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?