Astros and Redemption Sunday

Earlier in the day Sunday, the other active Houston team, the Texans had a redemption Sunday where they came back from turnovers and mistakes to beat a tough KC Chiefs team.

Sunday night there were a lot of redemptive themes to the Astros 3-2 walkoff win over the very tough Yankees team.

– The Astros as a team had played a sleepwalking first game in a 7-0 loss that had the intensity of a preseason game. Sunday they played a tight game where every pitch, every play had meaning and the Astros played it like the must win it was.

– George Springer, who had been having a dry spot reminiscent of his 2017 run against the Yanks cranked out a first pitch game tying home run against Adam Ottavino in the 5th inning to inspire the sellout crowd.

– Justin Verlander who had said he was good to go on short rest in Game 4 against the Rays (and wasn’t) pitched a vintage JV game – holding the Yanks in check except for the obligatory Aaron Judge 2 run HR.

– The bullpen which let a manageable 3-0 deficit balloon to a 7-0 blowout in the first game – held the Yanks scoreless over the last 4-1/3 innings to earn this critical win.

– And Carlos Correa, who had been on the fan’s skeptic list for oddwad injuries during the last two seasons – knocked in the first run with a screaming double into the corner, and then walked it off with a first pitch 11th inning dinger off former Astro J.A Happ.

Now it is on to NYC and an attempt to regain home field advantage. If they get swept like they did in 2017 this series will be over. If Gerrit Cole continues his Al Davis – just win baby – run against Luis Severino, they will regain control of the series. Who starts games 4 and 5? Neither team has announced those pitchers and neither team needs to look beyond Game 3 yet.

What happens next – we will see.

 

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Act 2: The Astros, Yanks meet in the ALCS

If Dan P was at home working on the computer this would be a bit of a stat filled analysis of a very intriguing series. But this will be an on the fly, on the phone look at the Astros and Yanks from the heart as much as from the brain.

Before the season there was a big focus on the Big 3 in the MLB: the defending champion Red Sox, Yanks and the Astros. After the Red Sox faltered and fell by the wayside the Dodgers filled their spot in the Big 3.

Now one round into the playoffs (sorry can’t count the wildcard play-in as a round) the Dodgers are gone at the hands of the Nats, the Astros had to go to the 5th game to finally knock out the Rays, and the Yanks swatted the Twins like a familiar fly in a 3 game sweep.

Folks will say the winner of the ALCS will be the Champions of the World, but what seems true on paper rarely makes it to the field. Both teams need to stay focused on each game and one challenge at a time.

Hitting

The Astros are a Jekyl and Hyde team. At times they are a juggernaut and other times they seem like a meek shadow of themselves. They led the majors in the classic stats like BA, OBP and OPS and were lowest in Ks, but the Yanks scored a fraction more runs per game. The Yanks rode a record HR year this year to that run total. Both of these teams have tremendous depth in their lineups and when they do get on a roll they are a scary opponent. You could easily fill out an All Star team from these two lineups – Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Michael Brantley, Yordan Alvarez, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, D.J. LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres.

Advantage: Push

Starting Pitching

The Astros have the two best pitchers in baseball in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and questions beyond. Zack Greinke looked very vulnerable in his only playoff start, Wade Miley looks like road kill, and Jose Urquidy has only started a handful of games and no playoff starts.

On the Yankee’s side one of their best pitchers Domingo German is suspended for domestic abuse charges. James Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka lead a revised rotation with J.A. Happ backing them up.

The depth of both rotations are suspect, while the top of the rotations definitely favors the Astros.

Advantage: Astros

Bullpens

The Yanks have a super top trio of Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton. The Astros bullpen is a bit shakier. Roberto Osuna can drop a bomb as well as put up a 1-2-3. Ryan Pressly is just back from injury and no sure thing. Will Harris may be the most dependable arm in the ‘pen.

Advantage: Yanks

The series may ride on the Astros home field advantage.

Totally Biased Prediction – Astros in 7 thrilling games.

Now it gets hard for Astros

Coming into the playoffs Astro fans had concerns about the back end of the starting rotation, the offense’s inability to hit with RISP and some concerns about pieces of the bullpen.

Well, the starting rotation concerns have moved up to include #3 starter Zack Greinke, the offense has disappeared the last two games, but the bullpen has been good except for a few problems in a lost cause Game 3 against the taxi tough Tampa Bay Rays

The Astros have not had a must win game this season. That changes Friday. We can all have concerns about how continued problems will be addressed in a potential ALCS matchup with the Yankees. Forget it. All that matters is that the Astros figure out how to play like the team that won the most regular season games in the MLB this year in Friday’s game.  If they don’t do that – then it will be time to lament the past and to look into the far future of the 2020 season.

So….

– Will the Astros take care of business in Game 5 against the Rays?

– If they get past the Rays, do you believe that the problems with Justin Verlander and Greinke in the last two games can be chalked up to too little time between starts and too much time between starts respectively?

– Is there anything the Astros can do to jumpstart this offense? Pick the lineup order out of a hat? Strap their arms down so they can only swing 75%?

– Can you forgive the mistakes of Hinch and his coaches in the last couple days? Do you trust them going forward?

– If they get past the Rays are they too flawed to get past the Yanks? Will they be better off in a 7 game than a 5 game series?

 

 

Observations on an Astros’ 2-0 lead in the ALDS

Talk about your small sample sizes. Here are some observations after two whole games, both wins (6-2, 3-1) by the home team Houston Astros.

  • Only an engineer would notice this, but based on the numerical progression, the Astros should win the third game 1-1/2 to 1/2 a run…..
  • The Astros’ pair of aces outdueled two very good Tampa Bay Rays starters. How do you compare Gerrit Cole’s totally dominant outing (7.2 IP, 0 runs, 4 hits, 15 Ks, 1 BB) to Justin Verlander’s totally dominant outing (7.0 IP, 0 runs, 1 hit, 8 Ks, 3 BBs)? Tyler Glasnow (4.1 IP, 2 ERs) and Blake Snell (3.1 IP, 1 ERs) were both solid with some great stuff, but recent injuries meant the Rays had to go to the bullpen early for both.
  • If Verlander/Cole continue their domination all the way to a World Series title, who is going to care if Jim Crane has to pay a bit of luxury tax in re-signing Cole? https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2019/10/astros-rumors-luxury-tax-gerrit-cole.html    Yes, the Astros may not want to sign Cole to a 6 or 7 year contract based on their previous history of avoiding long term commitments to pitchers. But if they were going to make that step would Cole be the one to earn that honor?
  • The Astros’ fielders have not committed an error, while the Rays have made two big errors that bit them in the butt. In the fifth inning of the first game, Brandon Lowe missed a two out pop-up that moved the needle from 2-0 to 4-0 and really put the Rays in catch-up mode.  In the 7th inning of the 2nd game, SS Willy Adames made a throwing error on Yuli Gurriel’s ground ball. He came around for what ended up being the winning run on Martin Maldonado’s single later in the inning.
  •  After a single and three Ks in the first game, Carlos Correa proved to be a valuable 7th place hitter (who would have believed that statement two years ago) as his double set up Gurriel to score the second run and his two out single in the eighth brought in the third and final run.
  • In the off-season, non-tendering Will Harris who was going to get a fair raise in arbitration after a middling 2018 was a consideration. At least a consideration for some of us fans (and I may have been one of those some), but the Astros settled on a $4.2 million salary with Harris and he has rewarded them with a top season out of the bullpen (4-1, 4 saves, 1.50 ERA, 60 IPs). He has turned in two critical firemen performances coming in to put out a fire started by Ryan Pressly in the 8th inning of game one and even more critically coming into a 3-1 second game with the bases loaded and 1 out (fire courtesy of Roberto Osuna) and getting out unscathed.
  • George Springer is 0 for 8 and a walk in the first two games. After the 2017 playoffs, I’m willing to wait for George to go nuts in the 2019 version.
  • It was just not a surprise to see Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman get the team off the scheid in each game with a home run.
  • How much do we blame Robeto Osuna for his 9th inning meltdown? He pitched great in game one. In game 2, he got out of an 8th inning jam left to him by Cole and then had to sit waiting through a very long bottom of the 8th inning. He then almost spit the bit in the 9th inning before being rescues by Harris.  Playoff jitters and meltdowns ended up causing the Astros to sit down Ken Giles two seasons ago. We witnessed top notch relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen hiccup under the pressure of close and tight in the playoffs. A.J. Hinch will need all his relievers in these playoffs and he is not likely to switch out closers after one scary outing. Now if Osuna has a second scary outings…..
  • It would certainly behoove the Astros to win this ALDS in Tampa in the next game (or at worst) two. Their best case scenario will be to head into the ALCS with Verlander and Cole in the first two games. If they go to a 5th game, then Verlander is used up until the 3rd game of the ALCS if the Astros do win the ALDS.

The Astros are a better team than the Rays, but they go to Tampa knowing that Charlie Morton is a heck of an opponent in the third game and having to put faith in either Jose Urquidy or Wade Miley (or both) in the fourth game. Again the Rays were a 96 win team in the regular season playing in a very tough division. The Astros need to play their best and hope that their offense revs it up and makes their pitcher’s lives easier.

How do you see the rest of this series playing out?

 

Astros and Rays: A look ahead at the ALDS

The Division Series are always uncomfortable affairs for the favored teams. They are only best 3 out of 5 series and that means things like momentum, luck and even umpiring crews can have an effect on the final outcome. The Division Series for the top team in the league has all that, plus the fact that the team they are playing has some emotional momentum as they have just won a life or death play-in Wild Card game. It is true that the top team in the league like the Astros in 2019 has certain things to its advantage, such as playing at home, being fully rested and the big advantage of not having used up their best starter in the WC game.

In 2018, neither league’s wild card teams advanced beyond the Division Series, but as recently as 2017, the Yankees took out the Indians and came oh so close to taking out the Astros.   In 2016, the Blue Jays beat the Rangers in the ALDS.

Note: The Rangers in their last hurrah for the time being led the AL with 95 wins. This season, 95 wins would have meant staying home in the AL at playoff time. 

Back in 2015, the Cubbies took out the Cards and in the high point of the WC era in 2014, the 88 win Giants met and beat the 89 win Royals in a World Series matchup of Wild Card teams.

So, the Astros ready themselves for a Friday encounter with the Tampa Bay Rays, who went to Oakland and behind a struggling but successful Charlie Morton strangled the A’s and their drummer 5-1.

Here are some general facts about the Rays:

  • At Tropicana Field they were 15th out of 15 in home attendance in the AL with 1.1 million customers
  • Their regular season record was 96-6 and their 93-69 Pythagorean record meant they were a bit lucky to win that many
  • They came in 2nd in the AL East to the Yanks
  • They were a symmetrical 48-33 at home and 48-33 on the road
  • They were 23-16 in one-run games and 11-8 in extra inning affairs
  • They played very well down the stretch as they went 17-8 in September outscoring the opposition 127-98
  • They somehow turned in a 17-10 record in August despite being outscored 130-129
  • They were 4-3 against the Astros – going 3-1 at home in the first four games of the season and then 1-2 on the road in August at Minute Maid
  • If Rays Manager Kevin Cash seems familiar, he had a short stay with the Astros as a backup catcher in 2010

Some facts on the Astros:

  • They were 4th in the AL with attendance of 2.8 million
  • They were 107-55 in both their record and their Pythagorean record
  • They came in 1st in the AL West with the best record in baseball
  • They were much better at home (60-21) than they were on the road (47-34) though their road record was only 1 game behind the Rays
  • They were 24-19 in one run games and 10-4 in extra inning affairs
  • They were consistently good all year and flourished in August (19-9) and September (19-6)
  • Manager A.J. Hinch and Rays Manager Kevin Cash are good friends. Backup catchers stick together.

Comparing offenses

  • The Astros put up a baseball leading slash of .274 BA/ .352 OBP/ .848 OPS
  • The Rays were 6th in AL in each of those categories at .254 BA/ .325 OBP/ .757 OPS
  • The Astros lead the Rays in most of the traditional offensive categories (920 to 769 runs), (323 to 291 doubles), (288 to 217 HRs), (645 to 542 BBs) and only (1166 Ks to 1493 Ks). The Astros have grounded in to 146 double plays to only 114 for the Rays this season.
  • Young DH Austin Meadows leads the Rays in almost every category – .291/.364/.922 slash with 83 runs scored, 33 HRs and 89 RBIs. Star of the Wild Card game 3B Yandy Diaz (53 runs, 14 HRs, 38 RBIs in 79 games), 2B Brandon Lowe (42 runs, 17 HRs, 51 RBIs in 82 games) and C/1B Travis D’Arnaud (52 runs, 16 HRs, 69 RBIs in 92 games) all would have had more stellar numbers with a full season of games.
  • The depth of the Astros talent is unmatched in the majors with Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa (when healthy) all playing All-Star quality ball.

On paper the Astros have a far superior offense to the Rays. But in the last 8 games they played at Tropicana Field they have averaged exactly 2 runs/game and have gone 2-6. That needs to change.

Comparing pitching

The Astros and Rays are very closely matched with their pitching even though they use their staffs in very different ways.

  • The Astros starters have a fine 3.61 ERA with 907.1 IP
  • The Rays starters have a near equal 3.64 ERA with only 702.1 IPs pitched. This is because the Rays are one of the teams leading the charge with “openers”. They will start games with a reliever for an inning or two in some of their games and then will shift over to a different pitcher for a chunk of the middle game.
  • The Astro relievers have a good 3.75 ERA with 47 saves in 555 games.
  • The Rays bullpen picks up a bigger chunk of the games. They have a similar 3.71 ERA with 46 saves in 772 IPs.

There are a number of keys in looking at this series from a pitching point of view:

  • The Astros top 2 starters Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have both been Cy Young excellent this year. Verlander against the Rays has a 10-4 record with a 3.17 ERA in his career, but an even better 2-0 record with a 0.73 ERA in 2019. Cole has pitched well, but is 0-2 with a 3.51 ERA in his career and 0-1 and a 3.55 ERA in 2019.
  • The Rays will send out two very good pitchers, who are both barely back from injuries heading into this series. Tyler Glasnow missed 4 months of the season, but has only given up 2 runs in 12.1 runs since returning. However he has not pitched more than 4.1 innings since his return. Reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell missed two months and has not pitched more than 2.1 IP in his 3 starts since returning.
  • Third game starter Charlie Morton won at home against the Astros and was blown up at Minute Maid Park in August. Zack Greinke has career numbers of 4-6 and 3.36 ERA against the Rays, but arguably his worst start since coming to Houston was his 5 runs in 5 innings start in late August against Tampa Bay.
  • Who will start in a 4th game if necessary is a question for both teams. Will the Astros try to milk a good game out of veteran Wade Miley or go with young Jose Urquidy? Do the Rays roll out Yonny Chirinos, who mesmerized the Astros in one start (but who also has had limited innings since returning from an injury) or do they use a reliever, which has thrown the Astros off-stride previously.
  • Rays closer Emilio Pagan is probably a tad better than the Astros Roberto Osuna. The rest of each bullpen is a mixture of guys that can be normally trusted (Oliver Drake, Nick Anderson for the Rays/Ryan Pressly, Will Harris for the Astros) plus other relievers who may or may not perform in any particular game. Perhaps a jump out performance by a Bryan Abreu or Josh James might be the difference in a series like this.

The pitching is a bit of a coin flip though the Astros have the advantage of using Verlander in the first game and in the fifth game if required.

Managing

Kevin Cash has done a solid job with this team. Hinch has led his team all the way two seasons ago. Advantage Hinch.

Overall

The bottom line is that the Astros will be and should be favored in this series, but they need to come out and grab this series by the throat and not give a very good Rays team a chance to breathe. The Astros played under pressure down the stretch to pull ahead and earn the overall home field advantage through out the playoffs. However, the Rays have been playing for their playoff lives trying to hold off the Indians for the last Wild Card spot and in beating the A’s on the road in a win or go home face-off. The Astros have to take an advantage on paper and put it out there on the field.

Prediction: Astros in four very tough games.

Thoughts and observations on the Astros

This period between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs is rather strange. It reminds one of the All Star break. Everyone is flying forward at full speed, pauses for a few days and then hits the ground running again. This pause and a little research has resulted in today’s post.

Here are some thoughts and observations about our Astros:

  • Does anything better show the distance this team has traveled more than this? In the last three years the team has won 311 games. In the FIVE years (2010-2014) they won only 308 games.
  • A part of “ancient” history former Astro Matt Dominguez, who hasn’t played for the Astros in 5 seasons and nowhere else in 2 seasons is only 3 weeks older than George Springer.
  • The 2012 Astros were led in runs by Jose Altuve with 80 runs, Justin Maxwell was second with 46 runs. The 2019 Astros have five guys with more runs than Altuve (including Jose) and 9 players with as many or more than Maxwell. Alex Bregman led the team with 122 runs scored.
  • The 2012 Astros were led in HRs by Maxwell with 18. This year’s version of the team has seven players with more than that, led by Bregman’s 41 dingers.
  • The 2012 Astros were led in RBIs by J.D. Martinez with 55. 2019??? Nine players have more than 55 RBIs this year, led by…..Bregman again with 112.
  • Nothing is ever a sure thing in the playoffs. The Brewers thought they had the Nats just where they wanted them, up 2 runs with former Astro farm hand Josh Hader (37 of 44 on saves this season) on the mound to close. The Nats get 3 runs (2 earned) off Hader and the Brewers head home.
  • The playoffs are such small sample sets that slumps and streaks get magnified beyond the norm. In 2017, George Springer is almost useless against the Yankees and then in a 4 K first game against the Dodgers and then goes on a tear to win WS MVP. Marwin Gonzalez goes 11 for 61 (.180 BA) in the three playoff series in 2017, but hits the most impactful HR in Astros history in giving the team new life in the Game 2 classic win against the Dodgers.
  • Do I believe in jinxes? Maybe. I had to cringe a little when one of the local sports talk guys pointed out that Gerrit Cole had not lost in his last 22 starts – going 16-0 and the team going 20-2 in those starts.
  • Does it matter who the Astros play in the playoffs? Maybe statistically it does make a difference, that some of the teams are worse matchups than others, but in the end they have to take out three very good to excellent teams. There is no really easy path at this point.
  • It is a little nutty that something like five playoff roster spots may still be up in the air two days before the Astros start the ALDS. https://chipalatta.com/2019/09/30/astros-alds-roster-some-tough-choices/                   In truth it is likely that the team has one roster ready to go to face the A’s and another ready to go to face the Rays. Or they may have two versions of each – one with and one without Carlos Correa for both opponents. But it is not likely that the powers that be will be flipping coins over this on game day.
  • Alex Bregman with a .296 BA/.423 OBP/1.015 OPS slash and 122 runs/41 HRs/112 RBIs in 156 games will likely be 1st or 2nd in the AL MVP race vs. Mike Trout. If you factored George Springer’s numbers from his 122 games played to 156 games – he would be sitting at .292 BA/ .383 OBP/ .974 OPS with 123 runs/ 50 HRs/123 RBIs. That might have submarined any chance Bregman had of winning the MVP as there would be real debate on who was the MVP for the team.

So, any thoughts today as we await the Astros opponent and the Astros’ playoff roster for the ALDS?

Astros ALDS roster: Some tough decisions

The marathon of a baseball season is over with the Astros setting a team record with 107 wins, which also happens to be more than any other team in the MLB. The marathon began 6 months ago last Saturday and now begins with a series (hopefully) of three mad dashes to the World Series trophy.

If the Astros are lucky enough to win the first two series, they will set their playoff roster three times. The first roster will be utilized for the best 3 out of 5 game AL Divisional Series which begins this Friday at Minute Maid Park. The Astros will lock themselves into a 25-man roster made up of active players on their 40 man roster. This would seem to be a fairly straight forward process, but is complicated by the following.

  • The teams will travel after the second game and after the fourth game, which means that the teams do not need to use more than four starters during the series. Additionally, it means that there is less chance of wearing out the bullpens, since they will not be asked to pitch on three consecutive days, so theoretically there could be smaller bullpens in use.
  • The Astros are currently up in the air (publicly) about who their fourth starter is. Will it be veteran Wade Miley, who was brilliant in last year’s playoffs for the Brewers, posting a 1.23 ERA in four starts and was terrific through the Astros first five months of this season (13-4 / 3.06 ERA)? Miley has collapsed since that time. Or will they go with youngster Jose Urquidy, who was 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in September, including two fine starts? There is a good chance that if Miley is named the fourth starter that Urquidy will still be on the 25-man roster in the bullpen, but if Urquidy is named the fourth starter there is a better chance that Miley will be a spectator.
  • Will Carlos Correa be healthy enough to be put on the 25-man roster? This is a mystery at the moment. He sounds confident he will be ready, while Jeff Luhnow sounds like he is from Missouri. Will CC show enough in the next few days to earn that critical spot? If not it is likely going to help someone like Abraham Toro to make it onto the 25-man roster.
  • Does it make a difference whether the Astros play the Oakland A’s or the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS? The A’s score about a 1/2 run more per game than the Rays, while the Rays pitching is about 0.2 runs better per game. Would this cause them to put on an extra pitcher or positional player depending on the matchup? Who knows what stats are rattling around the nerd’s computers? Is there someone who is poison to or poisoned by either of those teams? We shall see.

The best way to look at this is to state which players are locks to be on the 25-man. The assumption here is that Correa will be on this list.

Locks

  1. Robinson Chirinos
  2. Yuli Gurriel
  3. Jose Altuve
  4. Carlos Correa
  5. Alex Bregman
  6. Josh Reddick
  7. George Springer
  8. Michael Brantley
  9. Yordan Alvarez
  10. Martin Maldonado
  11. Aledmys Diaz
  12. Justin Verlander
  13. Gerrit Cole
  14. Zack Greinke
  15.  Roberto Osuna
  16. Ryan Pressly
  17. Will Harris
  18. Joe Smith
  19. Brad Peacock (if he is truly healthy)
  20. Hector Rondon

The balance of the other five spots come down to this. There will be one more starter. There will be one or two more relievers. And there will be two or three positional subs with one being a fourth OF, one being an IF (or swing man) and one other if needed could be either an OF or IF.

What Dan thinks at this time for the other 5 spots

  1. Jose Urquidy – fourth starter
  2. Josh James
  3. Kyle Tucker
  4. Myles Straw
  5. Jake Marisnick

This means that – Wade Miley, Bryan Abreu, Chris Devenski, Joe Biagini, Framber Valdez (and of course Collin McHugh) do not make it from the pitching side. Abraham Toro, Garrett Stubbs and Jack Mayfield miss out for the position players.

If the Astros go with one more pitcher, I think it is Abreu and frankly would not be shocked if he made it on the 25 man any ways. Tucker has hit well in his second time up with the club and has done a good job fielding, too. Straw is this team’s faster version of Derek Fisher but with the ability to play the infield and the outfield. And they believe that Jake brings them a lot of value as a late inning defensive sub and pinch runner.

I know there may be some questions about Rondon, but remember he pitched pretty darned well in his 62 appearances this season, especially if you throw away the ill-fated 6 run appearance as a “starter”. Do that and his 3.71 ERA drops to 2.82 on the season.

But this is what I think. Let me know how you see this turning out and how dumb you think my list is.

Astros playoffs: 3 reasons to worry or not

Fans are humans (we will ignore Oakland fans at this point). Humans by nature are pessimistic. Therefore, as any logic professor will tell you, fans are pessimistic. So, this post is a public service for those who worry deeply about our local 9 (or local 25).

Reason #1 to Worry. The Astros are heading into the playoffs with a giant question mark like the Bat signal hovering over their heads – who will be the #4 starter? A few things have changed since this article came out…..

https://chipalatta.com/2019/09/12/astros-in-search-of-the-fourth-starter/

…..as Wade Miley may have pitched himself off the playoff roster. You can’t have a fourth starter who is as likely to pitch 1 inning or less as he is to pitch 5 innings or longer and that is what he has become. Jose Urquidy has certainly pitched better and mostly longer than Miley and his 6 shutout innings on Friday night will be the last thing that is in the manager’s and front office’s memory as they set the playoff rosters.  The Astros needed a #4 starter to win the 2017 WS and the question is in 2019 do they trust the guy who was great for 5 months and putrid for one or the guy who is a lot less experienced, but has gotten better every start out there?

Reason #1 to Not Worry. With Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke the team can afford a 4th starter who is not optimum. The twin Cy Young runs of Verlander and Cole ……

https://chipalatta.com/2019/09/21/verlander-cole-when-a-tie-is-not-like-kissing-your-sister/

….. mask the fact that Greinke is a half step behind them. Combined his D’Backs and Astro numbers are 18-5, 2.93 ERA, 208.2 IP, 0.982 WHIP and you have one of the best pitchers in all of baseball backing up the two best pitchers in baseball.

Reason #2 to Worry. The Astros offense gets a case of the “sputters” way too often. They are 26th in the majors (5th most) in leaving 3.55 runners in scoring position per game. They get tons of runners on base with their .353 OBP leading all of baseball, but are not very efficient with runners in scoring position.

Reason #2 Not to Worry. Quantity over quality. The Astros are leading the majors in BA (..274), OBP (.352), SLG (.494) and OPS (.847). They have dragged themselves up to #3 in the AL in runs scored (906) behind only the Yanks and Twins after languishing down around 5th or 6th for a chunk of the season. Nobody wants to face their full (real) lineup. Nobody.

Reason #3 to Worry. Are the Astros “ready” to play the best teams in baseball right now? In their last 25 games they’ve only played two teams with winning records – splitting two with the Milwaukee Brewers and getting whacked 3 out of 4 by the Oakland A’s (who they may have to play in the ALDS). They are 50 games over .500, but 17 of those 50 games over came at the expense of the Seattle Mariners only. They are 33-6 against the five last place teams they have played this season.

Reason #3 Not to Worry. The Astros have had a few hiccups along the way, including three one run losses in a row to the Reds on the road and losing six of their last eight games with Oakland after beating them 9 of their first 11 meetings. But overall they have been a consistently successful team winning more than they lost each month (17-9 in April, 20-8 in May, 15-12 in June, 16-8 in July, 19-9 in August and 17-6 so far in September. With their rotation, their lineup and with a bullpen that is performing well down the stretch they will be a handful for any team they face.

It is ok to worry about your team, but it is a lot more fun to sit back and enjoy them.