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