Joe Espada's start proves grass isn't always greener, but Astros issues run deep

New manager Joe Espada deserves some of the blame for Houston's rotten start in 2024, but certainly not all of it.
Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics
Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

While former manager Dusty Baker had a very successful run with the Houston Astros from 2020-2023, he did drive some crazy with how he conducted business. He had some outmoded approaches to lineup construction and playing time for young guys, but there is no denying that he knew how to keep his team motivated each day which, with a loaded team like the Astros, was often more than good enough.

Still, many were hoping that once the Astros promoted Joe Espada to manager, it could signal a new era for the team that better integrated modern data and practices into game-planning, while keeping much of what has made this roster special, intact.

Unfortunately, the Astros now sit at 6-14 in 2024 after getting swept by the Braves, and Astros fans are wondering if maybe the team would have been in better hands if Baker hadn't decided to retire.

Joe Espada's Astros tenure is off to a terrible start, but he shouldn't get all the blame

Make no mistake, being eight games under .500 after 20 games is absolutely putrid for an Astros team that had clear title aspirations in 2024. Some of the team's slow start can absolutely be attributed to Espada's management as his bullpen decisions have been questionable at times and the team's results do point to the fact that he has failed thus far to get the most out of what is an extremely talented roster in Houston.

However, these are grown men taking the field who know what they need to do to be productive big leaguers. It isn't Espada's fault that Jose Abreu has completely forgotten to hit as those issues go back to the first half of 2023. Josh Hader's rough start to 2024 can't be pinned solely on how Espada has used him because, at the end of the day, it is on Hader to make pitches when it counts and he hasn't. Houston's decision to roll with Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers in the outfield can't be placed squarely on Espada's shoulders, either, and their presence in the lineup hasn't really done Houston any favors.

On top of that, injuries have played a big role in the Astros' struggles so far, with Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy, Bennett Sousa, and Kendall Graveman all getting hurt, in addition to the guys that have been on the IL for a while like Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia. Any team would feel those losses no matter who was at the helm.

For now, Espada should get a pass for the Astros' rough start. Plus, this team is just too talented to be in the cellar for long. However, as Houston gets healthy again and the season gets closer to the midway point, Espada's role as the leader should come into question if the losing persists.

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