Astros’ 2023: It’s rarely easy.

It is always the way these things go. Teams get off to great / bad/ meh starts to the season and people are too joyful/ too despairing/ too meh about it all.

Here are some comparative facts about the Astros’ start:

  • Today they sit at 8-10 after 18 games
  • In 2022, they started 9-9 and ended up at 106-56 and winning the World Series
  • In 2021, they were 8-10 and ended up at 95-67 and winning the American League and losing in the World Series
  • In 2020, they were 8-10 and ended up 29-31 and losing in the ALCS. Truth in advertising – in any season but the pandemic year they were on a trajectory to not be in the playoffs after 60 games.
  • In 2019 they were a more robust 12-6 and finished a franchise-best 107-55 before losing in the seventh game of the World Series
  • In 2018 they were 11-7 on the way to 103-59 and a loss in the ALCS
  • In 2017 they were 12-6 again before finishing 101-61 and winning their first World Championship
  • In 2016 they started an awful 6-12 and righted the ship to finish 84-78 but outside the playoffs
  • In 2015 they were 11-7 and went on to 86-76 and a playoff appearance that ended in the ALDS

So, this basically shows us what we want to see. A so-so start by the team in the last three seasons ended up with a World Series win (2022), a World Series loss (2021), and a season that ended one win short of the World Series (2020). But looking back further, good starts in 2017 and 2019 both resulted in a race to the World Series with a win and a loss.

The point is that an 18-game sample, just like previous investment results for your retirement, is no indication of future returns. But the plus side is that the Astros have been there – done that – as far as slow starts go and have only missed the playoffs once in the last 8 seasons. The other point is that it is rarely easy…..

  • The biggest loss was Carlos Correa moving on in the off-season being replaced by an unknown in rookie Jeremy Pena. They entered 2022 with Lance McCullers on the sidelines for most of the season and not being sure how Justin Verlander would bounce back from TJ surgery (the answer was an immaculate regular season). They lost one of their most consistent hitters, Michael Brantley, for 2/3 of the season and the playoffs, and lost super-sub Aledmys Diaz for almost half the season. Beyond that, most of the roster missed a bit here and there, but nothing debilitating.
  • In the offseason before the 2021 season, veterans George Springer, Brad Peacock, Josh Reddick and Roberto Osuna all moved on. They entered the season knowing they would again be without ace Justin Verlander after his TJ surgery and then lost next in line ace Framber Valdez for the first two months of the season. Alex Bregman missed almost half of the season with various injuries, and of course Aledmys Diaz missed about half the season himself. The injuries to McCullers and Jake Meyers during the playoffs also were a big set back.
  • 2020 was a disaster in many ways. It was the first season after the “IT” debacle came down on the team. They lost Gerrit Cole and Will Harris to free agency and Colin McHugh to COVID. It was a partial season that seemed on the edge of cancellation at almost any point due to COVID. For the Astros, Justin Verlander threw 6 innings before heading off to have TJ surgery. 2019 Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez gave the team 8 ABs before limping off to have both knees operated on. Brad Peacock, Roberto Osuna and Chris Devenski (in their final appearances for the Astros) totaled 10.1 innings before succumbing to injuries. Aledmys was again good for less than 1/3 of the season.
  • Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Marwin Gonzalez and Brian McCann all left in the offseason. In 2019, Lance McCullers Jr. was out after his TJ surgery after the previous season. Carlos Correa only appeared in 75 games.  At one point in June the team, along with missing Correa was also lacking Jose Altuve, George Springer, Aledmys Diaz (of course), Max Stassi, Colin McHugh and Joe Smith.
  • Back in 2018, the team was fairly injury free the first half of the season, other than Correa’s back injury that kept him out of about 50 games total for the season. But in July and August injuries whacked Altuve, Springer, McCullers and Chris Devenski. They also had the Ken Giles on the field breakdown that led to his mid-season trade.
  • In 2017 there were so many injuries to the pitching staff (McCullers, Keuchel, McHugh, and Charlie Morton) that Mike (Spit!) Fiers led the team in starts. Correa again missed about 50 games, but the team did return mostly to health by the end of the season and in time to welcome Justin Verlander.
  • In 2016, McCullers again missed months to injury, but perhaps the biggest injury the team faced was the one that Dallas Keuchel covered up. Both Luis Valbuena (who was hitting well) and Colby Rasmus (who was not) missed significant time to injuries.
  • In 2015, young star George Springer missed two months of the season, while veteran Jed Lowrie one-upped him by missing three months. On the other hand, the pitchers were pretty darned healthy, which was necessary for this young team to squeak into the playoffs.

You get the idea. Every team has to face problems, normally in the form of injuries, to succeed. 2023 is no different than any other season. The team entered the season after Justin Verlander and Yuli Gurriel were let go/moved on. The Astros are trying hard to absorb the losses of Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Lance McCullers to start the season. And then Chas McCormick after sliding nicely into Altuve’s lineup spot goes down, and after that, we see in one-half inning, Yordan Alvarez rolling his ankle and Kyle Tucker fouling a line drive into his knee. When you are bringing up Rylan Bannon and his robust .191 BA/ .599 OPS just because he is on the 40-man roster, you start to look around and wonder what is next.

It’s the team’s job to keep going out there and giving their best and hope that things don’t continue to sink before the cavalry returns. It’s the fan’s job to worry until things turn around. All is normal. For now.


37 comments on “Astros’ 2023: It’s rarely easy.

    • The Abreu twins help put this one away – brilliant hobby Bryan with two outs and the bases loaded. Big hit by Jose to put it out of reach.


      • And Neris had entered a game in a similar situation a few days back and gave it up. We are in the midst of watching our next great closer develop.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I like Pressly a lot – I thought his leadership with the pen in the playoffs gave us the best relief effort the team has ever seen in the playoffs and believe me I’ve seen a lot of bad over the years. But I am leaning towards having Pressly in the 8th and Abreu in the 9th because he has been just electric.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Bryan Abreu was an All-Pro reliever tonight. Springer hit a shot that could have killed the Stros but, alas, his ex-teammate Bregman was right there to catch it.


  2. A great team win by our men, but Garcia was the King of the hill!

    Luis, Luis, go Stros! Way to throw! (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
    I said, Luis, Luis, go Stros! Oh baby, way to throw!

    A fine Venezuelan pitcher indeed
    He throw that pitch high velocity
    Break that pitch in the zone
    He never let opponents make it home

    Luis, Luis (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah) I said way to throw! Go Stros!
    Said Luis, Luis, oh, baby, said way to throw!

    Three steps from windup they took from Luis
    I wish he hurls more consistently
    Almost all his pitches they can’t square
    I smell a strikeout in the air

    Luis, Luis, go Stros! Way to throw! (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
    I said, Luis, Luis, oh, baby, said way to throw!
    Okay, let’s give it to them right now!

    He see Dusty Baker, toothpick in mouth
    It won’t be long to get those outs
    He take the ball in his arm and then
    Baserunners he’ll leave stranded again

    Luis, Luis, go Stros! Way to throw! (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
    Said Luis, Luis, oh, baby, said way to throw!
    I said way to throw now
    Let’s go on out of here
    Let’s go!


  3. As great a relief appearance as you will ever see. Bases loaded, no outs, one run lead. And to boot, you are facing 3 all stars in a row, the last one is one of the top 5 hitters on the planet today. AND he had thrown 23 pitches the day before. I think my peanut brain just elevated Abreu from best reliever on the team to best in the AL. If that had happened in a playoff game he would become a legend. You could tell he was pumped too – he hit 99 twice and his fastball was never under 97.

    Garcia’s fastball was at 94 all night. That was the Luis I thought we had when I said he would lead the team in wins this year. What a game from the kid. Opened with 6 strikeouts in 7 batters through 2.

    That team last night was exciting.

    Now the dull-ies awards. I was glad to see Abreu open it up with the 2 run single. It made me happy. But he isn’t being paid to hit singles. At some point our clean up hitter needs to start doing better than 0 HR and 9 RBI every 19 games. I am still optimistic – the graphic they had up about his career April OPS versus August tells us it’s probably coming.

    Is Dubon having the most boring hitting streak ever? 14 games now, its nice, but its like 1 double and a billion bloopish liners to right field. We might start seeing the first anti-shift ever as they just put all 3 OFers in RF! I jest, I think, and I am glad to see his confidence up. That slow-mo replay they did of his hit from the other side camera, you could see his expression as he realized he had the low outside slider that he could handle, he had a SMILE on his face as he was swinging – he realized the hitting streak was saved. Can’t help but to feel good for the guy given his experience in the bigs so far. It won’t last but it’s at least a little fun to watch. Also have to appreciate the hustle that took advantage of the bad throw error.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes – that was an exciting win last night.
      I guess in defense of Abreu – he’s slumping but still is on pace for 77 RBIs) – ok he’s also on pace for 0 HRs. He has been hitting some pretty hard balls, almost all deep to center. Usually when guys are coming out of slumps, they start hitting it up the middle. Last night he got down 0-2 and did what good veteran hitters do – he made sure he made contact and knocked in 2 huge runs.
      That Abreu pitching performance gave me a tingle. Three top notch hitters and he kept them off the board when the margin was down to zero (he did get lucky that Springer is hitting in buzzard’s luck right now and hit it right to Bregman).
      It was good to see rock-a-bye Garcia find himself again.
      Dubon is in a special zone – not an especially exciting zone, but a special zone where he is showing a repeatable stroke to right field. Will they start pitching him inside to slow him down?
      Tucker is just such a pro hitter now. He is giving us what Brantley gave us – with more power.
      Great way to end a series against a very dangerous team.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think that increased velocity was really important. All those strikeouts on low and away sliders where he really had them fooled.

      In regards to Dan’s post, this whole season has felt too similar to 2020. I wouldn’t want to put the idea in anyone’s head that these April games are critical, but the players certainly haven’t looked like they had a sense of urgency in some of the blown games. We said a .500 record in the month would be acceptable given the schedule, but even with our injuries I can’t help feeling as though the team should be about six games above .500 and in front of the Rangers right now (because we would have won that series).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As for your write up Dan – I don’t think you have to talk us off the ledge lol. The team has been just like Bregman since he arrived – slow starts over and over and then elevates the game. Probably not a coincidence since Bregman has spent almost all of that time plopped right in the middle of the lineup. And now we added another notoriously slow starter that always spends the second half raking in Abreu.

    The pitching staff seems to have been affected by the WBC. Garcia came in throwing 91-92 instead of 93-94. Don’t even want to talk about what I think the WBC did too Pressly. Javier and Urquidy have been more inconsistent so far than last year.

    This team is still the favorite in this division and should be. The rotation has been shakier, but maybe a bit of that has to do with 60% of the rotation being in the WBC. I think it messed up what would be their normal routines, and we’ve seen their shaky, inconsistent starts. It should iron itself out.

    At some point there might be questions about Framber’s conditioning. Every pitcher in the league struggles on pitches after 75. Many factors. Most of time you are entering hitters 3rd times through and they’ve seen 8-12 pitches from you already and they get an advantage. Sometimes your stuff loses just a smidgen, or the command starts to drift on a pitch or too. You are breathing hard and it’s difficult to maintain your mechanics. But Framber has been really bad so far this year – to the tune of .357 average and, more importantly, a .956 OPS against. His late game splits to early game splits are so off that it could be more than just the usual. Last year they were .279/.699 respectively as a gauge. It’s small sample too, could be jacked up from one bad start. But it’s something to keep an eye on.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yainer Diaz is no longer an Astros MLB prospect. He is a major league catcher:
    Hunter Brown is no longer a prospect, but a major league pitcher.
    The Astros’ top 4 prospects are now LH hitting and LH throwing outfielders.
    Will Wagner has moved up to #12 and is our top- rated infielder.
    Miguel Palma and Zach Daniels move into the top 30.


    • Yes! But we’ve got to get our young major league catcher out on the playing field. Sitting six days a week will only hinder his progress. Lee has got the better job right now.

      Big night for Hunter Brown. Sure want to see his steady work continue.

      All those lefty hitting outfield prospects. With Dirden it’s 5 of the top 7. Certainly not a coincidence. Wonder how long the brain trust has been thinking about the possibility of losing our right fielder? And it’s pretty clear the club wants a centerfielder too.


  6. Joey Loperfido, another lefty at #16 on the top 30 list just moved up from Ashville to Corpus after 8 games. He had a heck of a year between A/A+ in 2022. Could he be our long term solution at first base?


    • I know I’m speculating here, but Wagner was rumored to be placed in Sugarland at the end of spring training and ended up in CC. He had a five hit day on Sunday, was off on Monday, played on Tuesday and didn’t play on Wednesday or Thursday.
      Could he be moving up to Sugarland, with Loperfido to take Will’s place in Corpus?
      Not asking for a friend!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Since I couldn’t watch the game, I went to ESPN’s play-by-play to see what you were referring to and went over every pitch in the bottom of the ninth. They show four of Pressly’s pitches that were in the zone and called balls by the umpire.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And a couple of check swings that could have gone either way. Pressly was hitting his spots, but sure got no help. He really had to work for those outs. But he looked like the Pressly we expect.


  7. This morning I watched the video of Yordan’s game-winning homer. With Dubon balked to second base and a lefty reliever brought in to face Alvarez (and Tucker, if necessary) there was a tiny note on the bottom of the screen that read: RBI probability 5%. It stayed on the screen as Minter threw Yordan the 5th cutter of the at-bat. Goodbye, baseball!


  8. Jose Abreu looked like a High A player at the plate today.
    BUT! Who are these guys and what did they do with the old Astros of the first few weeks of the season?
    They actually look like the 2022 Houston Astros.


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