This week, I couldn’t pinpoint Astros to land on this list, but there are more glaring issues at hand.
The Astros are currently 73-46, 27 games above .500 with a 2.5 game lead over the Athletics for the AL West lead. With 43 games left there is still plenty of time to separate themselves in the standings or let this small lead diminish completely. The Astros are still on pace to finish 99-63 and have a projected five-game cushion over Oakland by season’s end.
FiveThirtyEight currently gives the Astros better than a 97% chance to make the playoffs and a 17% chance to win the World Series, again. With the second best run differential in the league at +195, the Astros trail the Red Sox by 18 runs but lead the Yankees by 55 runs. Alas, the win-loss record has Boston comfortably ahead over everyone in baseball.
Before Friday’s game, in the last nine games, the Astros were 6-3 outscoring their opponents 42 runs to 21 runs. This weekend’s series against the Mariners did not go well for the Astros. They were outscored 20-11. With roughly eight weeks left, I’ll reiterate, there is a ton of baseball left to be played. There is still more than a quarter of the season left, and in this week’s article, we are examining different kinds of trends.
I couldn’t pin-point one, let alone three, bad performances this week. Partly because when you win six of nine and some in grand fashion, there is nothing to balk at. Well, Justin Verlander may disapprove of that tidbit. Also, half the team is on the disabled list. Let’s dive into the downward trends this week.
Trending Down: Wins from the Starting Rotation
After a hot start to four of the five starting pitchers, the script has been flipped lately. The team is 27 games over .500, so why am I picking on the starters? Let’s just look at some numbers. After starting the season 3-9, Dallas Keuchel has been the best pitcher in the last couple months. He is now all evened up at 9-9 on the season. And that 4.50 ERA has dwindled down to 3.43. He won five of his last seven starts. Pretty impressive for a mid-season bounce back. And the Astros appreciate that. All stats via Baseball-Reference.
The other four combined starters are 12-14 in their last 39 total starts. Keuchel (9-9) is 6-1 alone in his last nine outings. Charlie Morton (12-3) has won only 2 of his last seven. Verlander (11-7) has only won 2 of his last ten starts. Gerrit Cole (10-5) also has two wins in his last ten outings. And, Lance McCullers (10-6) has won three of his last nine. That’s a measurable amount of combined losses (12) and no-decisions (15) in the last 49 games from these starters.
These five starters are still ranked at the top in the majors as far as wins go. Their combined ERA (3.06) is still the best in the bigs. They recorded 11 shutout games, tied for 2nd in the MLB. They still have the most quality starts (79) in the league head and shoulders above Boston who is 2nd with 66 quality starts. They allowed the least amount of earned runs (361) and had the most strikeouts in league with 1,242, and it’s not even close.
This team is good. And they are projected to finish better than last year. It just feels and seems like they haven’t really hit their full potential. These lack of wins by starting pitchers lately is just something worth noting. They could have four 15-win pitchers at this point in the season. I may be asking for too much. We’ll take what we have. Hopefully, Justin Verlander can notch his 200th win in his next outing and get back on track after his last start.
Trending Down: Health
It’s a long season as 162 games is a marathon. Staying completely healthy is nearly impossible. With a roster this deep, the Astros stood to afford a trip here and there to the disabled list. What they absolutely can’t afford is to have two of their best hitters out at the same time. Carlos Correa has finally returned, but Jose Altuve (knee soreness) and George Springer (left thumb) made their way to the DL. Jake Marisnick has hit the DL as well.
Lance McCullers Jr. (right elbow) has also landed on the 10-day DL. And, don’t forget about Brian McCann who’s been there for a while also. They will all get back, slowly but surely and this leaves the offense in the hands of Yuli Gurriel, Marwin Gonzalez and Alex Bregman along with many interchangeable faces seeing tons of playing time.
I’m looking at this thing optimistically. Sure, get the injuries out of the way now. Get some rest while you’re at it and come back healthy and build momentum for the postseason run. The division race won’t come down to the wire in all likely hood. Barring any more injuries to anyone else, these five guys need to rehab and get right before the stretch run in September.
August is packed with division games, 18 to be exact. Then September provides a key series against Boston along with some A.L. East bouts as they try to secure a postseason berth and home-field advantage. The team can manage some division games while they can get healthy but the injury bug can’t claim any more victims from here on out.
Trending Down: Chemistry and Morale
I won’t spend too much time on this topic. And I’m not biased, but these Astros are just a fun, cohesive group to watch. I think they are well received around the MLB and fanbases nationwide. They are a gritty group of young talent mixed in with very seasoned veterans and different cultures. That’s a recipe for a classy team. The image has been tainted with the acquisition of Roberto Osuna. Although not convicted of anything, it is perceived around the nation that this mid-season pick up by this team was mind-boggling. I’m confident that the Astros exhausted their due diligence to its fullest before acquiring Osuna.
I’m here to say that the morale isn’t trending down yet, it just can’t afford to. Osuna notched his first win, and it has been well received by the ballclub in his short stay thus far. However, he did give up the lead in Sunday’s game after Rondon The key to a successful post-season run is not to allow morale to slip.
This is a cohesive group of talent and a very special team, and although some players were vocal about Osuna before his acquisition, the team needs to embrace his presence because he’s a part of the team now.
Winning cures all and if he’s notching wins and saves then, he’s done what they signed him to do. Anything short of that will allow negativity to rear its ugly head and start the finger pointing. This team is filled with leaders and vocal players. They are the ones who need to nip this in the bud and squander any finger pointing, blaming or accusations.