Astros 2023: Crisis mode?

On the drive into work Tuesday morning, there was quite a bit of discussion on the Astros’ starting pitching situation based on Lance McCullers Jr.’s wonky elbow and Hunter Brown and his healthy elbow playing the role of the Pitching Stud Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Sean Pendergast on 610 AM had apparently tweeted something on this subject that it was a bit of a crisis situation for the Astros. Undoubtedly, it was a problem, but his broadcasting partner Seth Payne said maybe it was a hurdle rather than a crisis.

And then over at mlbtraderumors is this little nugget on the Astros’ lack of rotational experience depth….

Looking Through Astros’ Rotation Depth Options – MLB Trade Rumors

There are a lot of ways to look at this “hurdle” depending on what kind of person/fan you are:

  • Cockeyed Optimist – If you are like Nellie Forbush (Google – Arkansas/ nurse/ South Pacific), your take might be…..” It’s early in Spring Training. Hunter Brown probably has 4 more starts or so to straighten out his control issues. He is still a stud. Lance is supposed to be back a little bit into the season, so don’t sweat it. He always needs some time off. Who cares if it is at the beginning of the season or two months in. He will return, and the Astros will return to 6 starters and five holes.”
  • Reasoned Optimist – Nellie’s older and slightly jaded brother, “Even if the Astros struggle the whole season filling that fifth spot in the rotation, who cares. The regular season is a marathon that is dwarfed by the postseason. If the Astros roll into the postseason with four starters killing it, they will be in good shape.”
  • Reasoned Pessimist – Nellie’s much older and more worldly uncle, “Lance’s elbow may never be right based on him throwing 18 kazillion breaking balls. On the other hand, I’m not tossing Hunter Brown and his 98 mph fastball/ 94 mph slider combo after a couple of rough outings in Spring Training. But, without Justin Verlander in this rotation, it is just not as scary as it was.”
  • Cockeyed Pessimist – Nellie’s other uncle who lives in his mother’s basement, “Lance’s elbow will have to be amputated. Hunter Brown will never throw past the first inning again. Framber Valdez will have all his ground balls roll to the outfield now that the shift is gone. Luis Garcia will end up with migraines from the tension of changing his windup. Cristian Javier will goof around now that he has his big extension. Jose Urquidy will throw his arm out as the only big threat on the Mexico WBC squad.”

The truth is that we don’t know how this will go, but for every problem that happens, the front office will have multiple options from which to choose. Maybe they will be using J.P. France or Forrest Whitley. Brandon Bielak, Seth Martinez, or Bryan Abreu may be part of the solution. They can also pick up some help at the trade deadline. Remember that this team won their first World Championship after a regular season when Mike (Spit!!) Fiers and his 5.22 ERA started the most games for the team.

So, the view from the Chipalatta mountain is don’t drive yourself crazy a couple weeks into Spring Training. If it is July and they are faltering……go ahead and get into crisis mode.



46 comments on “Astros 2023: Crisis mode?

  1. I’m normally falling below the line as a pessimist, but I don’t share their concerns. Some people may have forgotten we made it to the WS in 2021 with a rotation of Greinke, McCullers, Garcia, Framber, and Urquidy. We also got 23 starts out of Jake O…whose experience was so valuable they left him off the postseason roster. The experience is great, but Greinke and Odorizzi both put up ERAs of 4.16 and 4.21, respectively. Greinke led the team in runs surrendered and homeruns allowed. Taking those two out of the equation and adding back Javier makes the rotation look better to me…especially given the last two years of experience those pitchers have all gained. It’s a valid point that we don’t know what LMJ will give us, but then again we got nothing until late in the season from him last year. My only concern here is should other guys go down for extended periods of time we may not be able to fill the fifth spot by committee effectively. Still, if Alvarez, Altuve, and Bregman are healthy I anticipate the offence will give them a lot of room to work with.


  2. Using the ‘c’ word is premature. Let’s revisit the sentiment in mid -May after we have 30 or more games under our belt.

    Meanwhile, I do admit to some doubts about the ability of Urquidy to miss bats consistently and of McCullers and Brown to even find the strike zone enough regularly, much less paint the corners, to keep us the ballgames they start within reach of our offense.. A lot more pressure will be on our offense this year, because our rotation lost its rock.

    As a title/classification, chief cynic is pushing it, but at least as far as the rotation goes, I am certainly no ‘cockeyed optimist’.


    • I suspect we are going to discover that most of our division foes (possible exception, the A’s) are significantly improved this year, so I personally don’t think we will have the luxury of waiting until July to figure out what we have and what we need. That is the reason I mentioned ‘mid-May’ as ‘decision-making time’ regarding looking for close-to-the-deadline trade candidates. Bielak has thus far not shown the bat-missing, out-getting ability to justify a shot at the MLB rotation. Shawn Dubin isn’t looking good either. Forrest Whitley? Alas, every time out we hope for good things – and every time out he disappoints. Has JP France even pitched this Spring?

      But yes, we have Seth Martinez and Bryan Abreu. That is why I am not too worried about LMJ, who I no longer see as a reliable asset.


      • One positive there, Mr. Bill is that with the balanced schedule – instead of playing the four teams in our division 76 times, we will play them 52 times in 2023.


  3. There are so many experts these days, paid and otherwise, that must find an angle on the Astros daily. Back in the old days, we had a couple of sportswriters to agree or disagree with. That was manageable. Maybe Hunter forgot how to pitch after the World Series. That would be a crisis. But those odds are long. He’ll find the plate. Was anyone surprised that Lance went on the shelf again? I know the club already had a contingency plan in place. We’ll manage. Now if someone starts talking about Yordan having arthritis in his hands, I’d be concerned and might listen.


    • I think Hunter Brown will return to something similar to what we saw last season. He’s young, has a great arm and with time, just might have better pitch location. He will never have the zone location of Verlander and Clemons, but I think that he will prove to be a valuable staff member. I can’t imagine depending on Lance and I can’t imagine our Gm not at least looking for a possible staff addition.


  4. Viva Venezuela. I hope everyone had fun – and it looked like they did.

    The only thing that concerns me at all is the fact that last night ‘our guys’ (mostly baby ‘Stros’, of course) struck out a whopping 14 times for the second time in three days. In between we had a game vs. the Mets in which ‘our guys’ struck out ten times.

    Meanwhile, when will the truck carrying Yanier Diaz’ big bat arrive? Talk about a tortoise start in a rabbit race!


    • The WBC reminds me of a drunk grown-up version of T-ball. It’s a joke. Just put a time limit on each team’s at-bat – once your team’s been at-bat for seven minutes, call ‘side out’ and move on.


  5. I reached out to Becky and here is what I heard back from her….

    “Hey Dan….yes this last year and a half has been extremely challenging for me. I read your entry’s but I haven’t been up to the back and forth with you guys. I’ve got a lot of questions about this team going forward….the rotation is giving me the nervous ninny’s. I think most of us were aware of the personality conflicts with Crane and James Click in 2021. Crane is a hard man to work for, he’s not a warm and fuzzy kind of guy and he expects to win every year. It will be interesting how the new GM can squeeze the money he’s going to have to have to lock up Tucker and Valdez….they ain’t gonna be cheap.
    Tell everyone I’m still alive and kicking and I will try to jump back into Chippalatta soon!
    Thanks for reaching out to me, I’m crossing my fingers for another successful year!
    Fondly, Becky”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Some thoughts on the Astros – Venezuela game last night.
    – I missed it but would have loved to watch Rangers pitcher Martin Perez sing the VZ national anthem
    – Crazy ironic that Jose Altuve swung at the first pitch of the game and lined a hot single to left. C’mon Astros – this was a surpirse?
    – Thought it was hilarious that the very pro-Venezuela crowd was razzing the calls of the home plate umpire…who is a Venezuelan.
    – The VZ team includes Altuve, who played and Luis Garcia who did not. The Astros’ first base coach Omar Lopez is the VZ manager
    – Venezuela did not bring a full contingent of pitchers, so the Astros had to lend minor league pitchers to them – so you had a situation where these youngsters were wearing Astros uniforms and throwing to Astros in the same uniforms
    – Some how the Astros scored 8 runs with stranding 18 runners on base including 16 in the first 7 innings. Crazy
    – Was fun watching two legends like Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve interacting on the bench.
    – Salvador Perez launched a home run that has not landed


  7. People fell in love with 24 innings of great baseball from the kid. He has potential, but his minor league numbers don’t scream greatness. Even Armando Galarraga threw a perfect game once, er, wait.

    I wanted Verlander back, just not for 40 million. I do wish he was here though. It’s why I wanted Rodon too. I don’t want a rotation that is good. I want a rotation that demoralizes the Rangers and Mariners. I want them to look at us and despair. I want their fans asking how this happened. I want their website comments sections to be a place of hellfire and brimstone. I want to be their devil. I want them to feel like Jazz fans in 96, damn our team is good, but we can’t win this and we know it. I don’t want cracks to give them light.

    OK enough of that. We are fine. Like Devin said we made it with worse, and we really should have won that one. I’m not concerned with Brown, this should be the year that he has hiccups and he learns to work them out. If he can’t work them out, he won’t be here long enough to find out. I’ve really got no interest in Whitley. If they hadn’t already invested so much in him I would release him. But honestly they have probably paid hundreds of thousands just to get him to the point that he could pitch again, might as well see this out. Stranger things have happened than guys with 97 MPH fastballs figuring it out.

    Imagine being a Mets fan though. 80 million invested in two guys this year at the top of the rotation. They are VERY good. But what if they aren’t healthy? Senga has been great in Japan, he has exactly 0 major league innings. Quintana makes 13 million, and IF he is healthy he has as many 5+ ERA seasons than 3 ERA seasons.

    I remember when the Phillies thought they had the baseball world by the throat with 4 aces in their rotation after getting our beloved Roy O. Well, that didn’t work out. Who knows how it will go.

    I am 100% the reasoned pessimist. Though I suspect a cockeyed optimist sees me as their opposite cockeyed pessimist because I don’t always sing the praises of players everyone else is.

    Note to Baker – give Yainer 450 plate appearances, and you will not be unhappy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s of course only Spring Training but Whitley’s 4.50 ERA looks better than Diaz’s .083 BA

      They have to see what they have with Whitley one way or another – but it would not be a surprise to see him in some trade package ala our former 1st overall pick who was sent packing to Philly


      • Right OP, I meant last offseason when I campaigned for him. This year, he would be out of the parameters for any contract I would be willing to do because, like you, I think he is a walking IL trip. But man, when he is upright, he is nasty.

        I don’t know how much it costs to put a boot on the throat now adays, but the Mets are trying to find out. The problem is no one really thinks that JV and Scherzer will combine for 60 starts. If they do, two guys at the top winning 75% of their games is going to be a spectacle.


    • My expectation of Hunter Brown is that he’ll be erratic. He will impress some nights and have a hard time getting the ball over the plate on other nights. But in a very small sample, he did show that he can get guys out when his pitches are working for him.

      I’d also like to see Yainer get those 450 AB’s but I think that would be stretch and mean he’s the back up catcher and Brantley will sit against lefties, giving Diaz the DH job on those nights. And I’m thinking our new first baseman will play 145 to 150 games if healthy which won’t leave too many opportunities over there for Yainer.

      So first off, we’ll have to see how back up backstop battle goes.


  8. I’m not in a panic mode. I don’t pay attention to spring training highs and lows for any Astros player.
    I just close my eyes and envision the Astros starting off the season with a healthy rotation of:
    Then I open my eyes and on opening day that rotation is there and LMJ is starting his spring training and by May 1st he is going to start building up his stamina in Sugarland in order to be ready in June.
    All of the scenarios presented here are distractions to us, but not the team.
    The team’s distractions are going to be the stupid WBC, the extension BS, the ring ceremony, the WS banner ceremony and the team having been spread everywhere and not having spent a lot of time working together.
    The idea of a five man rotation that is home grown and who all pitched on a WS winner last season and with LMJ eventually returning is a dream scenario for this Astros fan.


    • You know 1OP, after years of not hearing a peep from our GM’s, I got used to it. I don’t think I need to hear that our GM is optimistic about getting deals done for Framber and Tucker and then less a week later have him describe the negotiations as pretty much stalled, with a plan to wind down present present discussions today.


      • The thing that is hidden from most fans is that the extensions for Framber and Tucker would put the Astros over the luxury tax line.
        Javier’s extension raised our luxury tax level from $208 mil to the current $217+ mil. These two extensions would put us at the $237 milllion level.
        Next season the Astros will probably go over the $241 mil first level.
        That has been looming since the end of the WS because it is a number, and I pay attention to numbers. It’s ok to go over once(2024), but it is not okay to go over two years in a row(2023 &2024).


    • OMG, what a trip!
      So much water under this bridge.
      How come I had such a good sense of humor while in agony over the Astros? And now I am so spoiled. I like this a whole heck of a lot better.


  9. Now that the WBC circus is in town, and us diehards are left with a couple of weeks of “‘Wanna-Be- ‘Stros’ going for broke, who all would you like to see Dusty give the most ST: a. at-bats, and b. innings pitched?

    I personally want to see a lot of: Y. Diaz, Dirden, Matejevich, Meyers, J.C. Correa, Corona, Berryhill and Bannon on offense, and a lot of Blanco (if he’s not moved to active status by the D.R. team), Record, and Ruppenthal on the mound (and, of course, the obligatory chance for Whitley to resurrect his career – or implode it – as he sees fit)>

    Liked by 1 person

  10. SubFloridian Ball-Field Blues

    Tuve’s on the TV, playin’ WBC;
    while we’re facin’ JV, who’s rakin’ in the gravy,
    Dusty’s in the dugout, tryin’ to write a line-up,
    but who’s he going to pencil in with all our heroes in the wind?
    Come on, kid – get up there and hit;
    stand tall in the batter’s box, don’t get a case of chicken pox,
    don’t scroll ‘Tic Toc’, keep up with the pitch clock,
    do Jim Crane a favor … and read the damage waiver!

    Frenchy’s battin’ lead-off, fans are getting’ teed-off;
    JV starts out with a K, I hate it when it goes that way!
    Up comes Jake – Forgot-how-to-Rake;
    Flailin’ like a windmill, a heapin’ hunk of road kill,
    Please excuse my candor, he just can’t hit Verlander
    Look out son – the guy’s got a gun!
    He’ll chew you up, spit you out, and school ya like a Cub Scout;
    Don’t chase sliders; watch for insiders;
    don’t get distracted by the paragliders!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Concessions out of Reubens,
    let’s all go inner-tubein’
    Cause they’re lightin’ up Shawn Dubin
    like you’d light a fine-rolled Cuban!


      • If you need me before the WBC is over, Dave, you’ll probably find me floatin’ the river, smokin’ a stogie, stuffin’ my face between puffs with pastrami and saurkraut on rye, and catchin’ and releasin’ Crappie. Rollin’ [ …. rollin’ …rollin’ on the river!]


  12. A whopping Astros are participating in the WBC. That’s equal to more than half of the 26-man active roster. That explains why our guys look like half-Astros.


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