Astros’ musings: So far, so meh?

It is often hard to keep a perspective on baseball when you are a fan(atic) about it. We live and die with every twist and turn, every series, every loss, every injury, and every slump. After a so-so 6-7 start, we are about two weeks into the 2023 season, and our emotions have washed us side to side and in and out like an old-fashioned washing machine. Note – I don’t believe enough water is used in the new washing machines to clean the clothes, much less throw us around – but I digress.

So, what subjects are of interest a couple weeks into this roller coaster start to the season…

When Michael Brantley comes back… who goes?

Assuming that the two bench folks mostly tied to the infield, Mauricio Dubon and David Hensley, are safe, this comes down to sending OF Corey Julks, OF Jake Meyers, C Yainer Diaz or C Cesar Salazar to the minors. One would hope that Julks and his .294 BA (ignoring his walk-less .286 OBP) and his good showing in the field have saved him from going down. Diaz, after a slow start at the plate, has gotten rolling lately and has looked good behind the plate both in calling the game and with good throws to 2nd base that sometimes are able to overcome the big leads the pitchers are allowing. It feels like this comes down to Salazar or Meyers. There might be some thought that Meyers needs to stay due to his ability to play CF behind Chas McCormick. However, Dubon was used in CF quite a bit last season, so that argument does not necessarily hold. But the best guess here is that the team attempts to go back to two catchers on the roster at that time and with as little as they have used Salazar, send him down to the minors. Now do they send him to AA or AAA? Another question for another time.

OK – when Brantley comes back where will he normally hit in the lineup?

Dusty loves that lefty – righty lineup, but if he inserts Brantley into that 2nd spot, between McCormick and Alex Bregman, does he really want to give less at bats to his two best hitters? That would be Yordan Alvarez sliding back to the cleanup spot and Kyle Tucker moving all the way back to the 6th spot. What would make more sense to this writer would be a lineup as such….

McCormick CF

Bregman 3B

Alvarez DH or LF

Abreu 1B

Tucker RF

Pena SS

Brantley LF or DH

Dubon 2B

Maldonado C

But Dusty will be Dusty, so we will see.

Should we try and rescind the Abreu signing and bring back Yuli?

We’ve seen articles such as this questioning the current situation…..

Not signing Yuli Gurriel might have been a mistake, current circumstances say – The Crawfish Boxes

Should the Astros have passed on Abreu and brought Gurriel back? Well, possibly, but second guessing the decision after 21 hot at bats by Gurriel and 50 something so-so at bats with Abreu might be a bit premature.

Just like Mauricio Dubon is not going to continue to hit .361, our good buddy Yuli is not going to continue to hit .381. In fact, Yuli has already dipped .346 since that article was written. Additionally, like Alex Bregman was not going to be stuck at 0 home runs (hitting home runs in his 12th and 13th games), Jose Abreu, who has gone 13 games without a home run will at some point begin hitting with a bit more power. I mean he is hitting .291, even if he only has two XBHs (both doubles). Now if we get two months into this season and he hasn’t shown any power, maybe that is the time to be concerned.

If, Ryan Pressly is not the closer….

There are two ways that Pressly would not be the closer for the team. One would be if he is injured (again) and needs time to recover from (knee, ankle, shoulder, or elbow) problems. Two would be if his pitches have lost a mile or two off his pitches and is not as effective as he was. In either case the Astros would need to make a decision or a move to fill that spot.

Now while Hector Neris (3), Bryan Abreu (2) and Ryne Stanek (1) picked up saves in 2022, when the team needed to replace Pressly longer term, the majority of the saves went to Rafael Montero (14). He would seem to be Plan A, if help is needed at the back of the bullpen. By the eyeball test, Abreu with his wicked stuff, would seem to be the next man up after Montero, but Dusty might well lean more toward the two veterans, Montero and Neris.

If Pressly was down long term or for the season, might the team go outside for help? Sure, the bullpen has been a consistent spot that the team has made trades at the deadline to bolster during their Renaissance period, including picking up Ken Giles, Roberto Osuna, Pressly, Montero, Kendall Graveman, Yimi Garcia, Phil Maton, Will Smith and onward. They could go out to grab a closer or just pick up someone to fill in some higher-leveraged spot behind Montero, Neris, or Abreu.

Anyways, just a few thoughts on my mind. What is on yours?


47 comments on “Astros’ musings: So far, so meh?

  1. I don’t t see the need for three catchers and would send Salazar down. Giving him playing time only takes time from Yainer, who along with Lee are the future for this team. I would also send down Myers, who needs regular playing time to hopefully regain what he was before his injury. Along with Brantley, I would bring up another pitcher to help extend our relievers. I don’t think that we’ll ever see J. Abreu at the level he was a few years ago, I just hope he will give the team more than what we’ve seen so far. I am delighted with Framber’s and urquidy’s last start and Hunter Brown certainly looked like the pitcher we hoped he would be in his last start.


  2. After the Rays win this afternoon – Astros would have been 7 games back if they were in their division.
    The 13 straight wins ties the modern era record for most wins to start a season
    Ironically the Rays and Mets had the longest win streaks to start 2022 at 3 games


  3. Hey, guess what? The Astros were 6-7 after 13 games last year.

    Can we assume Brantley will be back in May? Salazar is good to have around in case Dusty ever wants to (he should) DH Diaz and start Maldy behind the plate.

    At some point the best thing for Jake might be to get him back to Sugarland where he can hit everyday. On the flip side, he went back there and hit the ball last year but then looked lost in just 2 post season at bats. He’ll likely keep a job until Jose shows up.

    Yuli had a -0.3 WAR last year. Abreu produced with solid exit velocities. It’s too early to make a determination on this one, but I see no reason the guy needs to lead off. Bregman looks to be getting his act together. If so, he’s our best leadoff guy. But as long as Chas keeps getting on base, he should stay where he is. Tucker should not be as low as 5th, much less 6th in the order. Gosh, if everyone is healthy and hitting at some point, it will be a fun lineup especially when Maldy sits.


    • Thanks for the comment! Are you new to the blog or did you used to post under George Marshall many moons ago? Either way – welcome or welcome back and I like your suggestions


    • I’ve actually thought why not have Tucker lead off until Altuve is back? When Brantley is back don’t you think a Tucker-Brantley-Bregman-Alvarez-Abreu makes a pitcher have to work through those first 5 all with kids gloves? Right now only Bregman and Alvarez are commanding the zone better and no one runs as well as he does. On games you rest Brantley you could move Pena up to 2 to see if being surrounded by all the best bats helps his cause.

      Just a random thought I don’t think Baker would ever consider it.

      Once Altuve is back someone is going to be batting 6th that thinks they should be higher. It’s a good problem to have if everyone stays upright.


  4. After 11 games, as we sit and wait for the Rangers series to start tomorrow, here are some good, bad, and ugly things I have, noticed about the position players on our roster.


    Kyle Tucker [a/k/a call me ‘Blondie’] – .311/.429/1.051 with 4 HR, 13 RBI and more walks [1o] than strikeouts [9], and 3 SBs to boot is definitely ‘Good’.

    Yordan Alvarez – .300/.420/.995 with 3 HR, 16 RBI, and 8 runs scored is also incredibly ‘Good’.

    Chaz McCormick – .275/.370/.870 with 2 HR, 9 RBI, and 7 runs scored, with 4 SBs to boot, is also very ‘Good’.

    Frenchy ‘Secret Weapon’ Dubon – .361/.395/.839 with only 1 strikeout in 38 plate appearances is shockingly ‘Good’.

    Jose Abreu – .291/.339/.666 with 0 HRs and 4 RBIs is not exactly inspiring, but considering what we got offensively out of Yuli last April [.224 BA as of April 30, 2022], I’ll take Jose’s slow [for him] start and expect more – especially in the power department – down the road.

    Cory Julks – .294/.286/.727 with a HR, 6 runs scored, and a ton of likeability is at least a tease toward ‘Good’. Strikeout percentage and inability to draw a BB need to be watched.

    THE BAD [so far – and you really don’t want to talk about the stats]

    Alex Bregman [call me ‘Angel Eyes’]
    Jeremy Pena.
    David Hensley.
    Yanier Diaz.
    Martin Maldonado.
    Cesar Salazar.

    THE UGLY [Even I don’t even want to LOOK at the stats]

    Jake [not] from State Farm [call me ‘Tuco’]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t worry much about the first 13, baseball is a game of streaks, both teams and hitters. It will come together. Too talented for it not too.

    Saw an interesting number the other day – the Astros have 10 more “homegrown” players than the next closest roster. For a team that has been lambasted for its minor league system in the last decade, that system sure has put a heck of a team on the field.

    I assumed the Astros carried 3 catchers so that Diaz was free to DH, give Abreu a breather once every 2 weeks, and even play a game or 2 in LF. I think Dana thought the same thing by his final roster comments before opening day. Yet really Dusty has been managing with fewer days off than I expected him too – Abreu, Tucker and Pena have yet to see one – and Dubon has been so hot that he has kept Hensley out of the lineup. It’s like Dusty saw the start and went into pants on fire mode. Add in the success Julks has had and Dusty wanting him in the lineup for now – there has been no space for a 3rd catcher, meaning Yainer is getting the actual back up catcher duties and Salazar is sitting in a spot that heck we might as well be carrying an extra pitcher. I think when Brantley is ready Salazar will be at AA – he might even go before if Taylor looks good in his first few AAA appearances.

    I’ve been more concerned about the rotation than the offense. On paper it’s good – but if you thought every game was going to be a 4 run or less affair – well we have seen every starter on this staff is subject to the temporary loss of command and 4 IP, 4 ER start. Every one of them is also capable of 6 or 7 wonderful innings. Just have to hope by the end of the year Garcia isn’t stuck at 91 still. More than anyone else he relies on that velocity to cover up mistake pitches. Urquidy makes me laugh – how can a guy throw such a good curveball yet his fastball is flat as an iron?


  6. Was looking at crawfishboxes – they show birthdays for today of Astro related folks. Ironically both Kyle Farnsworth and Brad Ausmus have birthdays today.
    Farnsworth pitched for the Astros at the end of his career, but more importantly pitched for the Braves in the 2005 NLDS against us. In the deciding 4th game he gave up a grand slam to Lance Berkman in the 8th to cut a 6-1 lead down to 6-5 and then stayed in and gave up the tying home run to Ausmus in the 9th. 9 innings later and Chris Burke’s walkoff gave the Astros the series and Roger Clemens the win.


  7. The only way I see to satisfy
    * Bregmans desire not to lead off
    * Baker’s desire to satisfy his lefty/righty fetish
    * Getting Abreu into a spot in the lineup other than cleanup
    * Getting Brantley back into a position of helping the Astros before Altuve returns
    * Keeping the RBI guys in RBI spots, is this lineup:
    I think you send Meyers down, because you have added Brantley, an outfielder, and Julks has seemed to replace Meyers in Dusty’s realm.


    • In that scenario I think I would switch Tucker and Alvarez at 2 & 4. Dusty did actually try Tucker at leadoff in a few spring training games, but I think that was just to get him ABs before the WBC.

      I wonder if Dusty would put Brantley at leadoff?


      • I put Alvarez higher in the lineup because he already gets less ABs from Baker keeping him on the bench too often.


  8. I think Dusty has done a pretty good job with his lineups. The McCormick/Pena move has paid dividends. He’s leaving Frenchy where he is, while it lasts. I don’t think Julks is a long term solution, but he’s helped too. I just wish we’d see Diaz more often. Anywhere. He does catch. And he will hit. Maldy looks like a tired Sunday back up. I’m pretty sure none of us see him getting fewer starts anytime soon though.

    But back to Brantley. There has not been an update to his status since April 2. Maybe he still has a personal issue to go along with his rehab. Who knows. But a May ETA is pretty vague.



    Our team BA is .256; our friends from Arlington are hitting .246
    Our team OBP is .337; theirs is .310
    Our team OPS is .729; theirs is .720
    Their guys have score 67 runs; we have scored 66
    Both teams have hit 14 HRs; they have more doubles and triples
    We have struck out more than they have [113 us, 99 them]
    We have taken more BBS – 5o us; 37 them
    We have stolen more bases – 9 us, 4 them
    We have a better team ERA than them – 3.75 us; 3.95 them
    They have a better WHIP than us – 1.25 [them]; 1.31 [us]
    They give up fewer walks and HRs and notch more strikeouts

    They have 1 major player out [Seager]; we have 2 [Altuve, Brantley

    This is not last year’s Rangers team; nor is it last year’s Astros bunch.

    Shake hands, fellows … then come out fighting!


  10. Hello friends, thank you, from the very bottom of my heart, for all of the well wishes. This is a close knit group, considering that most of us have never met, but still we lift each other. All of your friendships mean so very much to me. Thank you again.

    The surgery went well and I am up and around the house. Sore as all get out but the doctor got all of the cancer. Look up retzius sparing prostatectomy and it shows the robot and the surgery that I went through. I don’t wish this on anybody.

    Both of my neighbors have had this surgery and they have been very supportive. I live in an active adult community and we all look out for each other.

    I lost a day of baseball as I was out of it but I did look at the box score.

    Again fiends, my heartfelt thanks to you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great news, Sarge! I’ve missed a month’s worth of comments and seeing this for the first time. Hope your soreness subsides soon, it’s always good reading your comments.

      Hunter Brown must have been a welcome sight after the recent stumbling. We were 7-8 last year, too, weren’t we?

      One of the other pretty bright spots is that most insiders said Yainer Diaz lacked defensive skills to play catcher F/T, and he seems to be dispelling that rumor.

      Down on the farm, Whitley is finally showing dominant form. I suspect he is the first man up when a clean set of starts are available (probably just before McCullers’ return). And down in single-A, Ryan Clifford, the kid we drafted in the 11th round is tearing it up. We paid way over slot to steal him away from his Vanderbilt commitment. One of the coaches in DSL, Elvis Rodriguez told me he is really impressive. Within a few weeks, I would think Gilbert and Clifford (’24-’25 ETA) will be our top prospects.

      One thing that occurred to me to perhaps generate discussion: you know how Bagwell came under criticism for recommending Jose Abreu, and that wasn’t an “analytical” decision.. what will happen to his advisory status if that 3-yr contract is as upside-down as Tony Sipp’s midway thru year 2? Is that too cynical to ask, dave?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heck no, GoStros1, maybe a bit premature, but I’ve already voiced some concern about Abreu and I was pleased with the acquisition. At this point, the cynic in me is concerned about how things might look with Abreu midway through 2023, much less 2024. I sure don’t think Bagwell is the guy that should be advising on his “gut” feelings. I prefer the analytical approach that has worked so well for the Astros.


      • One more thing GoStros1, Diaz needs playing time. Our number 2 prospect is sitting on the bench with the fewest at bats on the club other than Sanchez. That sure is not going to help his development. He is solid behind the plate and he will hit given the opportunity.


      • Glad to hear the positive report from Sarge. Regarding your Abreu query, I still think he provide significant offense but not high HR numbers this year. He’s only had 3 games without a hit so far in 2023, but the real problem is he’s only had 3 games with a BB. Yuli’s stats thus far are slightly better because of a single HR, but quite frankly, he’s not hitting like a 1B should either. My big complaint on Abreu is that his defense hasn’t been strong. It’s a small sample, so let’s see if he can turn that around and start putting some balls in the gaps as well. Regarding the Bagwell recommendation, I can’t think that move was anything other than geared towards winning in 2023. If they end up eating the money on the final two years it’s still less than the Mets will be eating on Justin Verlander.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Realize it’s still early and Abreu has a much larger sample size we could see. Expecting him to come around a little. I guess my beef was Astros always seemed to contain him at CWS. Sure, he got a few big hits but at end of seasons when he had .300 BA, it always amazed me. Well, that’s the guy I’m hoping to see, rounding out a solid season . . . especially considering the price tag.

        Guess I could find something else to complain about, but it’s Sunday so I’ll count some blessings (smile).

        Devin, you mention NYM. I’m thinking of how they’re holding down Brett Baty in AAA .400/.500/.886, and as soon as they promote him, they’ll have Escobar’s contract of 2/$18M, paying that to a platoon player. They seem to be able to absorb those type of contracts whereas we can ill-afford to miss.


  11. Hate to lose Chas at a time when he’s playing his best ball. Hope it’s precautionary. Garcia is another guy with velocity issues. I wonder if the ticking clock is playing a role?


  12. Sarge – great to hear from you – we are so happy they got all the cancer

    Daveb – nobody has had to change things as much as Garcia with the clock of course but more importantly having to drop his rock the baby windup. Sometimes thinking too much is the enemy of performance

    Liked by 1 person

    • Without a doubt Dan. Some of the guys across the way are already planning on replacing him with Whitley. Garcia has been an excellent middle of the rotation guy for two full seasons on a team with great pitching. He’ll get back to where he’s been. I’m also thinking ahead of the possibility that Whitley might be turning the corner finally, but he’s got a lot more work to do. His success sure would create a great opportunity to deal with.


  13. In the words of Mike Stanton a few yrs ago, it’s so hard to breakthrough if you’re a prospect in the Astros org. In fact, more teams are becoming aggressive and promoting more quickly.

    Well, here’s a guy who has paid his dues, and has probably moved past Bielak as taxi starter.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Framber still has the ability to lose his composure. And with the new rules, he does not have the luxury of stepping off and walking around behind the mound.

    Pena sure did not help either. That was a lazy error.

    Alvarez is starting to swing at some pitches he typically would not, although the rookie ump might have had something to do with that too.

    The starters really need some early runs from our compromised lineup.

    Liked by 1 person


    We all also should have anticipated that, at least without Altuve and Brantley, and without Gurriel’s dazzling glovework at first base, our Astros would not be anywhere near as good as we were at the end of last year on offense or on defense. Well, we were right.

    We should probably have also foreseen that the new pitch clock rules would play havoc with our extremely talented but emotionally-vulnerable pitchers – but we thought that our pitching coaches would find a way to help high-strung guys like Valdez, Javier, and Garcia adjust. So far, that is not working out. The pitch clock – and a some really bad infield defense – has been eating our pitching staff’s lunch.

    We could still pull it together, given time, if we can ever just catch a few breaks. But with a string of ‘already together’ teams like the Blue Jays, Braves, and Rays coming up next on the schedule, by the end of April we could find ourselves neck-and-neck with the A’s and the Royals in the race for the worst record in the major leagues.


  16. Let’s look at our bullpen so far:

    The GOOD

    Phil Maton – ERA 0.00, WHIP 0.47, BAA 0.95
    Bryan Abreu – ERA 1.17; WHIP 1.17, BAA .160

    The BAD

    Hector Neris – ERA 3.68, WHIP 1.23, BAA .241
    Rafael Montero – ERA 2.57/WHIP 1.57, BAA .310
    Ryne Stanek – ERA 4.50/ WHIP 1.50 /BAA .217 [2 WPs; 6 BB/9]

    The UGLY

    Ryan Pressley – ERA 8.44/WHIP 1.13/BAA .238
    Seth Martinez – ERA 6.46/ WHIP 1.86 /BAA .364
    Ronel Blanc0 – ERA 5.63/WHIP 1.75/BAA .273 [5.6 BB/9]

    This is not exactly encouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Well not really much to say. It’s another slow start.

    Defense is a funny game. Sometimes you make 3 errors in a game and they have zero impact. Sometimes you make 2 errors and end up with 7 unearned runs. Was really disappointing to see the guy you have that might contend for a Cy can go 6 very good innings, with plus velocity yesterday, locate reasonably well, then just unraveled in one inning.

    Not sure what Abreu is waiting for. 10% through now, and he has had zero impact. Maybe these next 10 he will come around. Meanwhile Yuli has had more impact in Miami with half the playing time.

    With Toronto, Atlanta and Tampa on the schedule the focus should be on winning 2 of those series and going at least 5-4. Good news for me I will be at Truist Park on Saturday to see Framber pitch.

    Not really much else. Garcia is due for two or three good starts – if he don’t get them his season could unravel fast. It’s only 14 innings, but his exit velocities against and LD rates are pretty much in line with what we have seen with our eyes. His BAA is well over .300. Fastball is down to 92 on average, 2 ticks lower than last year. I can’t help but blame the pitch clock. Hopefully he adjusts and gets some velo back.


  18. Still no Chaz in the line-up. Jake Meyers gets the start sporting a slash line of .143/.260/.436 (0 EBHs, 0 RBIs). He comes in having struck out 9 times (and walked zero) in 25 ABs.

    Jake is rapidly playing himself into a new career [one having nothing whatsoever to do with baseball].


  19. Not much to do right now other than hope guys pitch better and hit better. Everyone except for Diaz has been given a reasonable shot at playing, except of course for Sanchez.

    Hopefully Frenchy keeps hitting for a bit longer. Hopefully Chas does not end up on the shelf. I’m still hoping for a .500 April. That would be fine with me.


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