A doomsday scenario, or three, for the 2018 Astros
By Cody Poage
Here’s a doomsday scenario, or three, for the Astros in 2018. Yes, I’m going there.
The Astros have arguably one of the brightest futures in baseball. They are projected by multiple systems to be one of the best, if not the best, team in baseball in 2018. The 2019 season looks promising as well. 2020 and 2021 are a bit less certain as contracts end for some notable players, but it’s still bright.
Honestly, I can spend quite a bit of time praising the Astros and the roster they’ve assembled. And rightly so. We’ve all have paid the dues with the rebuilding years and then some. For example, I was that one guy who loudly cheered for Yu Darvish to not throw a perfect game against the Astros at Minute Maid Park in 2013. Marwin Gonzalez automatically became a personal favorite. Yes, I was an idiot for rooting against history. Perfect games don’t happen often. I’ve seen the errors of my ways.
I could also write another post about the team’s first championship. There’s a lot positives I can discuss about the Astros.
But that’s boring. To me, anyway.
Instead, I want to introduce a doomsday scenario, or three, that could totally ruin the Astros’ hopes at repeating in 2018.
Doomsday Scenario #1 – Injuries Galore
Injuries have often been the scourge of professional sports. Players obviously hate injuries as this prevents from them performing the physical feats in which they are paid to do as professionals. It can also cost players money, and I’m all for people making money. Teams despise injuries as they lose productivity from players that people want to see.
At this point, this is probably the Astros’ biggest obstacle at repeating. The starting rotation, for example, has three pitchers who’ve missed notable chunks of time in the past two seasons. The inclusion of a 10-day disabled list has helped teams to mitigate the injury risk to a certain extent, and it has allowed teams to employ seven-to-eight pitcher rotations. In theory, anyway. Let’s just hope they keep Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock around for a while.
I’m not so concerned about the lineup as I am about the rotation. Unless the batters are hit by pitches. I flashback to times when Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer were hit by a pitch near the wrists or hands this past season. I would just cringe. And, golly, it was terrible to what happened with Collin Moran in Baltimore. Hitting a baseball is dangerous.
Doomsday Scenario #2 – The Championship Hangover and Regression
On paper, there aren’t many teams who can boast better talent than the Astros. There is competition, no doubt, but that’s limited to about a handful of teams in baseball.
Like injuries, the Astros’ worst enemy could be themselves. A championship hangover, if you will. The Chicago Cubs sort of experienced one last season following their championship in 2016. It’s not outrageous to think the same could happen to the Astros. Sometimes success breeds complacency.
That said, I doubt that the Astros have this issue for long, if at all. This team seems ready to go. New faces will be in the clubhouse who haven’t experienced a championship. This group is also led by some of the most energetic players in baseball. They’re young and still hungry. The veterans want to add to their legacy. If there is any hangover from last season, don’t expect it to last long. Of course, the Cubs probably thought the same thing. Eventually, Chicago had to overcome the jumpstart Milwaukee Brewers and the consistent St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central lead. They did it, but it wasn’t exactly the encore performance many wanted from the 2016 champions.
This also includes regression, which could impact a few players on the roster. Marwin Gonzalez is my top candidate for regression on the Astros based on his actual and expected wOBA last year. Of course, he does plenty of things well enough where regression may not be much of a concern. There is enough untapped potential in this roster still where regression is not that worrisome for at least another couple of years.
Doomsday Scenario #3 – The Vengeful Return of Junction Jack
Alright, alright. I understand this scenario is a bit unlikely. If anything, a bit weird. Junction Jack has been retired for years. Or so it seems.
There is a part of me that wonders if good ol’ Jack is still prowling somewhere in Minute Maid Park waiting on just the right opportunity to strike.
Like, tampering with the player’s food?
Hacking into Ground Control? Oh, wait, that’s already been done. Are we so sure that Junction Jack wasn’t involved? I just don’t trust that jackrabbit(?). It may be time to double check Chris Correa’s phone records again to determine if there was a call with a Houston area code from the lower bowels of Minute Maid Park.
Altering travel arrangements in the dead of night? Somehow a plane meant for Seattle ends up in Tampa?
Sabotaging the bullpen cart?
By the way, they should totally bring back the bullpen carts. I think a cart that looks like the Astros’ current mascot, Orbit, in some manner would be flipping awesome. Wait, that could incite Junction Jack even more!
Junction Jack, if you don’t recall, was unceremoniously dumped by the Astros once the rebranding took place. And rightfully so. I’m sorry, but a conductor jackrabbit(?) did not fit in with the Astros. A lot of things about the brand from 2000 through 2012 did not fit in with the Astros. Especially the pinstripes.
Next: Astros: Unsigned free agents to hold their own spring training
So, yeah, that’s my doomsday scenarios. It’s not much, but, hey, it’s Friday. And it’s suppose to be rather dreary in Houston this weekend with the rain and all. Fun times.