’t rank this club at this point. I do think we’ve got the best group of pitchers going back to 2017. We’ll see what that does for us in October.

    No doubt the Astros can beat the Dodgers. But they can easily lose a series to a good team like the Orioles too. One thing about these Oriole upstarts, they have been having more fun and showing more enthusiasm than our Astros. We’re a better club, but they are obviously not pushovers. And that stinker Odor, can’t we get him out?

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  2. Q.1.: Are the 2022 Astros one of the toughest Astro teams to figure out?

    For me it’s just another case of ‘when they are good, they are very good; but when they are bad … they are horrid.’ Fortunately for the fanbase, they have been good more frequently than they have been bad.

    Q.2: Does this team have enough offense to win it all? Definitely not; not even close. We are one of the three worst offensive teams in the playoff picture. With Brantley gone and no replacement for Springer we have more abyssmal black holes (LF, CF, C) and more struggling hitters holding onto their positions by a thread (SS, 1B) than any of the others. But if our pitching staff and our defense (yes, we’ve looked ragged lately) can just shake off their collective champagne hangovers in time for the playoffs, and/or two or three of the guys on our team who are actually major-league quality hitters (2B, DH, RF, 3B) suddenly go on a tear, theoretically anything could happen.

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  3. 1. I don’t think the Astros are a tough team to figure out. They have reached 100 wins with 9 games left. They have the second best record in MLB behind the Dodgers. Their odds of winning the WS this morning, according to Fangraphs, are second(17.1%) to the odds of the Mets(17.7%). Apparently, Fangraphs luvs them some Scherzer/Degrom/Diaz.
    https://www.fangraphs.com/standings/playoff-odds
    Look quickly. Fangraph’s odds change with every news bite

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Q.3: Where are the Astros headed with that fourth starter for the playoffs?

    As I understand it, our first series in the 2022 playoff format will be a best-of-five series, requiring 3 wins to advance to the ALCS. Our opponent, as I understand it, could be the Rays, the Blue Jays, or the long-shot Orioles. Let’s see if we can win at least two of the first three games we play – behind Verlander, Valdez, and McCullers. If we win at least two of those first three, we can afford to throw Javier in the fourth game; if not, we may need to throw Verlander again on short rest, with Javier in the ‘tandem closer’ role, then follow the next game (if there is one) with Valdez on short rest and Abreu, Garcia, Urquidy, or Brown (whoever is freshest) in the ‘tandem closer’ role.

    Just remember, Verlander has not exactly been dominant in post-season play for us. In 15 post-season games for us, he’s just 7-5, ha an ERA around 4, and has given up 13 HRs. Let’s hope he is at his best this year when it counts most, because in 2019 he wasn’t great.

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  5. Q.4: How much do the Astros miss Michael Brantley?

    Brantley’s injury hurt our team offensively more than anything since George Springer’s signing with Toronto. Brantley was a consummate hitter who could be counted on day in and day out to at least put up quality at bats, and make the opposing pitcher throw a lot of pitches. Pena has great talent and potential, but he is nowhere close to the #2 hitter Uncle Mike was. Moreover, none of the guys who have played outfield in his absence – McCormick, Siri, Mancini, or [*spit*] Dubon – have given us anything besides an occasional blind-squirell-found-nut, nor been good at all at making any opposing pitcher, however good or bad he is, break a sweat to get an out. How much do we miss Michael? Opposing pitchers and catchers chuckle to themselves every day knowing how much.

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    • Mr. Bill, I’m not saying the Astros are a better team without Brantley, but the club was 45-27 with him and has gone 55-26 without him. Record aside I’d still rather have Brantley in the post season.

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      • Dave, I think if you look at the BAs and OBPs of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker before and after Brantley’s injury you will quickly see why our record is even better after his departure than it was before. Each of those was pretty terrible at the start of the year.

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  6. Q.5: Do you trust the Astros’ bullpen?

    Bullpens in Houston are not to trust in; bullpens are to wring one’s hands over, and have heart attacks because of. [Short answer: Uh … NO!]

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  7. Q.6: If you could add back in peak Carlos Correa or peak George Springer to this roster, who would you choose?

    Peak George Springer, hands down.

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  8. Q.7: Where do you rank this team vs. 2017, 2019, and 2021 teams ….

    Of all three teams, this year’s pitching staff is deepest and higher in overall/top-to-bottom quality, but offensively and defensively this is pretty obviously the weakest of the batch.

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  9. Q.8: If the Astros get to the World Series and face the Dodgers …

    I love it when a plan comes together. From there, it’s one plate appearance, one half-inning, and one game at a time – and anything could happen.

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  10. That was a fascinating series split. I must issue a shout out to Stinky Odor. Had he not stood at the plate and watched his 8th inning single high off the wall in right that tied the game, he would have been standing on second base and scored the winning run on the ensuing base hit. Thank you Stinky!

    Not to be forgotten, Javier pitched a wonderful six innings today, only to be interrupted by a thunderstorm.

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  11. Good thoughts Dan!

    I don’t think they are tough to figure out. The offense is down. Offense is also down across baseball. The Astros are gonna have to scrap. Altuve and Alvarez cannot have bad series. Tucker and Bregman have been good, but not the great we hoped for, but of course, that is a league wide problem for a lot of teams.

    I THINK they will go with Urquidy in that 4 spot. That game could also lean heavily on a BP that includes Javier and Brown for multi-inning duty. Personally, if I was going to short leash it, I would go with Javier, of all the pitchers we have starting and relieving he is to me the second most trustworthy behind JV batter to batter in a playoff scenario – but that might also be a good reason to have him relieve so you can use him 3-4 times in a series.

    Urquidy is without a doubt reliant on the small things. What he did in Washington in 2019 was no fluke. When his grip is right, his foot is landing correctly, his toe is pointing the right way, the stride is the right distance, the arm angle is good, release point is consistent, all the things that make pitchers feel comfortable, he hits those spots right at the edge he is very good. When something is off that day, and he leaves a little too much of the plate he gets beat up because his movement on his FB is very minimal. Same thing that Stanek is susceptible too but sometimes Stanek gets bailed out of bad location because of velocity.

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    • I looked back at how they used Javier last year after they took him out of the rotation. During the regular season, they never used him back to back or with one off day in between. The shortest was with two days in between, though a lot of times it was three days or more in between.
      In the postseason – they did use him in 3 World Series games last year. He threw 1.1 shutout innings in Game 2 – he then had two days off until he gave up 2 runs in 0.1 innings in Game 4 – two more days off – he gave up 2 runs in 1.1 innings in Game 6.
      So, I just don’t know how they are going to use him if they keep him in the bullpen and how well he will respond. I would like to see him pitch more innings than that, that’s for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • As for Javier or whoever pitches I’d rather see him go 3 – 4 innings rather than a single inning and then bring in a another reliever. Remember 2017 LMJ and Charlie Morton. The Dodgers never had a chance.

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      • Dan and Z, I’m with you guys on Javier. I think has deserves the #4 spot. It wouldn’t bother me if they just used a regular 4-man rotation in the playoffs and not run the risk of outsmarting themselves.

        As to your first question, Dan, the Astros are ALWAYS tough to figure out. I don’t like using cliches (except for irony or sarcasm) but “hey, that’s baseball!” sure covers a lot of territory.

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  12. Brantley is a big absence. The steady presence. It felt like he hit into a lot of shifts in the WS but he did end up at 8-24 and drew 3 walks, and I would take that from anyone else batting second. It would also put that whoever is batting 2nd now down to 6th or 7th, and shift everyone down a spot. As it stands, its on the backs of 4 people that not only have to hit well, but hit well in crucial spots.

    We know Altuve has that extra gear in big at bats. His focus goes up to match the moment, but I have also seen at bats from him where I just didn’t think he was prepared for what the pitcher was going to do with him. I don’t recall Bregman ever being extra spectacular in those moments – it really always seemed it was Correa/Springer time in those moments. We are going to learn alot about Tucker and Alvarez and their ability to be ready for specific matchups and win them. Another guy I trust in big moments to up his ante is Diaz. I would send Vazquez up to hit in a big moment too but managers tend to not want to use their back up catcher.

    If you won’t give me both give me Springer. He not only has that extra gear in big at bats, he LIVES for them. If he could be trusted to be healthy he would have been a career Astro, but alas we don’t have the resources to pay him 25 mil a year to play 85 games (Hey he has made it to 126 this year!). Also, while Pena has really just plodded along after a hot start, he is still a better option in the lineup than Dubon.

    This might be the best team ever in a Houston uniform, or maybe behind the 1998 squad. I know the offense isn’t that good but in comparison to the rest of the league, its fine. Offense is down everywhere except RF in New York. We are 8th in runs scored. It could be worse. And we have the best pitching staff in the AL. That 98 squad, dependent on 4 guys offensively, one crazy good pitcher, and a bunch of other good pitchers. Sounds familiar.

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    • I’ll add, yes, I realize how it ended for that 98 squad too……

      I don’t think we can beat LA. I expect a lot of zeros put up by both staffs. I do think they will get someone on our staff more times than they are gotten. I think it will be fun, it will be competitive, and we CAN win, I just wouldn’t call us the favorites.

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  13. Old pro I was re-looking at comments today and re-looked at the fangraphs % chance to win the WS and as you said – the odds change with every news item. I guess the Astros winning yesterday in extra innings caused the Astros chances to slip from 17.2 to 16.7% – though if we go back and check it – it may slip some more.

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  14. I’d like our aging club to be more athletic next year and to me that means no Brantley, Yuli or Mancini. Although if someone could promise me that Mancini would get back to an .800 OPS again, I’d take him at first.

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  15. 3. Right now, it looks like Javier’s stuff is stronger than Garcia’s or Urquidy’s. If that stays the same, he should be the fourth starter in the playoffs.

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    • If I’m counting correctly, the Astros magic number to clinch the best record in the AL is down to 2.

      I wonder if Judge’s chase of the AL homer title is affecting anything. Probably not since last night’s loss broke a 7 game winning streak. He’s gone six games without one and is of course “stuck” at 60.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. 6. If I could add one of Correa or Springer to the roster it would be Correa and I am not sure why. Its more of a gut feeling, combined with his age, compared to Springer’s.

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  17. In this link discussing the best debuts of players drafted this year…..
    https://www.mlb.com/astros/news/best-debuts-among-2022-draft-picks?t=mlb-pipeline-coverage

    They give the following shout out to …..

    Tyler Guilfoil, RHP, Astros (8th round, Kentucky)
    Guilfoil topped all drafted pitchers in strikeouts (31 in 17 1/3 innings) and all those who worked at least 10 frames in ERA (0.52) and WHIP (0.69) while dividing his time between Rookie ball and Single-A. He earned All-America honors during the spring at Kentucky after recording a 1.59 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 51 innings, getting a ton of swings and misses on his low-90s fastball because he has a low release point and a lot of induced vertical break.

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    • It’s 87 degrees downtown right now, but the temp is supposed to start dropping soon. Game time is supposed to be in the upper 70s, and the low tonight is forecast at a chilly (for the Big H) 68!

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  18. Nice game last night. Garcia looked good; Hensley subbed well for Alvarez [hopefully the ankle roll is not serious]. Home runs in bunches. ‘Tuve being ‘Tuve.

    Other than the meaningless home run by Varson, we even got two good innings of relief from Maton.

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  19. Hate to be somewhat right but we had a chance to win tonight. Altuve should have bunted on the second pitch in the 9th instead of taking that pitch down the middle. In the bottom of the 10th we need 3 runs. Instead of trying to get runners on base (like the D-backs did in the top of the 10th), we send Y Diaz up who promptly grounds out. Pena then lines out and Aledmys then grounds out. Poor execution and poor management decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And Bregman runs into an out while rounding second base on a ball hit to the shortstop… What the Heck?

      Then Altuve has to sit after hitting two homeruns the night before and picking up three hits.

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  20. The chief cynic in me hereby refers you all back to, and incorporates herein by this reference for all intents and purposes, every comment I have ever made on this blog about Will Smith.

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    • OK – let’s be fair. Smith comes into the 10th with the guy already on 2nd base.
      – The first guy gets a perfect bunt single to third – runners at first and third
      – The next guy grounds into a force play – one run scores, guy at first
      – Runner steals second
      – He strikes out the next guy
      – Next guy hits it hard to the left of Hensley who makes a nice stop but can’t get off a throw
      – He gets pulled and with Abreu in – there is another steal and then a 2 run single

      So basically, Will Smith gives up two infield singles and they score after he is pulled from the game with two outs

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