2015 Houston Astros: What’s Not To Like

Some time-warped years ago, the 1888 Houston Babies defeated the 2005 Houston Astros in an unforgettable computer sim series. But now, in 2015, the Astros again are in the hunt for the real thing.

Some time-warped years ago, the 1888 Houston Babies defeated the 2005 Houston Astros in an unforgettable 7-game computer simulation series. Now, in 2015, the Astros again are in the hunt for the real thing.

The 2015 Houston Astros are a good team, an exciting team, and sometimes a streaky fun-to-boring team. They can string together spells in which they rally to win three of four games at home with a walk-off heroic hit – and then go on the road and forget to pack the same whole bats they used to fare so well in Houston on foreign soil.

That’s the way this just completed six-game series on the road against the Yankees and Twins started. After sleep-walking their way to a 1-0 loss in New York, then came back to take the series in the Bronx by winning games two and three. Then they went Minnesota and took a L-W-L path to a 3-3 .500 record during one of those rare 2015 season times they managed to avoid a losing road trip record.

Yesterday’s final game loss to the Twins punched some buttons on the way I’ve become conditioned to lower or raise my hopes for victory, based upon how the game starts and proceeds to play out over the full nine. The first throttle on hope was the starting pitcher match – the wiley veteran Ervin Santana versus Lance McCullers, our talented rookie with control issues. When McCullers shaky start handed the Twins an early 1-0 lead in the first, the Astros just seemed to slump early into their swing and sit routine – or their “hit ’em where they are”  mode, going into a virtual surrender position late. By the end of the 7th, Minnesota’s 7-0 lead looked pretty much insurmountable.

As it turns out, it was, but not before the Astros started playing like our “home boy hopefuls” by pushing across 5 runs in the top of the ninth to make for a 7-5 final score on a game that was never that close.

This season has been fun – and the Pecan Park Eagle has not given up on the Astros in 2015 – but we already have begun to stockpile our rationale for why this season may be more of a positioning statement year that is quickly followed by the post-season Luhnow Brain Trust assessment this coming off-season on what needs to happen to really put the club over the top in 2016. – And that’s a process that is going to happen, anyway – even if we manage to win it all this year.

What’s not to like – about our current club? And I don’t mean that in an unappreciative way for what the Astros have done this year. – I love the fruits that are beginning to bloom from the long-range Luhnow plan. – I love the free agency and trade  acquisitions of talent like Gregerson, Harris, Gattis, and Rasmus, to mention a few, that have pulled tomorrow’s hope into today’s near reach – and I am now a big, big fan of A.J. Hinch and the way he runs this club. And their spirited support of each other is so far above the dull dailiness of a flat-lined-of-joy team like the Yankees. – And when the Astros do win one of their last at bat walk offs, they do it with all the enthusiasm of Caribbean pirates taking over another galleon from Spain. – Can’t you see a smiling Evan Gattis boarding the side of a vanquished gold ship, sword in hand, motioning joyously to his “mateys” to join him in the looting?

So, what do we need, in no particular scientific order? I will address what I see, except for pitching. We really want your comment on everything, but especially on pitching. – Do we really need more than health and continuing improvement at a high level. Should we keep Scott Kazmir? – Can we keep Scott Kazmir?

My things:

(1) We need Springer, Correa, and Altuve to stay healthy and to keep on trucking.

(2) We need Castro to get well from his injury and to make a decision on whether his mostly missing offense is going to be good enough to justify leaving him in that spot because of his game handling defensive skills?

(3) We need first and third basemen who can both hit and field their positions. We do not need another season of experimenting with guys at those spots who either hit homers or strikeout – and then go sit down in the dugout on their .180 batting averages. Can you imagine how many more games the Astros might have won this year with two corner infielders who could also get on base well enough to start or keep a rally going?

(4) Unless we see a rally in the batting skills of Carlos Gomez in September, we will end the season with four guys who can play center field well defensively, but only one, George Springer, seems to have a big upside as a potential hitter for both power and average. And what do we do with Rasmus and Marisnick?

(5) Here some select stats on our current 13-member pitching staff. I’m not really sure who the firm 5th starter is – or if we are basically carrying a floater option to start whomever manager Hinch wants in the last spot.

CURRENT ASTROS PITCHING STAFF, MORNING OF MONDAY, AUGUST 31, 2015

STARTERS R/L W   L   ERA   SV   SO
                     
Dallas Keuchel L 15 6 2.28 0 165
Colin McHugh R 14 7 3.92 0 136
Scott Kazmir L 7 9 2.45 0 137
Mike Fiers R 7 9 3.54 0 151
Lance McCullers R 5 5 3.21 0 93
Scott Feldman R 5 5 3.75 0 59
RELIEVERS R/L W   L   ERA   SV   SO
                     
Will Harris R 5 2 1.42 1 57
Chad Qualls R 1 4 4.07 4 38
Pat Neshek R 3 1 3.04 1 47
Tony Sipp L 2 4 2.14 0 50
Vincent Velasquez R 1 1 3.57 0 47
Oliver Perez L 2 2 3.55 0 42
Luke Gregerson R 7 2 2.82 25 47

What do you think? Detached from the emotion that now floods all of us after years of being out of it in May, we’ve got a Houston club in first place in the AL West, but sporting only a fragile 3-game lead over the Texas Rangers.

Can the Astros hold off their North Texas rivals? – We have 7 games left to play against those guys – 4 in Arlington  and 3 in MMP.

I’d feel a whole better if the Astros could go into those 7 games against the Rangers with an 8-game lead, but that’s not likely to happen. We simply are going to have to take it through the Rangers, if we are going to win this year. We cannot expect the Astros to dodge the bullet in the hope that the other clubs are going to take the Rangers out for us.

Let’s hear from you. We are about to get into a pennant race around here that hasn’t happened quite like this one since 2005. – And we all remember what happened – and didn’t happen that year.

And don’t forget the emotion-free question about the future. Is this “next year” – or is this the year the Astros get primed for “next year”?

______________________________

eagle

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