Astros must make these internal upgrades before season spirals

How can Houston fix their current mess?
Houston Astros infielder Jose Abreu
Houston Astros infielder Jose Abreu / Tim Warner/GettyImages
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The Houston Astros are in trouble. It was easy to dismiss the early-season struggles at first, even though that's not what fans in H-Town are used to. But with the Astros firmly entrenched in the bottom of the AL West, even the hapless Oakland A's are sitting above them in the standings. If it weren't for a completely inept front office and ownership in Chicago, the Astros might have a worse record than the White Sox.

And that's the problem. Teams like the A's and White Sox have no intention of competing this season. Houston, on the other hand, is looking to win the World Series. But at this point, the 'Stros look as though they'll be part of the MLB Draft Lottery, not the MLB Postseason.

But (and Astros fans are getting tired of hearing this) it's still early. Not only that, but no team in the AL West has turned on the afterburners and left the rest of the division in the dust. There's still time to get back into the hunt. But the Astros have to make the following moves before the 2024 season spirals out of control.

Astros must make these internal upgrades before season spirals

Alex Bregman must be moved down in the Astros lineup

Alex Bregman may be looking for a mega-deal this offseason, but he's never going to attain such a lofty contract if he keeps hitting below his weight this season. The Astros third baseman has been abysmal this season, and it's time for manager Joe Esapda to light a fire under his infielder's backside.

There's no way the Astros are going to re-sign Bregman this offseason, so if his ego gets dented because he's batting sixth instead of second, so be it. Espada needs to focus on winning games, not winning the affections of his players. Because if the Astros are sitting below .500 by the All-Star break, Bregman might not be the only person in that clubhouse heading out of Space City next winter.

The Astros need to permanently replace Jose Abreu at first base

During the Astros series against the Cubs, Abreu rode the bench. Houston's first baseman was not in the starting lineup three times over the past four games, and it needs to stay that way. While Abreu's absence hasn't resulted in wins, it's plain to anyone who wants to open their eyes that the former MVP is a shell of his former self.

Houston has adequate replacements in either Trey Cabbage (who'll be part of the roster for the Mexico City Series) or Joey Loperfido. That doesn't mean that the Astros can't deploy Abreu on occasion, but his time as a regular in the Houston lineup needs to be stop.

Houston needs to start running more

It has not been part of their identity for quite some time, but the Astros need to ignite the running game. No, the Astros don't need to be the Cincinnati Reds or Washington Nationals. Both those teams are loaded with young, athletic players who lean into an accelerated pace that relies on speed.

But with MLB's rule changes last season, it's made it easier than ever before to swipe bags. With the struggles this team has endured this season, something as simple as increased action on the base paths could help manufacture some runs. Espada needs to pull out all the stops, and this is an easy way to do that. Players like Jeremy Peña, Kyle Tucker, Jake Meyers, and Chas McCormick need to get on their horse and start trying to get into scoring position.

The Astros' rotation needs to avoid first-pitch mistakes

A lot of pitchers are told to get ahead in the count. But that might not be the wisest advice for Houston. The Astros lead Major League Baseball this season with 49 first-pitch hits allowed. The next closest team is, you guess it, the Colorado Rockies. It seems as if trying to get ahead with first pitch strikes isn't working for the 'Stros.

Health concerns have killed the start of the Astros' season, and are no doubt playing a role in the team's first-pitch and first-inning struggles. Houston has Justin Verlander back in the rotation with Framber Valdez readying for a return as well. If Cristian Javier returns in the coming weeks, the Astros will be in much better position to get back into the AL West race.

Houston fans have been told not to panic, but there has to be some sense of urgency from Espada and the Astros players. If some internal changes aren't made, there's little hope for things to turn around once the calendar flips to May.

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