Three Houston Astros Things I’m Thankful For
As we spend Thanksgiving full and with our loved ones, I wanted to reflect on aspects of the Astros’ season that I am particularly thankful for. While we are certainly all thankful for the Astros’ unprecedented 2015 as a whole, I wanted to highlight a few events and people that were particularly important and meaningful.
1. BRENT STROM:
Where would the 2015 Houston Astros be without their pitching staff? Obviously, many trainers, coaches, front office members, and players are all to thank for the Astros’ pitching successes, but one man, in particular, made a profound impact.
This year was Strom’s second year with the Astros, and the results have been excellent. In 2014, the Astros’ bullpen combined for a 0.2 WAR that ranked 27th in the league. However, in 2015, the bullpen’s 5.3 WAR was good enough to be tied for second with the Yankees with only the Orioles ahead of them.
Brent Strom was crucial in accelerating the Astros’ rebuilding. His expertise in pitch tunneling and framing helped Astros pitchers identify their most effective sources of supremacy.
His role in Dallas Keuchel’s Cy Young award could certainly be his biggest accomplishment of 2015, but he has immensely improved the pitching staff as a whole. He turned Collin McHugh from a two-time waiver claim into a staple of the Astros rotation. He developed Lance McCullers and guided the 22-year-old to fantastic success after making the leap from Double A. He undoubtedly had a hand in Mike Fiers’s no-hitter, and he helped propel Tony Sipp, Will Harris, and Pat Neshek to new heights.
2. JED LOWRIE’S PINCH-HIT HOMERUN:
On September 13th, Jed Lowrie hit a pinch-hit, three-run home run off of Huston Street that sealed a 5-3 Astros comeback win. At the time, it was a thrilling and improbable win at a time when it felt like the Astros could not get anything going offensively.
Lowrie was traded yesterday, but it is important to pause for a second and reflect on this moment in the context of the full season.
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The Astros had lost 7 of their last 10 dating back to September 1st and lost two of the three in Anaheim. The Angels were heating up, and the Astros were losing their grip on the AL West. After a stagnant first two games, the Astros found themselves down 3-0 through 8.2 innings. The Astros’ astonishing luck in the 9th inning was superbly examined at FanGraphs, but here’s a quick summary. Preston Tucker hit a home run, George Springer hit a triple, Jose Altuve singled in Springer, and Carlos Correa’s ball got stuck in Taylor Featherston’s glove. Lowrie sealed the comeback win with his pinch-hit bomb that barely cleared the right field fence.
Without this win, do the Astros even make the playoffs? After all, a one-game loss in the AL West could have been enough to see the Angels face the Yankees instead. Do they ever bounce back from their brutal September? Either way, Astros fans were reminded how important one of the 162 games could be. Whether it’s a rusty May loss decided by a costly error or one of the nail-biting October battles, one game could be the difference.
We were all reminded of the importance of one game, one at-bat, and one pitch. Amid a sea of intricate playoff scenarios, it was a subtle reminder of one of the beautiful nuances of baseball: every little thing matters.
3. COLBY RASMUS’S POSTSEASON:
Every year, one player seems to exceed all expectations and play out of their mind. Even if it was only for six games, Colby Rasmus was our playoff hero.
Overlooking the Colby Rasmus signing was easy. After all, we had internal options, and it almost seemed as if the low-risk, the decent-upside signing was to soothe casual fans that had grown weary of rebuilding more so than anyone else. It was fairly safe to assume that he would get hot and be traded away to fortify the Astros for 2016 and beyond.
But as the season progressed, Rasmus became a fan favorite, skyrocketed to first place on the Astros Home Run Nickname Power Rankings, and put together a very respectable season. And then October happened. For a week, Rasmus was our Daniel Murphy. His at-bats were electrifying, and he seemed unstoppable.
Rasmus made MLB history by being the first player to accept a qualifying offer. In doing so, Rasmus assured Astros fans that we’d receive not only another season of our beloved Colby Jack but that another chance for October heroics. What-could-have-been’s aside, Rasmus reminded us what it’s like to be enamored with Postseason heroics, to play meaningful baseball in October, and to catch playoff fever once again.