As the calendar turns to August the Astros now have only two months remaining as a member of the National League. As we do every month during the season, it’s time to take a look at the state of the Astros. Where the team is now and where they are headed are two completely different stories. The Astros are coming off the worst month in franchise history with a 3-24 July record. The good news is: Jeff Luhnow has traded away all of the overpaid veterans for a busload of hungry youngsters with tons of potential.
We like to get everyone involved in our State of the Team Reports here at CTH, so let’s get things started with our newest staff writer Brandon Wheeland. Brandon gives us his take on the current state of the Astros pitching, starting with the starting rotation and then moving on to the bullpen.
Ignoring a few blowouts, starting pitching overall wasn’t all that bad for the month of July. Ten quality starts were recorded, including four by Bud Norris and two each from Wandy Rodriguez and Lucas Harrell. Only one quality start this month (J.A. Happ) resulted in a win by the Astros.
In the 27 games played in July, starting pitchers were responsible for allowing 104 runs for an average of 3.85 runs per game. However, with the Astros offense only averaging 3.03 runs per game in that span, starters often left the game either tied or trailing. Of all the areas to lay blame in a franchise worst 3-24 month, I put the smallest amount of blame on the starting staff.
Grade for Starting Pitching: C-
A total of eight saves were blown (two in one game) over the course of July. For a team which only won three games, those blown saves were crucial- not for the standings (no longer competing for playoffs) but to the team moral.
Of the 161 runs allowed by the Astros this month 57 of them were credited to the bullpen in 77.2 innings of work. That’s a bullpen ERA of 6.50. Rhiner Cruz allowed 11 runs this month, and has an ERA of 7.71 on the season. Enerio Del Rosario allowed eight runs and three other pitchers allowed five or more runs. Francisco Cordero, acquired from the Blue Jays and subject to possibly being traded to a new team before the July 31 deadline, lead the bullpen in loses with three.
Grade for Bullpen: F
Now it’s Brian’s turn to fill us in on the offense and the defense.
Offense – As most everyone knows, for the past month or so, every time an opposing pitcher throws against the Astros, a no hitter watch is automatically started. Matt Cain threw a perfecto against us and we’ve also been one hit since then. The offense seems to have started getting back to respectability this last week as Jose Altuve and the recently traded Chris Johnson were really the only consistent Astros hitters. Every time JD Martinez seems like he’s going to get his batting average above .250, he gets back in a slump and it goes right back to the 240’s. The offense has truly been pathetic. Hopefully the recent call up of Brett Wallace and maybe some others coupled with Altuve’s recent success and the upcoming return of Jason Castro, will help get the offense back on track.
Grade for Offense: F
Defense – The butcher on defense that is Chris Johnson is gone, therefore his usual error per series, which always ends up plating extra runs due to the inning continuing, is also gone. There have been errors here and there which is normal for most teams. Castro’s DL stint has put a halt to balls constantly getting by him since he isn’t behind the dish. Outside of those two, I can’t think of any other player who has defensive lapses that often.
Grade for Defense: C
Finally, Alex takes a look at the Manager and the General Manager.
I tried, really tried to give Brad at least this season to make me like him but I couldn’t even go two games. Just not the manager for this team and I’m sure the Astros are seeing the same thing. He continues to mis-manage game situations and his handling of the bullpen is odd, that’s being nice. Saying all that, Mills isn’t the reason the Stros’ are this bad. A better manager might have made the Stros bad instead of dreadful but it’s obvious Mills just isn’t the guy for this team. He wasn’t this season or would he be for the immediate future. I actually believe he would do a nice job with a veteran club but just not on this youngster filled club.
Grade for Brad Mills: F-
As badly as Brad Mills has managed the Astros at different portions of the season, Jeff Luhnow has started something pretty nice. He has accelerated the Astros rebuilding plan a great deal. It took gutting the big club but the job got done in an impressive time frame. Now the farm system is complete, it now possesses elite prospects, good prospects and quality depth throughout the system. Combine the recent trades with an exceptional draft and the Astros will soon have significant young players on the doorstep of the big leagues.
Grade for Jeff Luhnow: A-
So there you have it. Things are bad now, but it has to get better. I guess the real question is …when? Things could be rough again next season with the move to the A.L. West, but at least it will be different. Hang in there Astros fans. We’re going to get things turned around.