End of the season: Thoughts on the Astros

My family moved to Houston before the 1966 season, so this is my 57th season as a fan. Even though I’ve “seen it all”, I really haven’t as each season is its own epic drama. There is a lot to chew on as the team has their regular season finale this afternoon against the Phillies.

  • Who would have thunk it? Looking back at a “prediction” post back in April – the readers here and this writer were generally positive on the team, but I’m not sure any of us thought the Astros would rip off this many wins this year….. Opening Day questions for loyal readers | CHIPALATTA
  • Is this a one in a half-century season for Justin Verlander? There have been comparisons to the only recent season as dominant as this one – the Cy Young 2000 year of Pedro Martinez. Pedro was 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA and a 0.737 WHIP that year. JV has just completed an 18-4 season with a 1.75 ERA and a 0.829 WHIP. But of course, Pedro was only 28 years old back in 2000, while Justin is 39 here in 2022 and coming off basically a two-year layoff after Tommy John surgery. The gold standard for seasons was Bob Gibson and his 1.12 ERA, 0.853 WHIP, 28 complete games, 13 shutouts in 1968 when he was 32 years old. However, that was such a dead-ball season that they drastically lowered the pitcher’s mound the next season to help the hitters. Bottom line: this was a season we may never see again from a pitcher at such an advanced age. Or maybe we will if the team re-signs him.
  • What about that shortstop? It has never been very fair to compare rookie Jeremy Pena to the just departed Carlos Correa. Correa arguably became the greatest shortstop in team history after a couple seasons with the team. What is totally bizarre is this. The two SSs enter the last game of the 2022 season, having both played 136 games and with Correa having one more AB (522 to 521) than Pena. And even though Correa has a much better slash (.291 BA/.366 OBP/ .834 OPS) than Pena’s (.253 BA/ .286 OBP/ .715 OPS) – their production is neck and neck. Pena has 72 runs scored, 22 HRs, and 63 RBIs, while Correa has 70 runs scored, 22 HRs, and 64 RBIs. And Pena has 11 SBs to Correa’s 0 steals.

If you want to compare Pena to other “significant” shortstops in the Astros’ history (sorry, Denis Menke and Miguel Tejada – two seasons does not fit the bill), the best out there was the unfortunate Dickie Thon, who in his seven seasons put up a .270 BA/.329 OBP/ .725 OPS slash. But it is fair to point at his breakout 1983 season before his career was changed by a beanball, where he had 81 runs, 20 HRs, 79 RBIs, and 34 steals in the offensive dead zone of the Astrodome. Roger Metzger had been a great defensive SS for 7-1/2 seasons in the 1970s but he hit 5 HRs in his Astro career and had an anemic slash with .231 BA/ .291 OBP/ .584 OPS. In the ’70s-’80s, Craig Reynolds was a bit more of an offensive force with the insane ability to bunt (34 sac bunts in 1979!). But his best season was 1984 with 61 runs/ 16 HRs/ 60 RBIs and his Astro career slash was .256 BA/ .291 OBP/ .636 OPS. Adam Everett held down the post for 7 seasons in the 2000s and was more of a defensive than offensive force. His slash with the Astros was .242 BA/ .294 OBP/ .640 OPS and his best season was probably 2005, with 58 runs, 11 HRs, and 54 RBIs.

All of this to say that Pena has had a historically good season as a rookie shortstop for a team that historically has had poor offensive shortstops.

  • Oh man – the rotation….. Heading into the playoffs, most teams are noodling about which pitchers they actually trust to take up the 3rd and 4th spots in the playoff rotation. The Astros have six solid choices for those spots and have Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, and Lance McCullers as a formidable looking top three. We will discuss this more in the upcoming gap of off-days, but the decision on a fourth starter between Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia will be as significant and critical as any decision they make this post-season.
  • How much do we trust Dusty?  The latest thing making many of us question Dusty was how he handled the ninth inning of a potential no-hitter Tuesday night. Closer Ryan Pressly had not pitched since Saturday. Top leverage guys, Ryne Stanek and Rafael Montero had last pitched on Sunday. But he brought in lefty Will Smith because the Phils had 5 of 6 lefties coming up. As most would have predicted, the no-hitter went by the wayside quickly as the first three hitters laced singles all over the park. Smith sucked it up and struck out the next three hitters, but the chance for Justin Verlander to be tied to another no-hit effort was gone with the wind.

I keep picturing the Astros in a tight game in the playoffs and bringing in a guy late just because he is left-handed. That is not why decisions should be made.

  • The offense – will they hit or not? The Astros are an offensive enigma. You don’t know if they will be struggling to score a couple runs or go on a 10-run binge like Tuesday night. Fans complain about them not having all-stars at every spot, but certainly, a team that has Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, and Alex Bregman has the kind of solid base that should be able to put runs up more consistently. Yes, having contributions from Jeremy Pena, Yuli Gurriel, Trey Mancini, and whoever is playing centerfield will help. But the team will likely live or die on the hot/coldness of their four best hitters.

What do you feel like sharing on a brain dump day at the Astros’ corral?



47 comments on “End of the season: Thoughts on the Astros

  1. I’m pretty sure I said that we’d win our division as usual, but I don’t think I had 105-106 wins in mind.

    I think we’re stuck with Smith in the post season which is too bad, because we have 12 or 13 more reliable guys. Someone else will get left off the roster.

    Hitting? Alvarez, Altuve, Bregman and Tucker with a sprinkle of help from the other guys and we’ll be alright. But you’re right Dan, all of the big four have to hit.

    I don’t have a problem with Baker using Smith last night. The “team” no hitter is no big deal. Dusty has tried very hard to give Smith opportunities. I can’t hold that against him. But I’m sure leery of too many other Dusty decisions. He sure has not given Mancini and Vazquez as many opportunities. And if there is something to all the recent Click/Crane bluster repeated by several sources, could it be that Crane is simply pissed that Click has not been able to manage Dusty?

    I think I guessed that Pena would have a higher OPS. Gosh he’s been a big part of the team’s success though! The decision to put all our shortstop eggs in one basket and let Correa go was a good one. Jeremy is a keeper.

    Verlander has been remarkable. Can he remain remarkable in the post season?

    Some pretty good match ups this weekend. I think I’m rooting for the M’s to beat the Jays but with a lot of bullpen work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This will definitely not be remembered as our best deadline deals season. Remember when it was Johnson/Beltran/Verlander type deals? Click is no Luhnow, but so far he also hasn’t been Purpura. I’m pretty sure Woody Williams is available.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just heard Click on the radio before the game and he was saying that they did not make those trades for August and September, but for October. Of course he might be talking a little different if Mancini and Vazquez had torn it up – but still he picked up some vets who he hopes show that the moment is not too big for them.
        I guess we will judge this in the next few weeks….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting line up today with Tucker leading off. And Jake is back in his regular position. Now I’d love to know how both Click and Dusty feel about our centerfield approach and why!


    • Yeah – well Altuve started off the season sucking bad – .167 BA though April – then slowly climbed the ladder and kind of got stuck between .270 and .280 for a big chunk of the season. Last night in his third at bat he reached .300 BA for the first time all season and so he was never going to leadoff or even warmup on the bench for today’s game. He has that .300 BA / .900+ OPS that he earned through a great end of the year and he is going to keep it.
      Pena sitting out after fouling that ball off his leg yesterday – Xrays showed no break.


  3. Oh, and I did wonder why they waited until Oct. 1 for Josh James to have flexor tendon surgery. He had been out since June. Not that he was going to get a shot to help this year, but I feel bad whenever one of these young men lose so much time in the prime of their careers.


  4. It’s been quite a season. Pena ended up equaling what most of the sites guessed he would. There is talent there but an OBP in the .285-.290 range for 550 plate appearances is part of the reason we were stagnant at times (when you putting Frenchy, Chas, Siri, Maldonado all with significant time as well).

    There is a lot of things to like about Pena. He hit well in the 2nd spot all year. He hit 1st pitch strikes with the highest average on the team. He took advantage of those batting 2nd with Alvarez or Bregman behind him. He probably won’t see them as much next year as pitchers adjust, he just needs to adjust with them. He hit .282 with runners on. He isn’t scared of a moment. I would still rather have Carlos, he is a better hitter, better defender, but this isn’t a salary vacuum. Pena is more bang for the buck. Pena is what gives us a chance to resign JV. If Carlos had accepted that 5 year offer, we are likely saying good bye to JV after this. Now if JV is looking for 38 million next year they have the flexibility.

    I said 14 starts on Lance, I knew they wouldn’t rush him but I thought he and the team both would want the lather worked up for the playoffs. Doesn’t seem to affect him though, he has been pretty darn good. Guessed 38 for Yordan, cmon big man, hook me up. I predicted 17 wins for Framber. Cmon big man, hook me up! I said 32 saves for Pressly, ok, dude just sit on your hands tonight. Don’t even show up at the park. Stay home and watch House of Dragons. I said Martin just over the Mendoza line. Cmon big man, go 7 for 7 tonight and get it done. Geez, there are a lot of big men on this team.

    What a season! Now lets cap this off with WS win 2. Go Stros!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I think the Astros have a Big Five. I include Pena in that group.
    That leaves the Astros to put the best four players they have left on the roster in the bottom four slots in the order.
    They have five days to figure it out.
    Pitching. If you start Verlander, Framber, and LMJ in the first three games and you require a fourth starter, you need to pick a pitcher who pitched well on the road all year for that spot. and the other two starters need to be on the team to be able to pitch several innings at a time to save your best one-inning guys for when you need them.


    • The thing about the playoffs is it doesn’t matter what you did in the regular season. Those stats won’t win you any games this month. Guys like Eddie Rosario, David Freese, Howie Kendrick, and Will Smith can get hot and outplay the Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts of the league. The Dodgers never expected Marwin Gonzalez to hit Kenley Jansen deep. If Gurriel can manage not to roll-over into double plays and Mancini can keep the Ks in check the bottom half of the lineup could knock in a lot of meaningful runs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I can figure most of it out.

      I don’t know

      Unless the powers to be determine Jake to be far superior defensively, then the far superior offensive option should be used. Chas can be a weapon in the 8th slot.

      Neither deadline pick up has done enough for consideration as a starter, but both give us a stronger bench than we’ve had in past post season play.

      Javier is the best 4th starter in baseball, home or away. And he loves to mow down Yankees in the Bronx.


    • Pena is no comparison, really, its a big 4 and 5 other guys filling in spots. I trust Aledmys more than I do Pena, only because he is older. To tell you the truth, they are pretty much the same player. I mean, at bat to at bat, they are eeringly similar. Has anyone ever seen them in the same room?


  6. I just found out that my MLB TV subscription no longer includes post season baseball. MLB will not stream the post season internationally this year. Must not have been profitable. Daveb is dumbfounded.


    • In Philadelphia Phillie world, of course, the proper spelling of the sad estate in which DaveB unPHortunately PHinds himself would be dumbPHounded. But PHrankly, Scarlett … you can’t handle the TruPH, so Phollow the Money!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hasn’t that always been the case? I couldn’t watch the 2019 WS games on MLB TV and had to use my cable provider’s streaming option. I assume nothing had changed since then.


  7. Dan and Mr. Phil,

    Obviously, MLB does not want my money. This neck of the woods must not be a profitable venture for them. However, I’m already looking at nefarious solutions. I’m optimistic.


    • So we have to guess how daveb will be watching his beloved Astros down in the islands:
      – He uses his dish to hook into a Polish renegade channel that is stealing the signal
      – He gets to watch a distorted / wiggly version of the game like when Cinemax would scramble their naughty channels
      – He called up his cable provider and just had to wait until they pull a new underwater cable 1000s of miles from Houston
      – He surfs the net in search of some hacker who has found a way around the mlb blockade
      – He flies back to Houston and finds a sports bar with the game on


  8. Baker talking about the possible postseason roster makeup… Take a breath before reading.

    “… McCormick provides the most offense and can play left field” — where Baker has said he’s better suited — but Baker is a fan of Dubón’s versatility on the infield and has praised his arm in center. Dubón had been starting in center field in games Justin Verlander started down the stretch, though McCormick was in center Tuesday.

    “There might be room for all three,” Baker said. “Depends on how many pitchers we take. Dubón plays infield and outfield. That’s something to be discussed. I’ve been trying to give all of them an opportunity to shine in that situation. … Some have responded better than others. Some really weren’t ready to respond, in the case of Meyers. Is he ready now? That’s something we have to determine.”


    • Yeah Sarge, that’s why I responded with an “I don’t know” above. But I do think that if Chas ever wants a shot at a fulltime job, Dusty will have to be sent back to the winery or Chas will have to figure his way out of Houston.

      There is no room in the infield during the post season for Dubon. Unless there is an injury, we already know what four guys will be playing every game at third, short, second and first.


      • I can’t fathom the idea of leaving Chas off the roster for any postseason series. I also see the need for Dubon. You may need a pinch runner or injury replacement. Extra inning games won’t have the Manfred rule. I’m less sold on Jake, but we had a different Jake on our playoff roster for many years solely for defensive purposes so it won’t surprise me.


      • The Mrs. and I are flabbergasted at Baker’s praise for Dubon’s arm in center. We have yet to see a quality throw from him.


    • Those are guys who are already on the Astros 40 man roster and they have been added back after the season ended. It is a formality.
      If I am not mistaken The Astros now can have another 37 players on their AAA roster that will help them be protected from the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft.


  9. Regarding Jeremy Pena …

    I really like Jeremy. He has a great attitude, a great bloodline, and seemingly a lot of potential. This year’s .289 OBP, his way-too-high strikeout rate, his mere .715 OPS, and his way-too-high error rate (and his even higher ‘Thank Heaven Yuli Gurriel is playing first, and making tough scoops and stretches look easy rate) do, however, point to a need for substantial and immediate improvement if Jeremy is going to be our shortstop of the future. I hope he gets the off-season training he needs to improve those numbers next year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Phil, I’ll be happy with gradual, consistent improvement. Better pitch recognition will mean fewer strikeouts and better selectivity. That should mean higher OBP, OPS and BA.

      He’s made a batch of errors but also a batch of plays that most guys don’t get to. While I believe dWAR is suspect, all versions give him excellent grades, better than almost everyone else.

      Now if he flounders in his sophomore season, then we’ll be talking about what to do about the shortstop position. But I’m inclined to have some confidence in Altuve’s proclamation of excellence down the road.


    • I want to see Pena on a defense that doesn’t shift as much. I felt like most of his errors were mental lapses and correctible as he gets older. Some of the sites show Pena as the top SS in terms of defensive runs saved. Others show him as below average. The eyeball test told me that he had a couple of game saving plays this year, but also had a number of late errors that cost us the lead.


  10. Cleveland won 2-1 today with a 4 out save. St. Louis, up 2-0, tried for a 5 out save. It blew up on them and they lost both the opener and their closer for game two.

    The Astros don’t need a 4 or 5 out save. We’ve got depth most teams don’t have. We’re more likely to get a 9 out save from someone. We’ve got multiple guys capable.


  11. 👍Polish plan is successful Dan. Fingers crossed for Tuesday when things get important. I watched most all of those 15 innings this afternoon. I don’t think any of those guys tried to drop a bunt down at any point.


  12. I’m a little too satisfied with my time off and don’t like Seattle’s bullpen.
    The Astros will be favored, but I thought Toronto was the weaker team. Really liked the way our RHP matched up against their RH lineup. Lots of LH batters in that Seattle lineup.


    • 1oldpro, as I watched the score go to 8-1 yesterday, my thoughts moved to a game 3 with the hope that both bullpens would be taxed by Sunday evening regardless of which one prevailed. Seattle does seem to be the more complete team at this point. But if we get to their starters (I know we can hit Robbie Ray) we can dent that pen early. That Seattle team got a bunch of runs handed to them yesterday. And again, another long save attempt failed.


  13. Every Astro’s theme song this ALDS [Thank you, Richie Valens]:

    Para aplastar la ‘Bomba’;
    Para aplastar la ‘Bomba’;
    se necessita una poco del Astro!
    Una poco del Astro y otra cosita Ay! Arriba y arriba
    no para ti, no para ti, no para ti.
    Yo no soy Marinero! Yo no soy Marinero!
    Soy Capitan, soy capitan, soy capitan!


  14. Interesting playoff scenarios. We get the M’s when I thought we’d get the Blue Jays, Cleveland did what I thought they’d do, a little surprised that the Phillies beat the Cards, and it looks like the Padres over the Mets at this time. That last one is a big surprise. Talk about a late season collapse. The Mets had the Division in the bag and collapsed against the Braves and maybe the Padres.


    • I’m just hoping Verlander views the Mets’ collapse as a cautionary tale and doesn’t decide to follow Scherzer’s lead this offseason


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