Once around the rotation with the Astros

Yes, Dallas Keuchel did not pitch as well as his compadres in the Astros 2018 five-man rotation. But it was not like his outing was some unmitigated disaster. It is just that in comparison to four very strong outings by the others, his was middle of the road and came on the day his teammates decided to treat Doug Fister like he was Justin Verlander or Lance McCullers or Gerrit Cole or Charlie Morton….

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Astros’ division rival: 2018 Oakland A’s

After our detour to look at the home team, we return for another look at the Astros divisional rivals heading into the 2018 season. Today we look at the Oakland A’s

2017 A’s

  • 75-87 Record (73-89 Pythagorean) – 5th Place in the AL West; 26 GB of Astros in AL West; 10 GB of Twins for 2nd Wild Card
  • Offense – .246 BA (11th in AL) / .319 OBP (9th) / .755 OPS (5th) / 739 Runs (9th) / 234 HRs (4th) / 57 SBs (13th)
  • Starting Pitching – 4.74 ERA (11th) / 1.38 WHIP (9th) / .268 BA against (10th) / .774 OPSA (7th) / 129 HR (4th least) / 298 BB (9th most) / 675 K (14th)
  • Relief Pitching – 4.57 ERA (13th) / 1.32 WHIP (9th) / 58.3% save % (13th) / .250 BAA (10th) / .752 OPSA (12th) / 81 HR (5th most) / 204 BB (10th most) / 527 k (8th)

Summary of 2017

The A’s played below Money Ball in 2017, showing a below average offense, starting pitching and a bad bullpen. And that is how you end up in last place in the AL West. The A’s made a lot of moves in the off-season, but have also been walking in bad luck as both SP Jharel Cotton and top prospect SP A.J. Puk are out for the season and Paul Blackburn who was good in 10 starts last season is out for the time being.

2018 A’s Offense

The A’s scored the 9th most runs in the AL, while having the 5th highest OPS, which would indicate they may have left some runs on the table. What could help them or hurt them in 2018?

  • The A’s took a one year flyer on C Jonathan Lucroy, who was one of the best offensive C’s in the game before a poor 2017 knocked the snot out of his value. The A’s would love for Lucroy to get back to his 2016 All Star heights (24 HR / 82 RBIs / .292 BA / .855 OPS)
  • 1B Matt Olson gave the A’s 24 HRs and 45 RBIs in only 59 games, which is a 66 HRs, 124 RBIs pace over 162 games. If he can get anywhere near that he will be a major weapon in their lineup.
  • To a lesser extent, young 3B Matt Chapman had 14 HRs and 40 RBIs in 84 games and with a little uplift in his game could be a 30 HR 90 RBI guy. And they hope that SS Marcus Semien continues to develop as he had a solid 14 HR and 40 RBIs in 84 games.
  • The A’s picked up RF Stephen Piscotty from the Cards. He was very good in his first 1-1/2 seasons (2015 and 2016) and slumped in 2017 with his mother battling ALS. Since she lives in Northern California, this is a match that could work out well for both Piscotty and the A’s.
  • They hope that Khris Davis (43 HRs / 100 RBIs) continues his power display as he moves from the OF to mostly a DH spot.
  • Former Astro Jed Lowrie was able to stay on the field for 153 games and as usual was very productive as a 2B for the A’s (.277/.360/.808 slash).

Starting Rotation

The starting rotation will be a bit different in 2018, but not necessarily better. Their best pitcher, Sonny Gray is gone and they will be without Cotton, who was not good in 2017.

  • The A’s would like both Kendall Graveman (6-4 and 4.19 ERA) and Sean Manaea (12-10 and 4.37 ERA) to make the next step in their development and move towards TOR status.
  • Similarly, Andrew Triggs was 5-6 with a 4.27 ERA in 12 starts and will get a shot at taking it to another level.
  • Daniel Gossett was pure bad in 2017 (4-11, 6.11 ERA, 1.609 WHIP). They need him to move to mediocre in 2018.
  • Former Astro Daniel Mengden was good in a small 43 inning sample last season and could earn a permanent spot in this rotation pretty easily.

Relief Pitching

The A’s biggest bullpen move may have been picking up closer Blake Treinen at the trade deadline from the Nats, because they had real troubles closing games in early 2017. In the off-season they added Emilio Pagan, Yusmeiro Petit and Ryan Butcher to a struggling bullpen.

  • Treinen was excellent after the trade, converting his last 12 save opportunities and posting a 2.13 ERA in 35 appearances.
  • Emilo Pagan had a solid rookie season in Seattle (3.22 ERA and 10 K/ 9IP in 34 games) before being traded to the A’s for DH Ryon Healy.
  • Yusmiero Petit signed as a FA, had the best season of his career last season with the Angels (5-2, 2.76 ERA in 91 innings) and could give this pen a big shot in the arm.
  • Ryan Butcher obtained in a trade with the Royals, had a fine 2017 between the Royals and the Padres (4-3 and 2.89 ERA in 71 games) and would be an improvement for the A’s.

Predictions for the 2018 A’s

The A’s seemed to have improved their bullpen and their offense was on an upward arc with young folks giving them a second half injection. It is a little hard to understand why they did not attempt to bring in some discount starting pitching assistance. In the end they will go as far as their stating rotation will carry them.

2018 Prediction – 82-80 and 3rd place in the AL West

Altuve signing a prime step on a five-year run

The “D” word was used in the previous post (by me) in talking about the Astros’ future chances at building a dynasty. In truth, it is nearly impossible to evaluate a team’s chances beyond a few years. But just for jollies, let’s look at what might be involved in a 5 year run of championship contention for this Astros’ team, a run that would take them from the 2017 through the 2021 season. What types of challenges will be involved in that time period?

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Chipalatta: Survey of Astros’ fans

We are quickly drawing near to the beginning of the “next” season after the shortest off-season in Houston Astro history. It is a good time to step back and check the pulse of the ordinary Houston Astro fan. Or as ordinary as any of the wild variety of folks who are part of this particular blog can be.

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