Top 10 reasons the Astros can repeat

It has been a long time, almost a quarter of a century, since the last time a team was a repeat champion in major league baseball. The Yankees (Spit!!) won the title in 1998 against the Padres, repeated in 1999 against the Braves, and felt so good about it – took the trifecta against the Mets in 2000. The Yanks (Spit!!) were only stopped by Luis Gonzalez, and his bloop single to center that helped the D’Backs beat Mariano Rivera and the Yanks in the 2001 seventh game.

Since that time, only the Phillies, who won the title in 2008 over Tampa Bay in five games and then lost to the Yanks (Spit!!) in 2009 in six games, even got back to the World Series.

So, what chance does our little old team from Houston have to go back to back? Probably better than it seems with the emphasis on the negative stories lately. Yes, Justin Verlander is gone. Lance McCullers Jr. is still playing patty cakes ball toss in the backyard. Yes, Michael Brantley and his bum shoulder will be in extended spring training instead of playing left field for the big club. And yes, team leader Jose Altuve will be out until sometime around June with his bum thumb.

But here are 10 reasons the team can repeat…..

  1. Adding the big bat – Jose Abreu is coming off a bit of a down season in HRs (15) and RBIs (75). This is a guy who, in his nine seasons, has averaged 31 HRs and 110 ABs per 162 games played. And he has been a guy who has played a lot of games – almost 94% of his team’s games since he started in the league. With the folks ahead of him in the lineup, if he repeats the slash he put up in 2022 (.304 BA/ .378 OBP/ .824 OPS) it sure feels like that RBI number will be up there closer to 100.
  2. Returning the bullpen – The team returns a bullpen featuring Ryan Pressly, Rafael Montero, Ryne Stanek, Bryan Abreu, Hector Neris, and Phil Maton (the locker punching machine). Folks like Seth Martinez and Hunter Brown (when he’s not in the rotation) can supplement with multiple innings at a time. The bullpen, one of the best during the 2022 regular season, was the best bullpen in the playoffs and helped the Astros roll to the championship. Just have to pick up where they left off.
  3. Yordan, Yordan, Yordan – The Astros have arguably the second or third-best hitter in the major leagues, a great combination of average and power, and as he showed in the playoffs – clutch performance. Aaron Judge is in the same stratosphere, but he is more than 5 years older and, when last seen, had finished off an ALCS against the Astros, where he had the same amount of home runs and RBIs as your humble writer did. Mike Trout is probably the best overall position player in the game, but he is about to turn 32 this summer (Yordan turns 26), he is coming off two seasons slowed down by injury and due to no fault of his own, only has a small sample of the postseason from his rookie season with the Angels. Yordan in just the 2022 playoffs, while slumping, still had three of the most impactful homers in Astros’ playoff history, including the book, ends from walking off Game 1 of the ALDS and flipping Game 6 of the WS.
  4. Ready for a Cristian burial – When we last saw Cristian Javier, he was following up a very good regular season with a brilliant run in the playoffs capped by his six innings of no-hit ball against the Phillies in the momentum-changing Game 4 of the World Series. He had finished the regular season with 23 innings of scoreless ball giving up six hits, and in his two starts in the playoffs threw 11.1 innings of scoreless, one-hit ball. What will this young man do now that he has security in his back pocket from his extension and is finally put into the rotation and left there? We will see.
  5. Mr. Groundball – We get it. Framber Valdez gives up a huge percentage of ground balls (66.5% of balls put in play in 2022 when the league average is in the lower 40s). With the shift gone, theoretically, more groundballs will find holes and become hits. Yada, yada, yada. I’ll still bet on the guy who may give up more groundball singles to the outfield vs. the guys who have the balls rattling off or flying over the fence. Will he give up a few more runs this year? Maybe, but he may also have a few more runs of support this year. It is not time to invest short on Mr. Framber at all.
  6. KT – No matter what he said publicly, reading between the lines, Kyle Tucker was disappointed in his arbitration loss with the Astros. Not reading between the lines, Astros’ fans were disappointed the team could not wrap him up on an extension this off-season. But the team still has him for three prime seasons of his career, including the 2023 season. He is the Astros most complete position player, with a Gold Glove, a high steal percentage and is a run producer extraordinaire, knocking in 107 runs in 2022 despite a so-so .257 BA. Something tells me that without the second baseman playing short right field, that .261 BAbip (batting average for balls in play) from 2022 will be quite a bit higher in 2023.  
  7. Killer B’s – We will call the threesome of Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, and Dusty Baker as this season’s killer B’s. Alex is coming off an off-season when he spent time working on improving his hitting rather than rehabbing, which he has done the last few seasons. Brantley will come back soon (we hope) and bring that professional hitting approach to a lineup that will love to have him back. Dusty will continue to give the team a steady hand at the tiller and drive fans crazy with some of his lineup choices, but what manager doesn’t do that?
  8. Hallow Pena – Jeremy Pena was a rookie in 2022. And as a rookie, he had his good times and not-so-great times. After hitting .218 BA in July and August, he hit solidly down the stretch (.278 BA in September/October) before going bat guano crazy in the playoffs (.345 BA/ 1.005 OPS) and taking home the MVP trophy for both the ALCS and WS. If Pena has learned a bit more plate discipline, he may end up putting Carlos Who in everyone’s rear mirror in 2023 (for those who he is not already out of sight, out of mind).
  9. Adding an All Star – It is the tough way to do it, but the Astros will have survived the first couple months of the season without one of the greatest players in the team history in Jose Altuve. They may be struggling. They may be OK. But at some point they will add an All-Star back into the lineup sometime in June or so. That should give the team a real shot in the arm whenever it does happen and might be the kind of boost that carries them into a great second half.
  10. Lance, Luis, Jose and Hunter –  Heading into 2023, Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier are the leaders of the rotation based on recent performance and health. But there are pretty solid options with one proviso behind them. The proviso is Lance McCullers Jr. and his health situation. The plus side is that when Lance does pitch, he’s pretty darned good. His numbers in 2021 were 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA. In 2022 with only eight starts, he was 4-2 with a sterling 2.27 ERA. The negative side is that the fans are not sure when/if Lance will appear this season as he works his way back from elbow problems.

Luis Garcia gave the team a very solid 157 innings in 2022 – 15-8 and a 3.72 ERA, but will be best remembered for his bull-like 5 shut-out innings in the Astros ALDS clinching 18-inning win over the M’s. Jose Urquidy was a step behind with a 13-8 record and a 3.94 ERA in 2022, but is expected to give the team more of the same in 2023. Hunter Brown is the X-Factor here. He is not going to be able to repeat his 2-0 and 0.89 ERA he produced in a 20-inning cup of coffee last year. But if he could step up to be the next Javier out of a mix of bullpen and rotation appearances, he would be a huge help to the team.

There is also Martin Maldonado and Yainer Diaz and Korey Lee and David Hensley and Justin Dirden and Mauricio Dubon (well maybe not Dubon) and the Astros’ coaching staff and the front office and the owner and…. you get it. Much more than 10 reasons to think this team could take it all again.

Whatcha think?


38 comments on “Top 10 reasons the Astros can repeat

  1. There are some new guys in the mix or close to being in the mix that will help us be in a position to repeat. Someone is going to have a big impact in a positive way. Someone will likely not take advantage of an opportunity. Let’s play some real baseball and find out. We don’t even know the roster yet!


    • I know the Stros are going to start Dirdon back in AAA because he’s not on the 40 man roster. But dang, I sure would like to see his left handed bat out there on opening day and until Brantley shows up.


      • Well if they really want Dirden on the 40 man they can get him on there in a number of ways – shift someone (Parker Mushinski?) to the 60 day IL or shift off someone from the 40 man (Joe Perez?) they don’t think will get picked up or who they are not that jazzed if they lose?


  2. I can’t even bring myself to think about ‘repeating’ at this stage. Both our elite lead-off guy and our elite 2-hole hitter are on the shelf, and our best hitter has recurring hand issues that make his availability questionable day to day. One of our elite starting pitchers is out for who knows how long. So to be honest, right now I just hope our guys find a way to outscore the White Sox on opening day.


  3. Well I am going to step out on that limb>
    1. The Astros will repeat because the back end of the rotation is going to be better than expected and I am not including LMJ in that.
    2. They will repeat because Dana Brown will get the best players on the field, whether they are old or young. If you have a position player not hitting, you put a guy in there who will hit. There is no way you can repeat by sitting out your better players or sending them to AAA.
    3. Jose Abreu will make this team better. He is hungry.
    4. The entire coaching staff from the 2022 WS championship team is back and they are not going to sit by and let this team fade. After all this time, Dusty Baker knows what it takes to win it all.
    5. The Astros will get one player at the deadline who will add to the team.
    Of course, I am going to miss on some of these. If I was so smart, I would be up in the air conditioned MMP boxes and not sitting here typing away in my little house.


  4. Rodgers and Hammerstein dropped by earlier to discuss Lance McCullers, Jr. Here is their take on the enigma he has become:

    How do you solve a problem like LMJ?
    How do you keep his elbow in the game?
    How does he get his WHIP below ERA?
    Throw more 4-seams and changes that Maldy can square up and frame?

    He throws a hook – then … I can’t look!
    his right arm’s in a sling;
    Off to IL again – Oh, WELL!
    let’s try again next Spring!
    At least we’ve still got Framber,
    ah, yes, but here’s the thing …
    He’s really not an asset to the Astros!

    He missed all of spring training,
    but he has such pretty hair.
    Is he rehabbing in the bat cave,
    or still in line for Urgent Care?
    I hate to have to say it,
    but refute if you dare …
    he’s really not an asset to the Astros!

    If I could say one word in his defense …
    LMJ … is … INTENSE!

    How do you solve a problem like LMJ?
    How do you keep his elbow in the game?
    How does he get his WHIP below ERA?
    How do you keep his arm from going lame?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, the Astros can repeat because:
    1) We still have pitching: Yes we lost JV, and we also lost Odorizzi (We also lost their expensive contracts). Our current top 5 starters showed they can produce in the postseason when it counts.

    2) A full season (hopefully) of Jose Abreu instead of Gurriel plus an almost-full season (hopefully) of Brantley should more than make up for missing only two months (hopefully) of Altuve.

    3) Our bench should be better. Lee, Diaz or whoever backs up Maldy should give us more production than what Castro gave us last year. Hensley and Myers should be better than Goodrum and Siri. Maybe even Dubon can bounce back to his historical average offensive production, but if can continue play excellent defense, we’re getting what we paid for.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Korey Lee will start in AAA – as will Justin Dirden.
    Bannon, Bielak, Madris, & JJ are gone as well.
    Welcome, Yainer and Ronel?


  7. The Astros announced several roster decisions to reporters today, with Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links one, two and three) and Brian McTaggart of relaying them Infielder/outfielder Corey Julks and catcher César Salazar each made the Opening Day roster. Neither is on the 40-man roster and will require corresponding moves. Catcher Yainer Diaz, who is already on the 40-man, will also be on the active roster to start the season. Additionally, catcher Korey Lee, outfielder Bligh Madris, infielder/outfielder J.J. Matijevic and infielder Rylan Bannon were optioned to the minors, while non-roster invitees Dixon Machado, Justin Dirden, Austin Davis and Ty Buttrey were reassigned to the minors.


  8. * If you watched the Astros this spring and noticed that Blanco pitched better than Bielak did, the the move makes sense.
    * If you think that Julks earned this promotion by his years of hard work and his much improved hitting last year and this spring, the move makes sense.
    *If you think Lee and Dirden have a future with the Astros but need the reps in Sugarland, then the moves make sense.
    * If you saw Cesar Salazar catch yesterday and look at his stats from the last couple of years, then this move makes sense.
    * If you saw Diaz hit, that says enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1oldpro, in spite of those points made regarding Salazar, he’s a huge surprise, at least to me.

      I think it best for Lee to go to AAA and catch and hit 5 days a week. And maybe Dirden too, but I thought his lefty bat might keep him around. But again, he needs the reps. Jake better get untracked though. He can’t keep doing what he’s doing and keep a job.

      Dubon? Unfortunate, but I’m sure our GM is checking all options everywhere. I’d love to see Will Wagner have a heck of an April.


    • The Astros have quite a bit of catching. Our two higher ranked guys need to play regularly. Hopefully Diaz will get enough work in Houston. Lee certainly will in Sugarland. He might be pretty pissed off right now though. Maybe Salazar is getting shopped while Lee plays daily.

      I think we’ll see a fair amount of coming and going over the first few months until things settle down.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Looking at the active roster, there are 29 players listed. Sixteen are pitchers. Dusty already said the pen will be all righties so Mushinski and Taylor are lefties and can be ruled out. That makes 27 players of which 14 will be pitchers. I feel Altuve will be moved to the sixty day IL and that will make the active roster balance.

    But what about spots for Julks and Salazar? Someone will have to be moved from the forty man in order to allow these two to be added then two moves from the 26 man roster. What a mess…


    • Those were some performances the last two nights fr0m the top of Skeeters’ rotation:

      JP France, 2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 3 SOs
      Forrest Whitley, 3.2 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 0 BBs, 5 SOs

      We also saw a gutty, if not sparkling, performance by Bryan Garcia and nice frames from Joe Record and Matt Gage. Not so much for Shawn Dubin or Enoli Paredes – and certainly not for ‘Wild Thing’ Tamarez.

      The Skeeters offense did not do much against the Astros pitching staff – but that is to be expected. Hopefully Stubbs, Lee, Leon, Kessinger, Wagner, Costas and crew will fare better against AAA pitching.


      • I like Solis. Always have. Live arm. I love live arms. The problem for him is always going to be availability. I do think he is one of those guys that IF he was healthy and available over 162 games could give some of the best 60 innings you will see all year.


  10. Lacta alea est – the die is cast.

    Que sara sara – Whatever will be will be.

    Life is like a box of chocolates.

    Play it again, Sam! Once more – with feeling!

    Put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play!


  11. Some random observations concerning Astros and prospects:
    * Justin Dirden tempted Astros brass, a lot. He was going to be a fall ’23 roster decision, but he looked almost ready this spring and they decided to let him go to AAA to prove he was a keeper.
    * I think Baker said they are rostering Salazar because he was good backup catcher material and that fills a need. I think they kept Diaz because of his bat and sent Lee down for the same reason they sent Dirden down. They have plans for Lee in the near future.
    * Pedro Leon has not turned out like they hoped.
    * The Astros list Will Wagner’s ETA as 2023 in their Bio of him as their #14 prospect. He was a July 2021 draftee! They like this guy.
    *Does Maldonado have an “on switch” for opening day, because he looks just as bad at the plate as ever to me.
    * I am thinking the Astros might create roster spots with an injured player such as Jose, and maybe a DFA of another player who doesn’t fit into their plans. I may be wrong, but I think they keep Bielak in AAA and on the ML roster for now.
    * I think Grae Kessinger had a good showing this spring. I hope my observation is not a kiss of death for him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m wondering if Maldonado might catch a game less each week, especially now as he comes back from injury and a rather remarkable workload over the past couple of years. There’s also a chance he’s simply hit the wall. Will our new GM settle for his lack of offense as Dusty has?


      • Whether our new GM settles for Maldy’s lack of offense as Dusty has will probably depend in large part on what the rest of our offense does – especially hitters 6, 7, and 8. If Maldy is the only guy looking up at .235, and the rest of the offense is ginning, he’ll probably slide by. If McCormick, Myers, and the Hensley/Dubon combination can’t all stay above .235, and our pitching slips even a little from last year, Maldy’s going to have to either hit or sit.


  12. Random note (or hot takes) –

    Pena’s rookie season was up and down. He had a great postseason. I am sure that gives him a lot of confidence that he belongs. Sophomore slumps are more common than sophomore springs. I am definitely concerned with the idea of him batting leadoff for 2 months.

    Dirden convinced me. I figured he would be the sacrificial lamb to the roster god; but then the Astros go and add Julks, which was in the same boat. Maybe not exactly; I believe Julks has enough time that he can’t be optioned to AAA he has to accept an assignment. Not sure though – either way, congratulations to Julks, guy has done the slow creep to get here make us proud.

    Brown had made some comments about Diaz playing some LF; I am glad he is here but I want to see some PAs. I think the Astros have something special but if he plays once or twice a week he may not find the rhythm to show us. Salazar helps – he will be the primary back up C in case of injury mid-game, so you can comfortably DH Diaz.

    Never been a big fan of Pedro Leon or Korey Lee; the analytics side of me just can’t be. Hey, I hope success for everyone, but it’s hard to see how they handle major league with the holes they have against minor league pitching. I am glad both will be able to play everyday to try and improve on them.

    Someone is about to released from the 40 man. There are probably 5-6 nervous dudes right now. Baseball can be a dirty business. Maybe a last second trade can be pulled off that will keep them in a job for a low level minor leaguer that doesn’t require a 40 man slot.


    • Pena’s OBP in the regular season last year was a miserable .289, and he whiffed 135 times to only 22 walks. As much as I like Jeremy’s potential [despite the spate of errors this spring], I still don’t see him being a leadoff hitter . I’d be voting for Chaz [.332 OBP, walked twice as much in far fewer at bats – but K’ed more often too] or David Hensley [lifetime milb OBP of .359]. With any of those three guys, however, we have to face the potential for a lot of strikeouts to start the game.


      • Hey, the way Dusty loves him some Mauricio Dubon, at this point it wouldn’t surprise me to see him slot the Frenchman into the lead-off role. I’d personally rather see Corey Julks [lifetime milb OBP .350 – with a lot of pop] given the opportunity than Frenchy.

        I agree that Bregs would be the obvious choice by all relevant baseball standards, but apparently that is not even being considered.


    • Steven, I’m still convinced Bregman, slow of foot regardless, is the guy that should be leading off. Abreu is a perfect replacement for him at 4th. I just don’t see putting Pena, with an historical .289 OBP and a .713 OPS in that role. To do what we need in that role means that he’s got to elevate his game in pretty significant fashion starting tomorrow.


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