At the close of the All Star Break, the 2014 Astros are ... wait for it.... its going to be really good.... NOT IN LAST PLACE. It gets better. The team below them is none other than the Texas Rangers. I can taste that silver boot now. It tastes of silver, and boot.
So no, their 40-56 record is not what we would consider good, as I'm sure some Houston Chronicle writers will happily point out to us. But, considering that last year's team didn't win their 40th game until August 16th, it represent significant improvement. Their current pace would have them win 68 games, a whopping 17 game improvement from last year. Even better, they might just be a tad bit better than that. If you want to get really deep, Baseball Prospectus 3rd Order wins, which adjusts a team's record bases on underlying statistics and strength of schedule, has the Astros as a .442 WP team. But if you don't want to get bogged down in all that, lets just be happy that this team is showing some real improvement.
The improvement has primarily come from the pitching staff. In 2013, at the All Star break, the team had a 4.83 ERA and was allowing 5.3 runs per game. Through the same number games this year, the ERA had improved to 4.42 and the runs allowed was down to 4.7 per game. That has largely been driven by SP, with Keuchel, McHugh, and to a lesser extent Cosart and Oberholtzer pitching very well. The biggest disappointment has been the free agent acquisition Scott Feldman. However, I think it says a lot about the improvement of the staff that we are really disappointed in a 4.33 ERA, which would have been one of the best of the staff last season. The bullpen has been a dumpster fire, but not as bad as a dumpster fire, so we've got that going for us.
The offense is improved....by a whole 8 runs. Right now the improvement from Altuve and the additions of Springer and Fowler have been balanced by the regression from nearly everyone else, most significantly Castro, but also Carter, Dominguez and everyone who has set foot in LF. Singleton has also not provided the jolt of offense we were hoping for.
So, what can we expect to happen in the second half? Can Keuchel and McHugh continue their success? Can Cosart continue to improve, will Feldman return to the form we saw from him at the beginning of the season? Will Jason Castro have a second half more akin to what we expected? Will the existing members of the bullpen solidify the end of games, or will trades bring us a return of the goatpen? Find out the answers to all of these questions, and more, as the Astros and Astros County* present...
THE SECOND HALF
*we will actually have very little to do with it.