Astros’ disastrous start is making fans wish the offseason had gone differently

The Astros need to figure out their bullpen issues and quickly.
Mar 16, 2024; West Palm Beach, Florida, USA;  Houston Astros relief pitcher Bryan Abreu (52) pitches
Mar 16, 2024; West Palm Beach, Florida, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher Bryan Abreu (52) pitches / Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

This was not how the 2024 season was supposed to start for the Houston Astros. Sure, the Yankees were always going to be a tough opponent, but the Astros are widely expected to be among the best teams in baseball in 2024 and it isn't like New York didn't have some serious questions to start the season. Now, after three straight losses to the Yankees to start 2024, much of the optimism coming into the season has gone away.

There are a lot of culprits here. Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Jose Abreu, and Yordan Alvarez have not done much at the plate to start the season and that almost certainly won't stick for much longer. Framber Valdez did not look good in his first start of the season and some injuries to start the season, especially on the pitching staff, haven't made things any easier.

However, a glaring hole in the Astros' offseason strategy appears to be the biggest cause for Houston's early season struggles.

Astros' lack of bullpen depth could haunt them all season long

Everyone knew that the Astros' bullpen needed to be a priority this past offseason. In losing Hector Neris, Phil Maton, and Ryne Stanek to free agency, Houston lost a TON of innings from their bullpen that would be difficult to replace. The solution to that problem that the Astros landed on during the offseason was signing Josh Hader. Given that he was the best reliever on the market, that move makes a lot of sense in a vacuum. However, the early portion of the 2024 season seems to indicate that that strategy may not have been the best option.

Hader has been great and anyone who says otherwise isn't paying attention. Hader has already made two appearances this season and has yet to give up a hit while striking out five batters. He remains among the game's elite when it comes to completely shutting down the opposing offense late in games.

However, the rest of the Astros' bullpen hasn't been nearly as good. Ryan Pressly struggled in his first appearance of the season, Taylor Scott and Parker Mushinski got torched in the second game of the season, and the normally reliable Bryan Abreu coughed up the lead late in Saturday's loss. All of the usual small sample size caveats matter here, but this weekend has brought into question a serious flaw with this Astros' roster.

As good as Hader is, he is just one man and Houston's bullpen depth leaves a lot to be desired. Pressly and Abreu will be just fine in all likelihood going forward, but that the Astros didn't do more to put together a deep, quality bullpen beyond their top three guys is going to be something that is going to need to be fixed and soon. Assuming Forrest Whitley can return and contribute, that will be a good start, but Houston is going to have to have some relievers step up and soon.

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