Astros: Finding the good in a disappointing 2020 season

HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 01: Michael Brantley #23 of the Houston Astros reacts after hitting a three-run home run in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on September 01, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 01: Michael Brantley #23 of the Houston Astros reacts after hitting a three-run home run in the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on September 01, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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HOUSTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 29: Zack Greinke #21 of the Houston Astros talks with Martin Maldonado #15 as they walk to the dugout after retiring the Oakland Athletics during game two of a doubleheader at Minute Maid Park on August 29, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS – AUGUST 29: Zack Greinke #21 of the Houston Astros talks with Martin Maldonado #15 as they walk to the dugout after retiring the Oakland Athletics during game two of a doubleheader at Minute Maid Park on August 29, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Greinke Shows Greatness

Astros fans were robbed of seeing Justin Verlander all season and Lance McCullers isn’t quite the same since Tommy John surgery, but who we have had the pleasure to see working his magic is former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke.

His best days may be behind him at age 36, but Greinke has been a pure delight to watch. He’s been able to overcome significant velocity decline over the years by developing a huge pitching repertoire that rivals a Swiss army knife. Watching him deploy these specialty pitches this year with elite command has been like watching a great composer at work.

Whether it is a fastball, change up, slider, curve, split finger or his infamous eephus, Greinke has come through in the clutch when the team needed it most. He basically kept the Astros afloat in August, going 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA in five starts, along with 33 strikeouts and only 4 walks.

And let’s not forget all the amusing antics he’s been up to this year — whether it was telling Martin Maldonado (and everyone else) what pitch he was throwing against San Francisco, his 54 MPH eephus pitch to Trevor Grisham, hanging out alone with the cardboard cutouts in the Oakland Colosseum, or sitting cross-legged on the grass while the grounds crew fixed the dirt on the mound. Ever an off-beat and charismatic guy, Astros fans should treasure every start Greinke gives us from here on out.

Brantley Shows Steadiness

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – AUGUST 06: Michael Brantley #23 of the Houston Astros gets ready in the batters box against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 06, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – AUGUST 06: Michael Brantley #23 of the Houston Astros gets ready in the batters box against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 06, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

When the Astros signed the former three-time All-Star from Cleveland following the 2018 season, the hope was that Michael Brantley would be a middle of the lineup plug who generates hits and extends innings. Some didn’t like the signing because of his injury history and the fact that most headers tend to fall off track once they reach their early 30s.

But Brantley is showing that he is not your typical everyday player. Since he signed with Houston, he’s hit .310, has an OPS around .888, and has been a double-hitting machine in the top half of the order, all while also being an average to above-average defensive outfielder. He doesn’t strike out, he’s dependable, and he produces. He’s also had a great impact on the team as a true professional with meticulous preparation and a very balanced approach at the plate.

This season, despite missing ten games due to injury, Brantley has been able to maintain his power and slugging numbers while also keeping up his batting average. When Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and George Springer all missed time, Brantley was pushed up the order and hasn’t skipped a beat.

Once again, he’s been everything as advertised. GM James Click has a lot of decisions to make this winter, but I’m hopeful there is a priority for keeping Brantley because he’s a low-maintenance All-Star, and the 12-year vet doesn’t look to be falling off anytime soon.

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