Astros’ Renaissance Men: Part 1

After the disastrous seasons of 2011-2014, when the Astros averaged a record of 58 wins and 104 losses, the sun broke through in 2015 and has stayed shining on up through their second World Championship in 2022. This period of 2015 to 2022 has been a Renaissance of sorts for the team and the fans as the team has had an average record of 97-65, won two World Series, made it to two others and reached the ALCS 6 times in a row.

Note: The 97-65 average record does not include the pandemic shortened 2020 season. Why? Because I’m writing this blog and I don’t want to include it. If you don’t like it – write your own blog. OK, I need some breakfast. I’m awfully grumpy today – low blood sugar.

In part one of this post, we will look at the position players, who meant the most to the team during this Renaissance period, but I will ask you to pick out and rank the Top 10 influencers to this total team turnaround. The players will be in alphabetical order, sometime later I will reveal my picks for the Top 10.

  • Jose AltuveLet’s see…..first he has been a big contributor for all eight of those seasons. He won the MVP in 2017 and received MVP votes in five others. He’s a six time All Star in that time period, won 5 Silver Sluggers (best hitter at his position), and won one Gold Glove. In 92 playoff games, he is averaging a strong slash of .271 BA/ .344 OBP/ . 844 OPS and is second all-time with 23 RBIs.

Highlight – Fans will never forget his walk-off home run to win the 2019 ALCS against the Yankees.

  • Yordan AlvarezYordan has been a part of the 2019, 2021 and 2022 seasons, which all ended up in the World Series. (We will ignore his 8 ABs in 2020 before his knee surgery).  His 87 games in 2019 were so strong that he picked up a consensus Rookie of the Year award. Added on to this in 2022, he was an All Star, a Silver Slugger and he came in 3rd in the MVP race. His playoff slash (.250 BA/ .364 OBP/ .809 OPS) in 47 games lags his regular season numbers by a bit, but he has been extremely impactful in winning the 2021 ALCS MVP, leading them to the 2022 ALDS win with two huge home runs and of course the highlight….

Highlight – His huge home run in the Game 6 clinching of the 2022 WS is the #1 highlight and his walk off home run in rescuing Game 1 of the 2022 ALDS is #1.1. You could flip them, because if the ALDS Game 1 is lost, the whole series could have been.

  • Michael BrantleyHe has been here for half of the Renaissance, signing a contract before the 2019 season and extensions since. Brantley is the most consistent hitter in the lineup, slashing a terrific .306 BA/ .368 OBP/ .832 OPS in his time with Houston, and making the All Star team twice. He’s been a solid producer in the playoffs, hitting over .300 BA in five of his eight series and over .269 BA in seven of the eight series.

Highlight – With Brantley, we will go with a defensive play. It’s Game 6 of the 2019 ALCS against the Yankees with the Astros up 4-2 in the 7th inning. Aaron Judge lines a single off the glove of a leaping Carlos Correa. One out later Aaron Hicks lines a single the other way to left, or it looks that way, until Michael Brantley comes flying from left and makes a face first dive to catch the ball, bounces up and makes a perfect throw to double Judge off first. This means that DJ LeMahieu’s  2 run homer in the 9th only ties the game, which is untied by Jose Altuve a few minutes later.

  • Alex Bregman  Alex came up in the middle of the 2016 season and has been a mainstay all the way through the 2022 Championship. He received MVP votes three times, running a close second to Mike Trout in 2019. He is a two time All-Star and a one time Silver Slugger and established himself as the best 3rd baseman in Astros history. His post season numbers in 86 games feature a bit above average slash .237 BA/ .345 OBP/ .772 OPS, but 15 home runs and 47 RBIs, which puts him near the top of third basemen all time. 

Highlight – It has to be the 2017 World Series Game 5 walk-off single to score Derek Fisher and end the back and forth, up and down, 13-12 marathon win over the Dodgers

  • Jason CastroJason worked a split shift  as part of the Renaissance period for the Astros. He was the starting catcher in 2015 and 2016, though his offense had fallen sharply from the promise of 2012 and 2013. Then he came back as a solid backup to Martin Maldonado in 2021 and as a hopeless (likely injured) backup in 2022. His best stint was that 2021 season, where he put up 8 HRs and 21 RBIs in only 149 ABs and slashed a respectable .235 BA/ .356 OBP/ .799 OPS. Overall, his playoff appearances were pretty dismal with one exception as he only had 3 hits in 23 ABs in the postseason for the Astros.

Highlight – This would have to be in the 2021 ALCS against the Red Sox where he had 5 plate appearances with 2 hits, 2 walks, 1 HR, 2 runs scored and 2 RBIs.

  • Carlos Correa – There are things about Correa that bother all of us, but his 2015 Rookie of the Year season heralded the turnaround and he was a big part of the 2015 to 2021 success (when he was on the field). Couldn’t resist the shot. Overall, he was easily the greatest shortstop in Astros history. Along with the ROY, three times he received MVP votes, was an All-Star once and won one Gold Glove, though he probably deserved two. His .272 BA/ .344 OBP/ .849 OPS slash in 79 postseason games is certainly solid and his 18 HRs are tied for 7th all time in all of baseball.

Highlight – My pick – the walkoff winner in game 2 of the 2019 ALCS against the Yankees, though I can certainly understand his pop-up 3 run homer in Game 5 of the 2017 WS against the Dodgers or his extra innings bomb against Josh Fields in Game 2 of the same series

  • Evan GattisAn almost forgotten person from this period is Gattis, who came over from the Braves before the 2015 season with James Hoyt in a trade for Mike Foltynewicz, Rio Ruiz and Andrew Thurman. He spent 4 seasons (2015-2018) with the Astros with varying degrees of effectiveness, starting off as a full time DH (due to knee issues), then sharing catching duties for a couple seasons before returning to basically a full time DH. In his time with the Astros, he struck out too much, had a low on base percentage, but good power numbers. He was a more effective Chris Carter. He was overall not too good in the postseason for the Astros with 1 HR and 4 RBIs in 23 games.

Highlight – However, that one home run got them off the schneid in the 7th game of the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees on the way to a 4-0 win and a World Series berth.

  • Marwin Gonzales – The Astros Swiss Army knife came to the team in a quasi-Rule 5 pickup. The Red Sox grabbed him from the Cubs in a Rule 5 move and then immediately turned and traded him to the Astros before the 2012 season. He was with the Astros for the 2015-2018 portion of the Renaissance and returned for a one month swan song at the end of 2021. His hitting numbers never came close to matching the suspiciously gaudy numbers from 2017, but considering the glove he brought to both the infield and the corner outfield, they were decent for a utility player (.262 BA/ .317 OBP/ .736 OPS in his 7+ seasons with the Astros. In 32 playoff games with the Astros he hit 3 HRs and had 15 RBis, and hit in the low .200’s.

Highlight – This one is simple. In the second game of the 2017 World Series against the Dodgers, which was a road game, he came up in the 9th inning and slashed a home run to tie the game at 3-3 and lead to the Astros’ first World Series win in 57 seasons two innings later, 7-6.

  • Yuli GurrielYuli was the first real long-term investment as the Astros were beginning the Renaissance; as they took a risk and signed a player who had played very well in Cuba long term but had no experience on American soil to 5 years / $47.5 MM. Yuli was a bargain as he did a Bagwellian move (sliding from 3rd base to play sterling defense at 1st base) and did it with a solid offense for most of his time in Houston. Playing for 6+ seasons and slashing a good .284 BA/ .326 OBP/ .776 OPS, he was 4th in the ROY voting in 2017 and picked up a much-deserved Gold Glove in 2021. His playoff numbers in 85 games were slightly below his regular season stats as he slashed .267 BA/ .327 OBP/ .711 OPS, but he had his moments along the way.

Highlight – It’s the fourth inning of Game 5 of the 2017 World Series against the Dodgers. The Dodgers are leading 4-0, and Clayton Kershaw, thanks to one double play behind him, has faced the minimum through the first three innings. The Astros get a couple on, and Carlos Correa hits a double to cut the lead to 4-1. Up steps Yuli and one swing later, the game is tied 4-4, and the stadium is rocking on the way to a 13-12 marathon win.

  • Martin Maldonado – Machete is like that stray cat that keeps showing up at the door. The Astros traded Patrick Sandoval to the Angels for him at the deadline in 2018 to back up Brian McCann. Then after he left in free agency, they traded Tony Kemp for him from the Cubs during the 2019 season to backup Robinson Chirinos. They then signed him after the 2019 season and have kept him ever since. He has been with the team in 5 different seasons, and his hitting numbers have been bad – slashing .191 BA/ .277 OBP/ .628 OPS. But he has done a masterful job of guiding multiple high-producing pitching staffs, even through the mass of pitchers debuting in the injury-challenging season of 2020. His defense and his handling of pitchers make his offensive problems fade into the background.

Highlight – A weird highlight, but probably no one will forget him starting the clinching rally in the 6th game of the 2022 World Series by crowding the plate and drawing a hit by pitch legally as he pulled his arm away from the plate. It helped flip the game.

  • Jake MarisnickDeclared JFSF (Jake from State Farm) on this blog. He looked like a superstar, fielded like a superstar, ran like a superstar, and hit like a substar. He came over in the many-playered Jarred Cosart trade at the 2014 trade line and was with the Astros from 2014 thru 2019 before being traded to the Mets for Blake Taylor. Jake’s regular season hitting numbers with the Astros were fairly anemic, and though he hit .333 BA in the playoffs in 23 games, he only scored 1 run and had no RBIs in 21 ABs.

Highlights – He had so many fielding highlights it is hard to remember just one. But he will always be remembered for his evisceration of Jonathan Lucroy at the plate that probably led to the rule changes on collisions we have today. 

  • Brian McCann – The decisions the Astros made heading into 2017 to pick up McCann, Josh Reddick, and some garbage can-banging DH, who I can’t recall, signaled the next step in the Renaissance of the team. Adding veterans was what the team needed to get over the top. McCann was sent with $11 MM from the Yanks for a couple of minor leaguers the pinstripes decided that Gary Sanchez was the catcher of their future. McCann was no longer the offensive threat he had been in his early years with Atlanta, though his .230 BA/ .325 OBP/ .717 OPS with the Astros in 2017-18 was far beyond what Maldy brings to the table today. He brought leadership to a pitching staff that was going where no Astros team had ever gone.

Highlight – In one of the craziest WS games of all time – 2017 Game 5 against the Dodgers, McCann launched an eighth-inning solo shot to put the Astros up 12-9 and then in the tenth inning, was hit by a pitch with two outs, which led to Bregman knocking in pinch runner Derek Fisher two batters later.

  • Chas McCormickChas was drafted way back in the 21st round in 2017 the year the Astros would win their first pennant. Little did he know he would be with the big club for the second championship. For as sporadically as he has been used, his .250 BA/ .326 OBP/ .751OPS slash is solid, along with 28 HRs and 94 RBIs in only 643 ABs. His playoff numbers are a step below his regular season, but one play has defined his contributions to the team.

Highlight – Game 5 of the 2022 WS against the Phillies. One out in the 9th with Ryan Pressly facing J.T. Realmuto and trying to save Justin Verlander’s elusive first World Series win. Pressly finds too much of the plate, and Realmuto gets into one, and Astro fans sag. But we end up on cloud 9 when Chas races back to the right-center field fence, leaps, and snags the biggest catch of his life as he collides with the fence.

  • Jeremy PenaThis story is well-known to Astro fans. Pena as a rookie, had to fill the big shoes of Carlos Correa in 2022, and during the regular season, he probably did about 80% with his bat and maybe more with his glove. His playoff run is legendary now, as he won both the ALCS and World Series MVP for the Astros.

Highlight – I’m torn between his 18th inning solo HR in game 3 of the ALDS against the M’s, which led to a 1-0 win, and a move on to the ALCS or his clutch hits ahead of Yordan Alvarez’s home runs in both the Game 1 ALDS comeback and the Game 6 WS clinching.

  • Josh Reddick – Reddick had always played well against the Astros when he was with the A’s, and they picked him up as a free agent before the 2017 Championship run. He was a solid hitter with a great glove and always seemed to play hard and was with the Astros from 2017-2020. He brought veteran leadership and quirkiness to the team – handing out a wrestling belt after each game and wearing his signature speedo around the clubhouse after playoff clinchers. He slashed .275 BA/ .331 OBP/ .757 OPS in his time with the Astros. In the postseason, he struggled to slash a miserable .123 BA/ .185 OBP/ .349 OPS in 46 games.

Highlight – The clinching game of the 2017 ALDS against the Red Sox. He singles in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning as the Astros go on to win a squeaker 5-4 and move on to play the Yankees.

  • George SpringerOf all the players in this era, Springer probably suffered the most as the team undoubtedly delayed his call-up from the minors for financial control reasons. He was brought up a couple weeks into 2014, when he should have spent the 2013 season with the team. However, he was a huge part of the Astros success during the Renaissance from 2015 to his signing with the Blue Jays after the 2020 season. He was a three-time All Star, and two-time Silver Slugger and was in the top 15 in MVP voting in three seasons. He slashed .270 BA/ .350 OBP/ .889 OPS in 65 postseason games that included 43 runs scored, 19 home runs and 38 RBIs.

Highlight – After an anemic 2017 ALCS against the Yankees, Springer righted the ship and became the MVP of the World Series, featuring 5 homers, including the eleventh inning game-winner in Game 2.  

  • Kyle Tucker – Tucker and Forrest Whitley were the two untouchables for the Astros as they negotiated their way through a bunch of trades for big names during the Renaissance period. Unlike Whitley, Tucker has proven to be worth that tag. After a bad cup of coffee in the majors in 2018 and a good one in 2019, Tucker has been a mainstay from 2020 to 2022. His slash has been a strong .268 BA/ .335 OBP/ .837 OPS with 73 HRs and 256 RBIs, and 53 SBs in 61 attempts. He’s been an All Star, won a Gold Glove, and finished in the top 20 in MVP voting twice. He has scored 23 runs, hit 8 HRs, and had 27 RBIs in 51 playoff games for the team.

Highlight – Unfortunately, his 2 HRs and 4 RBIs in Game 1 of the 2022 WS went for naught. So, let’s go with his three-run homer in Game 6 of the 2021 ALCS against the Red Sox that put the stake through Boston’s heart and shoved the Astros into the WS against Atlanta.

There you have it. Seventeen potential Astro Renaissance Men, and I want you to pick the Top 10 and put them in order.

Advertisement

24 comments on “Astros’ Renaissance Men: Part 1

  1. Since you titled it “part 1” I assume Keuchel comes later.

    Also since you titled it “part 1” I also assume we will talk about the single biggest contributor at a later date as well.

    Of position players has to be Altuve, with Correa a close second and Springer right behind them. Those three set the the tone for a long time. There is no doubt Bregman has his place in that too just wasn’t there from 2015. The day Jose Altuve went from being a 23-year-old that hit OK but didn’t have much power or couldn’t take a walk, to the guy that won an MVP, that’s the change. He embodies the franchise that duplicated his growth.

    My order would be – Altuve, Correa, Springer, Bregman, Brantley, Gurriel, Reddick. I am not going to really credit any other position players with being critical to the turnaround but many others definitely contributed – including the ones on your list. I also didn’t list Alvarez and Tucker because they came along after we were already very good – but their contributions to the second WS were vital. We might not be there without either of them.

    Like

    • – Yes, Steven – this is only for the position players…. the pitchers will be covered in Part 2.
      – I was trying to cover players I thought had significant contributions during the Renaissance period 2015 -2022, not just those who were part of the earlier portion of the turnaround. So that is why Yordan and Kyle are potentials for the list.
      – I had a few more folks in the list originally, like Valbuena and Rasmus, but I ran out of gas and decided they did not have a shot at making the top 10 anyway

      Like

  2. 1. Jose Altuve
    2 Alex Bregman
    3. Yuli Gurriel
    4. Carlos Correa
    5. George Springer
    6. Yordan Alvarez
    7. Kyle Tucker
    8. Michael Brantley
    9. Jeremy Pena
    10.Martin Maldonado

    Like

  3. Altuve seems to be the consensus guy at the top. I agree. But I think Bregman, Springer and Correa are my next three, in no certain order. Springer was the joyful guy out there that really put the spring in the step of the entire offense at times. Bregman the quiet, consistent great eye at the plate and Correa, so slick at short and able to elevate his game when it was needed. We were lucky to be able to watch those four guys all together for a few years.

    Like

  4. I started to make a comment to the effect of “for so many years we didn’t have these amazing players…” but then thought about the long stretch of Bagwell/Biggio, some of the heroes from the 80’s, the Joe Morgan, JR Richard, and Nolan Ryans of the past. I think what really sets this renaissance era apart from the others is that there are valid arguments for most everyone on the supporting cast to be elevated to the top 10 list. It’s not Altuve and a bunch of stop gaps.

    Like

  5. The reason I listed the players in the order that I did is because I use the World Series as the ultimate criteria, with being the champion as #1 and getting there as #2.
    Only 3 of these players were there for all four World Series appearances and the two WS Championships. I listed those 3 at the top in the order of their contributions to the team during those WS runs, as I saw it.
    I listed Correa above Springer because he was on 3 WS teams and Springer was only here for 2.

    Like

  6. Interesting in the chron today was a short article of what Brown said about Yuli. It does not sound like he will be back. I know there are many that agree with that.

    I would ask, a series is tied 2-2. It’s the bottom of the 8th in game 5 in Houston. There is one out. McCormick hits a double off the RC wall. Maldy is coming up to bat. Dusty looks down the bench and he sees – Dubon, Hensley, K. Lee and Y. Diaz. I guess he lets Maldy bat? What if instead of Y. Diaz he sees Yuli.

    I get it. During the regular season he would see very limited time, and the lack of flexibility probably puts Dubon in the lineup even more. But you aren’t signing him for the regular season. Dubon and Hensley both are very flexible guys that can play all over the place. Yuli is there for those tough at bats – that scenario could even play out in a regular season game in July.

    Like

    • My answer largely depends on the opposing pitcher, but it should probably also depend on how Yuli was swinging the bat. With only a very small sample I’d actually go with Hensley right now from that group, but based on MiLB data I would suggest that Y Diaz might be the best option.

      What it comes down to with Yuli is that unless he can adequately play all four infield positions there is no spot for him on the MLB roster. Would he want to play in Sugarland as an insurance policy? I suspect the answer is that if no other MLB clubs want to guarantee him a spot he’d take it. He strikes me as the kind of guy who would jump out of his car and hop into a slow pitch softball game he passed in a park just to be out playing ball.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Love it – slow pitch softball game.

        Diaz looks like by far the best hitter in that group even including Yuli – but I hope if Diaz isn’t playing alot in the majors that he will be playing everyday at AAA. However it goes I hope he sees 500 plate appearances this year. But I want will have zero impact on what happens.

        Like

    • My brother and I have been having the “Yuli” conversation for a while. My brother wants him back bad especially for the playoffs and wonders why it hasn’t happened. I have been trying to explain it (I would like him back, but I know there are a lot of moving parts here).
      It is only speculation, but it could well be up to what Yuli wants as far as coming back. He may be trying to find a spot where he would be used more. He might be willing even to wait thru Spring Training to see if there is an injury that offers him a better spot. It is not easy to throttle back and say you are OK with 150 ABs vs. 550 ABs, even if you have a shot at another ring. He already has two of those.
      Or the club may just say, they want to develop one of these young guys for the bench or they might go out at the deadline and try and pick up more veteran help for the bench? They did it last season, working out better with Vazquez than Mancini.

      Like

      • I include Yuli’s stats from Fangraphs for his career, but mostly to denote his 2022 season at 38 years old.
        His season stats were real, real poor in every category: Offense, baserunning, defensive metrics and, finally, WAR.
        https://www.fangraphs.com/players/yuli-gurriel/19198/stats?position=1B
        Add in his sprained MCL in the WS to his year 39 projection and you can see the reason the Astros felt they had to do something to fix the production at the 1B position.
        I valued Yuli’s contributions highly in my Renaissance Men rankings. His career has wound down.

        Like

    • I think I said this last week. We all love Yuli! And he did save his 2022 season with a solid October. But career wise, his post season work at the plate has been pedestrian overall. And his body of work, both offensively and defensively played old in 2022. That’s life. Yuli had very few tough at bats last season, even in July. So it’s time for new guys to step up. Maybe our young Diaz gets 300 good at bats in 2023 and Dusty does not hesitate to use him in the bottom of the 8th in game 5. We’ll find out!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think anyone, including Yuli, thinks the Astros went the wrong way in replacing him with Abreu.

      The starting nine is set. The first 3 spots are likely spoken for in Hensley, Dubon, and one of the kid catchers. That last spot is not. Every position is also spoken for 3 deep (except CF) – because of Dubon and Hensley’s flexibility. That is why Meyers has to be the likely 4th guy.

      That said I feel like there is a role. Brantley is walking 3-week hangnail. He also probably shouldn’t play a lot against lefties. It is easy to slot Alvarez in LF and Yuli at DH against tough lefties. You can easily find 20-25 games where Alvarez and Brantley are not going to be in the lineup together, and I trust Yuli in that spot in the batting order more than Meyers, Bannon, or Bligh and probably on the same level I would Matijevic. If Yuli gets 25 games at DH, 10 games at 1B, and is used as a late inning hitter for Dubon or Maldy, there is PAs.

      And if you get to the end of May, and he has 60 PAs and is hitting .185, well he isn’t going to get a killer contract. Just release him, and call up Meyers or Bannon based on need.

      Now, don’t matter how I feel, Brown basically said in a nice way they are moving on.

      Like

  7. As Bobby Sherman might say:

    Whoa, Whoa … Yuli, Yuli, will-ya be retirin’?
    Yuli, Yuli, Yuli, are you done?
    It’s clear that all your cylinders aren’t firin’
    but La Pina – Dude – it really has been fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dinner and a movie at one of the kid’s farms last evening.
      Following the war in Ukraine closely.
      Following the NCAAM basketball teams getting upset and hoping the Cougars can get revenge on Temple today.
      Checking on Pebble Beach when I can as golf stars abandon this great tournament. Looking forward to the wild time next weekend in Phoenix at their tournament(on TV).
      Watching spy balloons rise and fall.
      Talking about the price of eggs and preparing for monthly grocery shopping tomorrow. Went to the only local store to get milk. They had none.
      Watching Mrs. 1op sleep. She had a rough night last night.
      Reading a Max Brand large print western. Worth the time.
      Farm Babysitting rescheduled to start next weekend. Looking forward to not watching Super Bowl.

      Like

  8. I kind of forgot arbitration hearings could run so late – up to Feb 17.
    Waiting on Tucker and Javier and the final agreement unless our new GM gets them to agree to an extension.

    Like

  9. All good here Dan. I’m just tired of talking about it. I’m looking for action! Who is going to step up and distinguish himself? Lee, Diaz? Can Jake steal back half of Chas’ hard earned starting role? There’s got to be a pitcher that steps up and challenges for a job in the pen. With Dusty the helm, I expect him to use the guys he’s used previously, likely to my frustration at times. And I think our new GM is going to tread softly with our manager. He wants to keep his job.

    Like

  10. I like the new MLB schedule in that everyone plays everyone. And 19 games against your division rivals tend to become a bit tedious after awhile. I’m glad that change was made.

    Based on 2022 records, the World Champion Astros play the easiest strength of schedule in 2023. Here we go again. Someone is bound to claim our Astros are being disrespected once more!

    One thing of note though. We open up with four games against the White Sox, three against the Tigers, then three on the road against the Twins and Pirates. Yawn. I’m thinking Yankees! Or Mets or Dodgers or San Diego or Mariners. Maybe there is a level of disrespect! (insert smile face.)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s