The All-Star break is finally here, and the Astros are probably ready for a few days of rest.
So, we’re finally free of real baseball for most of the week. That’s either good or bad. My wife will probably lean towards good while I lament the fact that I have to wait until Friday for another meaningful game.
Enough about my home life, though. The Astros enter the break with a 64-35 record and a +188 run differential. That’s a good place to be in July as the season is now roughly 61.1% finished. Contrary to popular belief, the All-Star break is not the “true” halfway point of the season. It is also one my biggest pet peeves in the game when people cite it as such. That actual halfway mark passed on June 26th.
Regardless of your views on the halfway point, once the Astros start playing meaningful baseball again on July 20th, there is likely going to be plenty of chatter about the trade deadline. Heck, the chatter will probably ramp up during the All-Star break. The question is what should we expect going forward?
For one, I would be quite surprised if the Astros added another bat that was not a catcher. If anything is a priority heading into the deadline, another relief pitcher and catcher has to be on top of the list. Especially a relief pitcher in light of Ken Giles‘ sudden trip to the minors. Keep a close eye on the likes of Brad Hand, Raisel Iglesias, J.T. Realmuto, Adam Conley, and Zach Britton.
Now, Houston has been bitten by the regression bug this season. We can’t deny that much.
If you need examples, look up Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick, and Josh Reddick. Even Jose Altuve and George Springer have experienced regression. And Carlos Correa has been on-and-off before his latest stint on the disabled list.
Left field, in particular, has seen a noticeable drop in production. In 2018, left fielders employed by the Astros are currently ranked 21st in baseball with a .708 OPS. Last season, Houston left fielders were ranked 14th with a .751 OPS. So, yeah, production has taken a hit. But I don’t think we will see the Astros acquire Khris Davis from Oakland to send Kyle Tucker back down to Fresno. Plus, do you really think the A’s would trade Davis if they are in the Wild Card hunt? Call me doubtful on this front.
The entire offense, though, has been one of the best in baseball. Again. Entering the All-Star break, the Astros have a 114 wRC+, which only trails the 115 wRC+ by the Yankees and Red Sox. While the home run numbers have taken a hit, it is worth pointing out that Correa has been out of action for a few weeks and various players have slumped. Thankfully for the Astros, the lack of home runs hasn’t prevented the team from scoring runs.
Run leaders by team entering the All-Star break
Red Sox – 230 runs
Astros – 200 runs
Yankees – 493 runs
Indians – 487 runs
Cubs – 476 runs
While the Astros’ offense hasn’t reached the level of the 2017 juggernaut, the 2018 offense is still one of the best in the game. The only position that is not a relief pitcher I currently foresee the Astros actively trying to improve by the trade deadline is catcher.
Now, it will be interesting to see how the team approaches the trade market on relief pitchers. As we all know, selling teams are going to try to sell high on their best relief pitchers. And they ought to sell high. The question is whether the Astros would the meet the price or attempt to haggle the offer down? Since Luhnow has become general manager earlier in the decade, we’ve seen Houston make notable deals for help or hold back. And the team has been burned in the past. The 2015 trade deadline didn’t pan out like everyone expected. Although the non-waiver deadline was viewed unfavorably last year, the memory has faded quickly thanks to the acquisition of Justin Verlander on August 31st.
The All-Star break is a time for the Astros to get some rest while the club’s representatives in Washington D.C. enjoy the festivities. Only time will tell how the post-break 2018 season will unfold.