A bit earlier in the off-season, we shared Astros’ Renaissance Men: Part 1 | CHIPALATTA .
The point is that 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 for 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.
In part two of this post, we will look at the pitchers who meant the most for the team during this Renaissance period. Last time, I asked you to rank them, but this time I will rate them and ask you to tell me where I am full of Mike Fiers.
- Justin Verlander – Gee, I can’t remember how we got this bum. Oh, that’s right, in a waiver deadline trade at the last minute or so, the Astros sent Franklin Perez, Daz Cameron, and Jake Rogers to the Tigers for their savior in 2017. He has been arguably the best pitcher in the majors during his run here, making the $66 MM he was paid for being injured in 2020 and 2021 palatable. Verlander was 61-19 with a 2.26 ERA between 2017 and 2022. He was named to the All Star teams twice with the Astros, earned two Cy Young awards, while also coming in 2nd in the CY and received MVP votes three times, and threw a no-hitter. Oh, and the Astros won their only two World Series on his watch (don’t ask to see his WS stats…)
Big Moment – His best post-season effort was a seven-inning, one-hit shutout effort in the 2019 ALDS against the Rays. His most critical effort may have been getting off the mat and finally gaining his first World Series win in Game 5 of the 2022 WS against the Phils in a gutty effort with runners all over the bases.
2. Dallas Keuchel – Keuchel was drafted by the Astros in the 7th round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Arkansas. He wasn’t exactly tearing things up in the minors, but these were the dark days of the franchise and he was brought up in the abyss depths of 2012. His 2012 and 2013 seasons were as rotten as the big club, but just like the team, he turned things around in 2014 and was the star in the 2015 Cy Young season. Along with winning the CY, he was on 2 All star teams won 4 Gold Gloves, and received top 5 MVP votes in 2015. His overall record with the Astros was 76-63 with a 3.66, ERA, but in his prime years with the Astros between 2015 and 2018 he was 55-36 with a 3.37 ERA.
Big Moment – When the Astros made their first postseason appearance in a decade, it was against the Yankees in the Wild Card play-in. They sent their soon-to-be Cy Young winner to the mound, and he shut them down with 6 innings of three-hit shutout ball.
3. Gerrit Cole – Cole came to the Astros in a large off-season trade with the Pirates prior to the 2018 season for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Jason Martin, and Michael Feliz. He gave the Astros their money’s worth in his two seasons – putting up a 35-10 record with a 2.68 ERA and 13+ K/ 9 IP. Two time All Star, two-time top 5 Cy Young (could easily have won in 2019), and top 10 MVP in his second season.
Big Moment – Probably his 7-1 win over the Nats in Game 5 of the 2019 WS, though we all are still waiting for A.J. Hinch to call him in to finish Game 7…..
4. Ryan Pressly – He was traded to the Astros at the 2018 deadline from the Twins for Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino. Pressly has been extremely effective as a set-up man who has morphed into a tremendously reliable closer. With the Astros he has posted a 12-12 record with 76 saves and a 2.39 ERA. He has also made two All-Star teams with the Astros in 2019 and 2021.
Big Moment – He was terrific in the 2022 postseason, making 10 scoreless appearances with 6 saves, including saving the final two wins against the Phillies in clinching the World Series.
5. Charlie Morton – Charlie’s first 9 seasons in the majors with the Braves, Pirates, and Phillies produced a crummy 46-71 record and a 4.54 ERA. But the Astros saw something they could work with in his spin rate and by changing his pitch choices when they signed him before the 2017 season. His 2 seasons with the Astros resulted in a brilliant 29-10 record with a 3.36 ERA. He also made 2018 All Star team.
Big Moment – Astro fans had waited for a World Championship for 56 seasons. Charlie Morton delivered it with a gutsy 4 innings of 1 run ball against the Dodgers to earn the Game 7 win in the 2017 World Series.
6. Framber Valdez – Just like Urquidy and Javier, Framber slid under the radar and was picked up with a $10,000 international signing bonus. He struggled with his control until he didn’t. Since figuring it out in 2020, he has consistently moved up to where he is now the Astros’ ace. As an Astro, he has an overall 41-23 with a very good 3.38 ERA to date. He has made one All Star team, been #5 and #11 in the Cy Young runs and even was 20th in the 2022 MVP.
Big Moment – After getting beat up in the 2021 World Series in two starts against the Braves, he was excellent in the 2022 playoffs culminating in his six-inning, two-hit, one-run win in the last game of the World Series against the Phils. (We will give Yordan Alvarez some credit for that win…)
7. Zack Greinke – The Astros pried him away from the D’Backs at the trade deadline in 2019 with a 4 prospect package of Seth Beer, Corbin Matin, J.B. Bukaukas and Josh Rojas. He gave them a strong effort down the stretch in 2019, going 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA. He was a consistent starter the next two seasons, but ended both above 4.00 in ERA. But his innings were badly needed in 2020 and 2021 with Justin Verlander sidelined.
Big Moment – There was probably none bigger than his effort in the seventh game of the World Series against the Nationals. He threw 6.1 innings of hitless ball, before surrendering a cheap opposite-field home run and a walk and being pulled from a game that the bullpen would go on to lose.
8. Will Harris – When you look at how the Astros built their first World Championship team, you cannot overemphasize a value pickup like Will Harris. He cost them nothing as they picked him up off waivers from the D’Backs after the 2014 season. He helped them immediately in the bullpen and made the 2016 All Star team as a set-up man….a very unusual occurrence. In 309 regular season games, he was 18-13 with 20 saves and an impressive 2.36 ERA. He helped the team turn around the bullpen, which had been an area of weakness.
Big Moment – Most people only remember his failure in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, but for most of that postseason he was the only reliable late inning reliever the team had. He had 10 straight scoreless appearances before giving up a run in his last two appearances after being over-exposed (Writer’s opinion as he pitched in 5 WS games).
9. Cristian Javier – You know he came cheap if most of the folks here could have afforded the $10,000 signing bonus he took home as an International free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Since being called up in the COVID-ravaged 2020 season, he has been brilliant in 44 starts and 34 relief appearances. He put up a 20-12 record with 2 saves and a 3.05 ERA. In that time, his .178 BA against is as stingy as they come. He has done everything they asked and then some.
Big Moment – This one is easy. The 2022 Astros are down 2 games to 1 in the World Series to the Phils and had just come off having their heads handed to them in a game 3 beat down against Lance McCullers Jr. They needed a well-pitched game. They got a game that kicked the Phils in the you-know-what as Cristian no-hit the Phillies for 6 innings and watched his bullpen finish them off for the first combined no-hitter in WS history and only the second all time.
10. Lance McCullers – Lance was a supplementary pick (41st overall) in the 2012 draft and was signed due to the discount the Astros received when they signed Carlos Correa first overall. In his 7 seasons of pitching with the Astros, he has a 49-32 record with a 3.48 ERA. He has been consistently good when he has pitched, but he has missed a lot of time throughout his career, including the whole 2019 season after TJ surgery. He made the All Star team in 2017 and made the top 10 in the MVP in 2021.
Big Moment – The pick here is his four innings of one-hit shutout relief to save Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS, coming in behind Charlie Morton to send the Astros to the World Series.
11. Collin McHugh – Another jewel picked up for nothing, McHugh was grabbed off waivers in the offseason before the 2014 season from the Rockies. He had been rotten in a few cups of coffee with the Mets and the Rockies (0-8, 9.50 ERA), but the Astros and Brent Strom turned things around. In 6 seasons with the Astros he went from starter to swingman and put up a 58-35 record with a 3.63 ERA. His stay was highlighted with a 4th place finish in the Rookie of the Year race in 2014 and a Top 10 finish in the Cy Young in 2015.
Big Moment – Would you rather pick his 4 innings of shutout ball in a Game 3, 8-1 loss to the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS, thus saving the bullpen or three shutout appearances in the 2018 ALCS against the Red Sox that the Astro eventually lost. We’ll take the 2018 ALCS.
12. Brad Peacock – Peacock came to the Astros with Chris Carter and Max Stassi right before 2013 Spring Training in a trade with the A’s for Jed Lowrie. After struggling with poor performance in 2013 and 2014 and some injuries, he seemed to be on his last legs when he made the 2017 squad out of Spring Training after an injury to McHugh. He was then great in a swingman role going 13-2 with a 3.00 ERA in the Championship season. He was good out of the bullpen in 2018, decent as a swing man again in 2019 and then got hurt and let go after the 2020 season.
Big Moment – He put up a 3.2 inning / no run save in Game 3 of the 2017 World Series and then gave the Astros two more shutout innings in their Game 7 WS clincher.
13. Jose Urquidy – Urquidy was again another low-cost International signee, this time out of Mexico. After a short call-up in 2019, he has settled into a solid back end of the rotation spot. In his four seasons with the Astros he is 24-13 and 3.74 ERA.
Big Moment – As a rookie, he made a spot start in Game 5 of the 2019 World Series against the Nats. He threw 5 innings of 2 hit shutout ball for the win.
14. Luis Garcia – Signed as an International Free Agent out of Venezuela, Mr. Two Step, who is no longer rocking the baby has been a solid contributor in his three seasons (2020-2022) with the big team. In 63 games (57 starts), Garcia has been solid with a 26-17 record and a 3.57 ERA. He was Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2021 to the Rays’ Randy Arozarena.
Big Moment – His 5 scoreless innings to clinch the win and the ALDS in the 18 inning marathon against the Mariners in 2022 stands out.
15. Roberto Osuna – Osuna’s controversial time with the team began with a trade deadline swap with the Blue Jays for Ken Giles, David Paulino, and Hector Perez. (Note – nothing Osuna did himself with the Astros was controversial – it stemmed from his previous suspension for alleged domestic violence and from former Assistant GM Brandon Taubman’s personal drunken rant against an SI reporter about Osuna during a team celebration). In basically a season and a half with the Astros (he only threw a few games in 2020 due to injury), he was 6-5 with 51 saves and a 2.45 ERA. The Astros released him after the 2020 season and he has bounced around in the Mexican and Japanese leagues since.
Big Moment – Nothing too spectacular – perhaps his two scoreless appearances and a save against the Guardindians in the 2018 ALDS?
16. Ken Giles – The Astros picked him up in the seven-man mega trade with the Phillies before the 2016 season, including former first overall pick Mark Appel and well-thought-of right-hander Vince Velasquez. He had a lot of ups and downs in 2-1/2 years with the Astros – highlighted with his 2.30 ERA and 34 saves in 2017.
Big Moment – In the 2017 ALDS against Boston he clinched the series with a two-inning save despite a freaky inside-the-park home run in the ninth inning against him. Most of his playoff experience with the Astros was – uh – not good – and was why the Astros used starters to finish off so many games in the 2017 playoffs.
17. Luke Gregerson – Gregerson had spent the majority of his early career with the Cardinals, but was picked up as a free agent before the 2015 season after a year with the A’s. His overall numbers with the Astros were decent – 13-9 with 47 saves and a 3.66 ERA, but his best year was as the closer in 2015. During that season he was 7-3 with 31 saves and a 3.10 ERA.
Big Moment – Probably his coming into save Dallas Keuchel’s shutout effort in the 2015 Wild Card against the Yankees. That was a huge win signifying how the team had turned the corner from the horror of the three 100-loss seasons.
18. Chris Devenski – After coming over from the White Sox in the Brett Myers in 2012, Devo pitched with the Astros for 5 seasons (2016-2020), posting a 16-16 record with 7 saves and a 3.35 ERA. But it was his first two seasons, when he came in 4th in the Rookie of the year voting in 2016 and his All Star year in 2017, where he put up his best numbers.
Big Moment – Though he gave the Astro fans a couple heart attacks in the process, he was the last man standing and the winner in the Astros first World Series victory in their history, the 7-6, 11-inning win over the Dodgers in Game 2 of the 2017 WS.
Others could be on here that I left off due to their lesser contributions (in my mind). And I got tired. But if you want to advocate for any of Wade Miley, Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, Rafael Montero, Ryne Stanek, Joe Musgrove, Pat Neshek, Hector Rondon, or Joe Smith….let her rip, tater chip.
I’m going with JV as #1 and LMJ as #2.
JV was the bookend of the set of WS wins.
LMJ was here from the beginning of 2015 all the way thru the WS win of 2022 and he never left for greener pastures. Everyone else falls behind those two for me.
All those guys had an impact. I think it’s amazing that overall, we did not pay a whole lot for all that talent.
And today, to have a a rotation of all homegrown guys, that’s pretty impressive too.
I think I will just go with my favorites for the rest of the rankings:
3. Charlie Morton- Hell, I don’t know. I just love the guy.
4 Framber Valdez. I was all over this guy from the get go.
5. Cristian Javier- the no-hitters and then the extension. The guy wants to be here.
6. Ryan Pressley- what he has done for the Astros since arriving here is is “wildest dreams” in my book.
7. Luis Garcia- Is he just reaching his potential now? I hope so.
8. Collin McHugh- Did more with less than others.
9. Dallas Kuechel- Made big contributions. Always thought his heart was somewhere else.
10. Gerrit Cole- Hinch pissed him off, but I thought it was always about the money and the brighter lights with him.
There it is. Just an old baseball fan’s thoughts.
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Agree but I might swap LMJ with Charlie Morton. Your comments are spot on.
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Can’t disagree with the order of your list. JV has been the most impactful pitcher maybe ever in Houston. Keuchel was important because he was the shepherd of the turnaround. The way Clemens dominated in Houston in the early 2000s is the closest thing to JV that I can remember, or go all the way to Mike Scott having a few great seasons.
Cole was great for the short time he was here – but I think LMJ’s 5 million curveballs in a row or Luis Garcia answering the bell for 5 innings to put Seattle away or some of the playoff performances from Morton and to a lesser degree even Peacock were important moments, especially in 2017. Remember the day Jose Urquidy introduced himself to the rest of the world in 2019? We have been blessed with gutsy pitching performances on the biggest stages in recent history, 6 no hit innings by CJ maybe the biggest. Here is to more greatness from young pitchers that have already shown their stuff.
Why would the Astros be playing two split squad games today when they were already a split squad after sending 14 guys to the WBC?
Didn’t they see what happened to Lord Voldemort when he split his soul into 7 pieces?
The pitching actually held its own. The offense did not.
It was nice to see two ‘new’ faces get some playing time in Astro uniforms today. Some guy named Pedro Leon played a little bit in the latter part of the tie with the Redbirds (1 PA, 1 BB), and some guy named Jairo Solis pitched a clean inning for us in the loss to the Nats.
Welcome to ST, fellas. We’ll let you know when the real Astros come back to town.
Josh Fields contribution to the Astros cannot be overstated.
How about this
Alas, for every Josh Fields trade story there is a Josh Hader one. Let’s not talk about who we got in the latter trade – or at what cost.
Mr. Bill – I know you are the resident cynic and the Hader trade was awful – but you have to admit that more of our trades worked out than didn’t during the Luhnow era.
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So the breakdown on this one is – the Dodgers signed him for 2 mil, paid another 2 mil in penalties, traded that 4 mil player away for a guy that gave up 2 pivotal homers in the 2017 WS, and gave the future all star away to the team they despise the most? Oof.
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The lady next door owns a dog named Freeshow. This morning when she was taking a shower, the dog jumped over the fence and ran into the street. The lady ran out of the house naked, chasing after her dog, yelling “Freeshow, Freeshow!”
Hope it’s not lost on anyone that the Rangers committed $500M in free agent signings in 2021 and another $275M in 2022. The Padres are another team in that first list of teams who will be impacted by this.
I have a MLB subscription for the Astros but I can’t get games with Atlanta, Baltimore, or Washington. From my NC home it’s 320 – 350 miles. That’s just ridiculous. I could understand if less than 100. I remember those were the Blackout rules for the Oilers games way back when unless the game was a sell out. As the article indicated, if you were living with the Blackout region for the Cubs/White Sox you might miss out on 1/3 of the season but thankfully I don’t live in that area. It’s a shame that ticket prices have escalated to the point that you have to mortgage your first born to be able to afford to buy a couple of tickets and then there’s the concession prices and parking, etc.
I went skiing this past January which I have tried to do for the past 40 years. I bought a pass four months in advance and it averages out to about $95/day. I asked the price for a daily ticket at Park City or Deer Valley and it was a whopping $200+. Times have sure changed when it used to cost 35-45 per day. I guess that’s what they call progress.
OK, I’ll get off of my soapbox now.
On a positive note, opening day is only 15 days away.
Todays lineup and pitchers (so far) for the Astros is completely made up of those who will not be making the 26 man roster
But it was a pretty good outing for the pitching staff and the bats were pretty active too.
A question for those in the group who have the MLB.tv subscription:
I live in Fulshear. Does this subscription blackout the home games of the Astros? Also, is this subscription computer based or can I watch the games on my television with cable? I do not use my android for watching things beyond my security system cameras. I thought, maybe, I could follow the visiting team and see the games from their feed but I believe that is still subjected to being blacked out.
In other news, I can see the Rangers having to offload some of the expensive talent since they are losing their tv revenue.
Unfortunately, you’re blacked out for both Houston and the Rangers. As far as watching games is concerned, you can install the MLB.tv app on most smart TVs or streaming devices. They do air one (sometimes two) free games every day which might be worth your while. Also, 2 hours after the game ends the blackout lifts.
Seems that getting a VPN installed will beat the MLB blackouts. I’m sure not the expert, but essentially it changes/hides the IP address of your computer. There are plenty on line options.
In other news, it appears that Edwin Diaz may have suffered a sigificant injury while coming off the mound celebrating the Puerto Rico win over the Dominican Republic. Mets fans are again besides themselves. I can’t blame the WBC for this happening, chances are that some injuries would/could be happening. But I sure do blame MLB and those experts intent on holding this once every four years exhibition event during Spring Training when players are not yet fully in game condition.
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You can even get a VPN that masks the location behind the location of THEIR servers, so it looks like you are accessing from Wyoming. Definitely ways around it; of course the VPN will just be a subscription on top of the subscription. Us poor people got to watch how many 20 dollar a month things I got lol. Disney, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV, HBO Max, Showtime, MLB TV, Paramount, AMC, its ugly, dang I am paying more now than I EVER did for cable.
It’s crazy to look at the history.
Mark Appel got a 6.35 million dollar bonus.
Urquidy got $100,000. Garcia got $20,000. Framber and Javier got $10,000. Only Framber has career earnings that exceed Appel’s signing bonus.
Looking at Houston’s amateur draft history of first round pitchers is not exactly impressive. McCullers was a supplemental first rounder, and at least Folty had some major league success (albeit not with us). The rest, stay away from warning stickers.
To be fair, Houston really has mostly stayed away from pitchers in the first round. They have had all kinds of success everywhere else. Correa, Springer, Tucker, Bregman, the first round has been kind to us. Notably, this is a pattern through MLB, and would stop me from ever drafting a pitcher in the first round. It’s just a position that you can never tell what is actually coming.
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Did anyone else see Hector Neris throwing at Altuve’s head in the WBC game a few days ago? This is the best tweet I’ve seen on the topic so far:
Jose Abreu with a good day [3-4, HR, 2 RBI].
Yanier Diaz got two more hits, bringing his BA up to .308 [note, he still has not drawn a BB, so his OBP is also .308].
Hensley got another hit and drew another BB – his BA is now .303 and his OBP .407].
Matejevich continues to make it hard to write him off – now slashing .318/.333/.833.
Great outing by our potential 6th starter – Ronel Blano; and one of our most interesting prospects, Spencer Arighetti, got in 3 innings of work, and showed quite a bit of poise and an uncanny ability to get himself out of trouble.
All in all, it was a very good day.
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