It’s expected for the Astros to only have one All-Star representative again this season. Before the season started, everyone just assumed that would be second baseman Jose Altuve again. While he is certainly deserving, a case could be made for a few guys from the Astros. This week the Climbing Tal’s Hill writers and editors will make our case for five Astros players to take that spot. Yesterday, John Burgess made the case for Jason Castro as the ASG representative. After Greg Thurston argues for his candidate on Friday, we want you, the Hill Climbers, to select your All-Star on our poll.
Bud Norris (Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports)
I have a tough act to follow. That much I concede. Additionally I do not want to take anything away from the year Castro is having. The left handed hitting catcher has played a vital part in every aspect of the Astros’ success this season. But that does not mean the Astros cannot have multiple All-Stars. Additionally, I think Norris deserves some recognition for his efforts.
I also will freely admit that I might have a little bias here. I am a Norris fan and it is nice to see him start to realize his potential and lead the Astros’ staff. Just a few days ago I also made the argument here that the Norris should not be traded.
If you can’t pitch, you are not going to win. The starting pitcher sets the tone for the team and the game. While baseball is ultimately a team game, it is hard to win if you are quickly falling behind every game. It is disheartening for everyone and has a negative impact on both the bats and the gloves.
The first month and a half of the Astros’ season was the perfect example of this. Houston was not winning and their starting pitchers had a collective ERA over six. It was tough to watch to say the least. But over the last month, the starting pitchers have cut the ERA by more than half, the Astros have started winning and they are over .500 at 16-14 (entering play Monday night).
Not to take too much away from my argument, Castro deserves some credit for that without a doubt. But Norris is also largely responsible for the success of the staff as he is their leader. It all can start from just one pitcher, and Norris has been that guy. Once one pitcher elevates their game, all the others follow. That is what has happened for the Astros in the last month.
Entering his start against the White Sox as the Astros look for the sweep, Norris was sporting a 3.47 ERA and a 3.09 ERA in his last ten starts. While the rest of the Houston staff was struggling early this season, Norris was the one starter who was not. For the most part, he gave the Astros a chance to win each time out. And that is all you can ask for from your starting pitchers.
After the early season struggles, confidence could very easily have vanished for the Astros’ rotation. The ace is supposed to set the tone, and Norris has done that. But the main thing for the right hander, is that he has been consistent.
In his 14 starts so far this season, in only three has Norris given up more than three runs. However, Norris has only gotten stronger as the season has progressed. He has only given up eight runs total in his last five starts and each of those starts have been quality starts.
Despite the low ERA, there have been some struggles for Norris this season. His WHIP currently sits at 1.42. I will concede that his WHIP is on the high side, especially for an All-Star, but it has improved. You can argue that his April 28th start in Fenway Park was the low point of his season and things have only gone up from there.
Although it was technically a quality start for Norris (6 innings and three earned runs) there were also two unearned runs that scored. After that game his ERA was 4.20 and his WHIP sat at 1.63. While those numbers are not exactly All-Star worthy, the rest of his season has been.
In May, Norris had a 3.27 ERA to go with a 1.39 WHIP which he has followed up so far in June with a 2.70 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Statistically that is pretty good and, in my opinion, deserving of a trip to the All-Star game.
If I have to pick one All-Star representative, for me Norris is that guy. His contribution to this team, both on and off and the field, have been very valuable so far this season. As the season is going further, he has only gotten better and is growing into a legitimate ace and top of the rotation pitcher.
But to be truthful, Norris should not be alone at the All-Star game this season. Castro certainly deserves to make the trip to New York in a month with Norris. Jose Altuve also deserves to be in the discussion along with Jose Veras and Jordan Lyles. This is a good problem to have.