The Houston Astros are glad that April is over.
The Houston Astros now sit at seven and seventeen for the season, which puts them tied for second to last in baseball with the Twins, who are both behind the rebuilding Braves. While it is understandable why Astros’ fans are freaking out right now, the hometown 25 were supposed to be favorites to be World Series bound in 2016, and we need to take a step back and breathe. Many people tend to point towards the 2005 Astros team that went to the World Series and how they went 15-30 to start the season.
What many people may be surprised that through 24 games in 2005, the Astros were 11-13 following an 11-4 win. Last year, the Houston Astros were 17-7 through the same span but had the reciprocal of that record in 2016 with a 7-17 record. The Astros are not playing great baseball through the first month, but the season is long, and the teams frequently regress or rise to their true potential.
This team has probably a better offense than the 2005 squad, but unfortunately for the pitching staff, the 2016 Astros are not hitting the way they are capable of. The AL West is once again vulnerable, and we can’t let the Rangers or Mariners run away with the division. So, how can the Astros improve in May? There is nowhere else to go but up from here.
Be smarter on the basepaths.
The Astros have made some poor decisions on the base paths recently trying to do too much by pressing. Instead of settling for the single or the double, the runners try to get the extra base. How do you fix this? You can tell a player all day every day what to in particular situations, but with the way the Astros have lost, everyone is trying to win the game single-handily.
Last season, the chemistry of the team was a big reason in the success, but this year, the players are trying too hard to make something happen instead of letting it happen. This will also change once the offense gets hot and players won’t be pressing to get the extra bases aggressively.
Starters need to go deeper in the games.
The starters are averaging about five innings (about 5.4 innings) per start. These results can be attributed to the entire pitching staff, but they have had less than spectacular starts from Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. The entire staff has a 5.10 team ERA, which is a huge drop from last year where the Astros had the lowest ERA as a team. The Astros have the softest-tossing starting rotation in baseball, which limits their ability to get out of jams.
The bullpen has also been overused, already pitched 77 plus innings in the first 24 games. Ken Giles needs to turn things around, but sending him to the minors doesn’t appear to be the answer. He needs to be placed in non-critical situations and figure out what is mechanically wrong with him. The Astros have announced the starting rotation through Wednesday, and then they will reevaluate the situation.
The return of Lance McCullers.
Bottom line, McCullers was supposed to be the third starter in this rotation, so the Astros are missing him in the rotation more than they are letting on. While he may not be the ace of the pitching staff, he might have the best stuff on the staff. He would bring the heat to the staff along with Chris Devenski, should he stay in the rotation. McCullers could be back with the Astros mid-May.
The time of Colin Moran needs to begin.
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Aside from the catcher spot, the third base splits are terrible and the weakest link on the team. Third basemen for the Astros have a .169/ .242/ .277/ .519 slash line on the season with one homer and seven RBI’s. I know the Astros want to wait till after the Super 2 deadline in June to bring up Moran and A.J. Reed to help the team. Luis Valbuena was what he was supposed to be, a band-aid until a 3rd base prospect was ready.
Moran and his .292/ .342/ .389/ .731 slash line in Fresno looks ready. He does not have the power to hit 25 homers like Valbuena did in 2015, but he is a contact hitter who hits the ball hard all the field. This year, Moran has one homer and 15 RBI’s. The future at third base could be Alex Bregman, but I would like to see the Astros move on from Valbuena now.
Carlos Correa must break get back on track.
The Astros best player is Correa, but ever since his hot start in the New York Yankees series to open the season, he had three homers and four runs batted in, he has not been much of a factor at the plate or in the field. You couldn’t really expect Correa to continue his production from the first series, but the Astros offense has struggled to pick up Correa during his slump.
He has seemed to be getting his power stroke back recently, but the Astros can’t win this season without production from their number one guy.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***