Just some thoughts on the first series of the season for the Astros against the White Sox.
The third leg of the stool – Pitching and offense get almost all the attention, but in the third part of the game, the defense gets short shrift. In game 2, the Astros had drawn within 1 run of the Sox, and two brilliant plays, a bare-handed grab and throw by Alex Bregman and a wall-banging stab by Kyle Tucker, kept the score there setting up the game-turning bases-clearing double by Yordan Alvarez. On the other side of the coin, Jose Abreu, while a good fielder is no Yuli Gurriel, let a ball go through him in the opener and then failed to stop a single to right with a dive that we’ve seen Yuli do over, and over in the third game. We have to get used to that.
A championship doesn’t buy you slack – Not that he cares, but Dusty Baker was getting jabs even before the team stepped on the field based on his first lineup, including Jake Meyers and Mauricio Dubon instead of Chas McCormick and David Hensley. Nailing Chas to the bench for the first two games, even when a lefty was brought into the game (Chas eats them for breakfast), left most fans a bit upset, especially when Meyers did nothing in the first two games. The Dubon sub made sense as he is the better fielder and Framber Valdez gets grounders 60+% of the time. Oh, on Sunday you have a rally going with the tying run coming to the plate and you can’t ask Yordan to go out there and take a swing. Really? Dusty will continue to be questioned and likely will continue to do whatever he feels like doing.
YA and KTuck – These two players presumably have the most pressure on them to make up for the current losses of Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley in the early part of the year. If they are feeling the pressure it has not shown early on as they have been the two key players to what has been a bit of a wobbly-hitting start to the year. Tucker walked twice in the opener, gave them life in game 2 with his two-run homer, and later scored after a walk and had a couple of two-out RBI singles in Game 3. In game 4, he walked and singled and came within inches of a huge hit during the ninth-inning rally, being robbed on a liner to deepest left center. Yordan launched a long dinger in a failed comeback in game 1, had the turnaround three-run double in Game 2, and then had tjhree hits in game 3, scoring two runs while knocking in a run. And he sat there and watched in Game 4.
Chin Music – This writer is probably over-sensitive about this after Altuve’s injury, but the Astros have been hit a bunch already this season, Yordan hit in the opener, Jeremy Pena in the second and third games, Diaz in the third game (that was a graze) and both Jose Abreu and a scary hand hit on Chas McCormick in the series finale. Here’s hoping this trend ends…
We’ve Been Spoiled – After a World Series where the Astros’ bullpen only gave up 2 earned runs in 16.2 innings, the bullpen has given up 7 runs in their first 16 innings of the new season.
Roger sees stuff – During the ninth inning of the opener, Roger Clemens, who was in the booth commentating on the national broadcast very early, picked up that Ryan Pressly was uncomfortable out there, shaking his hand and his arm. He had seen a lot of Pressly and had not seen him do that before. Pressly proceeded to get knocked around a bit and has not shown up again for Games 2 thru 4 despite saves being on the line in two of the games. Dusty Baker said Pressly is under the weather, but you have to wonder……
Chas likes to play – After sitting out the first two games of the season (for no reason), Chas was showing off a bit in the next two by reaching base six times, scoring one run, and knocking in another while stealing 3 bases. Those three bases are one off the most for him in a season.
About halfway through the second game, I was hoping for a series split as we had lost one game and were trailing by three in the second, but after the Game 2 comeback and the Game 3 win, I was hoping for the Astros to win 3 out of 4. It didn’t happen….
So, what are your takes on the first four games?
When Dubon comes up, I know it’s time to go to the fridge for a cold one. When I get back he always is walking back to the dugout after receiving his three strikes. I hope my mental health holds up until Altuve comes back.
Hey Larry – the only problem with going to the fridge is that with the new time rules you might not have time to get back for the next batter
I would also throw out there that they did ok considering that Altuve and Brantley are out, Bregman is totally lost (this guy never strikes out and now he can’t stop) and we are giving inexplicable at bats to Meyers and Dubon while deciding we can’t let Alvarez strain himself to hit on his day off.
Dan, all good points. A couple of quick thoughts.
The guys in the booth noted that 87.5% of stolen base attempts through Saturday were successful. And now we’re got smart guys like Tucker stealing third as he watches the pitch clock count down, knowing the guy on the mound won’t throw over. The “committee” has to adjust this rule quickly. Too many stolen bases is far worse than too few.
We keep seeing everyday why Tucker is the best all around baseball on this team of stars. He won’t get MVP love the way Alvarez does because he won’t have the gaudy offensive stats (though he is off to a great start). What he will do is continue to make outstanding defensive plays, heady base running, while hitting at a great pace.
Think about that throwout at third. Dubon was definitely a big part of putting that ball on spot. But think about this – Tucker at first was playing a bounce from the wall. The ball gets stuck under the wall, so he as to quickly adjust and run to the ball. Not even having time to look up, he picks up the ball from under wall and in one motion throws a dart to the cutoff man. The way everything was so fluid in that motion while not even looking up before the throw – he comes up, finds the cutoff man AFTER he has already begun his motion, and has the talent to readjust the motion to put an exact dart without the ball having any float on it at all. Special talent.
I totally agree, Steven – I’ve been singing his praises for his overall game for quite a while. Fluid is a good adjective for his game. He doesn’t look that fast, but he covers the ground like crazy. Yesterday he went a mile to catch a short fly and keep the runner at 3rd base on a ball that should have been the CF, but Tucker has the arm. He steals bases the same way – very smart player and gets things done the right way. He got robbed in the ninth inning yesterday, but the key to me is that he hit the ball hard where it was pitched – sometimes the other guy just makes a great play on you.
I feel bad for Jake. But that does not mean he should be playing. He had a bad injury in late 2021 and has either not recovered from it or the league has simply learned how to pitch to him. Beyond that, his head is not fully in the game. He failed to charge a base hit that allowed Tim Anderson to go first to third in game one. That’s outfield 101. In game two he took a terrible route to a ball in the gap that would have been caught by some guys. But three times in two games I’ve seen Jake shaking his head and talking to himself, twice on strikeouts and on the gapped ball. He’s lost all confidence. It’s not his fault that he’s on the field. Dusty Baker has to put the guys out there that give this team the best chance to win. Spring Training is over.
Jake did hit one of the few well hit balls against Cease in that first game, but he seems to be lost out there. Also, when you have a noodle arm like he does, you better charge the balls and even then they will be running on you.
Sugarland beat El Paso 4-3 Sunday and Bryan Garcia went 5 innings for the win, Dubin went 3 innings for the hold and Paredes pitched the 9th for the save.
The losing pitcher for El Paso was 32 year old Julio Teheran and the left fielder for them was 32 year old Preston Tucker, who went 2 for 3 with a HR.
Man I remember when Teheran was going to be the next great pitcher for the Braves – I think injuries sidetracked his career.
I always liked Preston Tucker – not near the talent of his brother but not a bad ball player. He’s 32 years old too, but it seems like ancient history now.
Sometimes I don’t get the “day off” mentality. Especially in game 4. The average major leaguer is still hitting the weights, shagging in the OF, doing 2 or 3 different throwing drills, and taking 2 or 3 sessions of BP outside of the 9 innings. Heck, the 9 innings isn’t the hardest part of the day on them physically. Yet, we will skip it. I don’t know, maybe even on their day off they are skipping a lot of that.
I have concerns about the depth. You are taking a big step down when you go from Altuve to Dubon or Hensley. I like Hensley, he has a good eye, maybe too good, because he spent the first 4 games not swinging at balls, and not swinging at strikes. And Dubon. Ugh.
In place of Brantley we got Julks and Diaz with Hensley DH’n the last game. I heard Brown say something about Julks having a good major league debut – he was 2 for 12 with 6 strikeouts. He won’t have a long a major league career at that pace.
The Astros relied heavily on Tucker and Alvarez. Those 2 are the reason for the 2-2. I am sure at times Abreu and Bregman will be reasons also. I’m not concerned about the 2-2, I am concerned about what we have seen behind the stars so far.
And where was Garcia’s 96-97? In the playoffs he was hitting 98. Yesterday was 93 with some of them falling to 91. Is not rocking the baby just throwing off everything for him?
This pitch clock thing. The hitter has to “engage” with 8 seconds left. Could a pitcher with a funky delivery start at 10 seconds even if the hitter hasn’t stepped in the box knowing the pitch still won’t come for 4-5 seconds? Or does the pitcher have to wait to start motion until the hitter has stepped in? I heard everyone in the Astros organization praise the work Garcia did during the offseason to prepare for the rule changes, but the results, didn’t look good. He seemed like a different pitcher.
Urquidy did not have a good debut. Everything was laborsome.
I could see the Astros at .500 in June. Once Altuve and Brantley and McCullers are back I can see a mini run. I don’t see a runaway team that will win 106 games again. There is championship pedigree though, I think even after an up and down opening series they win this division.
I thought Garcia pitched pretty well. First MLB game with a new delivery. Hopefully the velocity will build, but he threw a lot of quality pitches with mostly good location. If Maton was available for two innings, why try to squeeze a couple more outs from Garcia? Give Maton the ball to start the 6th with no baserunners. We might have had a different outcome.
Maybe later in the season or when ever, Jake could be a part of a trade deal. I just don’t see him making it as an every other day player at this point. As for Dubon, I like his defense but when you can’ t hit above the Mendoza line you shouldn’t be an “every other day” player either. I’d like to see Will Wagner or one of the others on the Spaced Out Cowboys given a look. They were having some good at bats in their most recent road trip. And while I haven’t been a big Chaz McCormick fan, he should be playing every day. And as Dan says “YIE” but it’s time to play our favorite game, “What the hell is Dusty thinking/doing”?
After a lackluster series with the White Sox [in which we were both outhit and outpitched] I am actually curious as to how we will fare in our 2nd series -the upcoming one against the Tigers.
First of all, let’s talk team stats. The Tigers are off to a horrendous start. They went 0-3 against the Rays, giving up 21 runs to the Tampa club and scoring only 3. They have a team BA of .147 [Astros .227]. Their team OBP is a miserable .198 [Astros .349]. Their team ERA is 8.42 [Astros 4.00]. Their team WHIP is 1.63 [Astros 1.50].
That all says the Astros have the clear and overwhelming advantage going into this series, right? It’s amazing how Dusty Baker’s line-up choices can tend to even things out!
– I am excited to see what Hunter Brown brings to the park in the opener against the Tigers. Hopefully he will take up where he left off last season – he has terrific stuff, just needs to keep it around (but not in the middle of) the zone.
– I am excited to see Alex Bregman get off the snide, but if he doesn’t, maybe he needs the early season day off – not Yordan.
– I am always excited to see what will come out of that middle of the lineup threesome of Alvarez, Abreu and Tucker
– I am anxious to find out if Ryan Pressly is ok – that whatever it was is gone.
– I am excited to see Bryan Abreu pitch in relief, because he is a threat to K whoever he faces
– I am excited to see if Jeremy Pena can keep up his early season success rate of getting on base
– I am anxious to see whether Chas is in the lineup again
Pena is exactly what I thought he would be so far – dude just has no control of the strike zone. He is swinging out of it a bit and not handling fastballs in the zone.
Kid is so strong though. I loved the comment from Blummer after the hit by pitch and Brownie told him it was the on the tricep – “somebody should check on the ball and make sure its ok.” I love how he stays with stuff – even if its out of the zone – he is so strong he can just plant an off speed pitch off the plate by a foot into right field. Even when he is fooled he puts wood soundly on it, its the one saving grace from not being able to tell a ball from a strike. That near homerun he hit in the first at bat just looked like a flick, and there Jiminez standing next to the wall to catch it.
He needs to speed up his clock though, Clevinger just chumped him on 2 fastballs in the zone. 96 is hard, but its normal hard in today’s league.
Madris and Matijevic clear waivers and are outrighted to Sugar Land
Hunter Brown on the mound
Where will you be playing tonight?
Dream Du-bon, of a bunch of hits in the game
Move along Du-bon, will we see more of the same
You play a lot in any spot Dusty likes your “D”
But at the plate at any rate a “K” is what we see
Move along Du-bon your next team might be for you
Don’t forget your bat cause eventually it is true
And when will you make your mark Du-bon, Dubon
Ok it was nice try.
This is getting old quickly.
Tonight’s game reminded me of the way Hinch’s terrible 2021 team
handled the Astros that year. Every time the Astros made a run, Detroit answered. This the Tiger team that got destroyed over the weekend.
Good morning! Looks like it’s going to be a struggle for awhile. Starting pitching, pen, bats, all struggling.
Bregman kind of woke up.
Chas let Jake back in the door.
We need innings from our ace tonight.
All these new rules are unsettling. Too many gray areas. And the umps are winging it as they go. Baseball always has been a common sense game with definitive rules. Not so much right now. Some of this stuff rushed out for the 2023 season needs fine tuning.
Hang in there CC. It’s going to be a rough ride for awhile.
CC is hunkering in the bunker. Let me know when the mighty Tiger attack is over and it’s safe to come outside again.
If this is how we play the Tigers (-7 run differential), I hate to see what the Rangers (+18 run differential) do to us.
Brown is what you can expect a lot of – there were times he looked completely in control – a guy with ace type stuff, but the two innings where he didn’t seem to have it he got really out of it.
So far they look like they need their catalyst back at the top.
Alvarez looked like a guy who was feeling the pressure of the team on his shoulders in that last at bat. He was out of character trying to launch that first pitch that landed 4 feet in front of homeplate.
Dubon was actually swinging well last night. That liner to right was an inch away from breaking that game wide open and having us with a different ‘tude today. He is still playing too much.
Get back on the horse tonight. Need bigs from Framber.
One thing I noticed in the inning where the Tigers got their 1st 2 runs. Despite the fact that the batters were waiting on the outside corner pitch and going to the opposite field, Maldy kept calling for the same pitch in the same location. Even TK and Blummer mentioned it noting that Brown was not throwing any pitches on the inside part of the plate. Poor execution on the catchers part IMO. Even a bad hitter will eventually get a hit if he knows where it’s going to be (trash can or no trash can banging).
Noticed it too. Just kept banging outside low sliders to the point they knew it was coming.
Abreu did the same thing. I would say if you have a 97MPH heater you shouldn’t throw 12 sliders in a row, but the run he gave up was a 97 MPH heater – it would if he didn’t just put it in the center of the plate though.
Just not a well pitched or well called game all night.
Oh and Maldy should have been awarded second. What a really obviously bad call. Could have turned a big inning bigger.
Fun fact: So far the Astros have been outhit by our opponents 54 to 38. That means our pitchers are giving up an average of more than 10 hits per game, while our offense is managing only 6 or 7. That is not a formula for success. But it gets worse.
Our team has managed a measly 6 extra base hits. Of those Alvarez has 3 (2 HR, 1 2B, Tucker 1 (HR) Pena 1 (2B) and Abreu 1 (2B)
Consider also that of our teams grand total of 21 RBIs, 9 belong to Alvarez. Of our teams 23 runs, Alvarez has scored 5 of them (Pena, our lead-off hitter, has an OBP of .333, but because of Bregman’s funk he has only scored 4 times).
If I was the manager of any team playing us, I would insist that Yordan Alvarez be walked intentionally in every circumstance. He is most of our offense thus far this year. Bregman and Tucker are notorious slow starters (tending to wake up sometime in June or July), and we have a bunch of near-automatic outs below Tucker [i.e. the zero-offense combo of Dubon, Myers, Julks, Diaz, and Maldonado, with an occasional dose of on-again/off-again McCormick]. Why does anyone let Yordan beat them?
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Well I don’t want to add to your rain parade but Pena won’t maintain a .333 OBP – its bolstered by 2 early HBPs, and that won’t continue to happen at that pace.
Seeing the lineup again today I have to wonder what do Dubon and Meyers have on Dusty?
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After Tucker we give the Tiger starter this amazing gift ….
– Corey Julks [12 ABs, 6 Ks; slash of .167/.167/.334]
– Jake Meyers [6 ABs, 4 Ks; slash of .000/.143/.143]
– Frenchy Dubon [11 ABs; slash of .182/.250/.432] and
– Maldy [who, believe it or not, has the best stats of the bunch].
Happy Birthday, Matt Manning!
In case you haven’t noticed, here are some Tigers’ lifetime BAs vs. Framber Valdez:
1. Vierling – .500
2. M. Cabrera – .500
3. Baez – .429
4. Haase – .429
5. Riley Greene – .333
The Astros’ uninspiring start to the 2023 season looks to get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
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