* - they are actually OK, but they have been near unwatchable for the last 10 or so games. On both sides of the ball. It has been painful. And the "dog days" of August are looming. *shiver*
To save y'all from the relying solely on the Hot Links for your Astros County fix (and therefore the frankly bizarre ramblings of Flick three times a week), I thought I would add some #content to this here website. And on a regular basis too. I will explain the premise in the below missive...
Obvious Point Number 1: The Astros have a pretty good core group of position players. These include the up-the-middle triad of George Springer (currently hitting .249/.335/.424, with a 113 wRC+, and 1.9 fWAR), José Altuve (.329/.392/.464, 140 wRC+, 4.0 fWAR) and Carlos Correa (.268/.352/.480, 128wRC+, 2.4 fWAR). Alex Bregman has been the best-performing Astro with the bat this year (.280/.385/.529, 154wRC+, 4.6 fWAR). Max Stassi has been a surprise so far, particularly given how the Astros front office appeared to have soured with regards to his development (.242/.325/.427, 111wRC+, 1.4 fWAR). Tony Kemp has done well in limited duty (.290/.390/.412, 129 wRC+, 0.6 fWAR) and NEEDS MORE PLAYING TIME (is there an opening at second base?? Anyone?). Everyone else seems to have struggled to maintain consistent production at the plate, and aside from a Month of Gattis, no one has really managed to properly carry the offence.
(As an aside - the Astro with the highest wRC+ is year is not Alex Bregman. That honour goes to Justin Verlander and his two plate appearances, which resulted in a .500/.500/.500 slash line, for a 188 wRC+. He will get more plate appearances in Los Angeles later this week, so lets see if he continues with his torrid pace thus far.)
Obvious Point Number 2: It is no surprise that the Astros' recent offensive difficulties have been due to a variety of factors relating to the abovementioned players. Carlos Correa has been on Wieland Island* since 25 June, and subtracting his production and essentially replacing it with Kyle Tucker's "production" (.155/.233/.231, 31 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR) has not been helpful for the team. Jose Altuve has just been placed on the DL, so I guess we can expect him back next season (I kid, I kid... y'all chill now). Along with these injuries, Brian McCann (out since 30 June and not expected back for another month or so) has struggled for much of the season (.206/.283/.323, 71wRC+, 0.4 WAR). But at least McCann added some balance to the lineup with his lefty bat and his ability to hit mistakes, and I am sure that his Veteran Leadership (TM) has been missed as well.
* - Digging up a 2013 tweet from Astros County?? Awesome!!
Ze Bullpen: On top of this, the Bullpen has had recent issues of its own. Ken Giles (4.99 ERA, 2.28 FIP, 0.7 fWAR) is a Grizzly, or Taco, or whatever the Fresno team is playing as at the moment. Chris Devinski (4.19 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 0.2 fWAR) and Will Harris (4.58 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 0.7 fWAR) have been lit up recently. Héctor Rondón give up 4ER in an inning of work earlier today. Bradley J Peacock* and Collin McHugh have both been the victim of walk off home runs this year (and in the case of Peacock, multiple times).
* - At this point, I am going to stop presenting painful stats after mentioning players, and just run with the narrative. Not because I have anything to hide, but just because what I am saying is so obvious, the statistics do not really add anything.
Not Much From the Farm: The Astros have managed to get nil-to-bugger-all from Fresno this year.* Derek Fisher has come and gone, J.D. Davis has been horrible at the plate, and A.J. Reed's three plate appearances have not resulted in any time on the bases. Kyle Tucker is a project for the future, and one could argue that he is progressing, but he has certainly not gone all Juan Soto on the league and cemented his place in the Astros outfield.
* Actually, not true. Tim Federowicz did a reasonable impression of a glove-first backup catcher before morphing into Martin Maldonado. Tyler White has a 132 wRC+, and a .219/.375/.438 line. Cionel Perez looks very interesting for next year, when the Astros stop paying Tony Sipp.
What to do, what to do...: So here we all are, most likely all at least a little concerned about the Astros roster at the moment. Fangraphs thinks that the Astros can particularly improve at DH, at First Base, and in Left Field*. A trade for Jose Martinez (or someone similar) could improve all of that, but young, controllable power bats are not often traded in the Major Leagues.** So let's pretend that the Astros aren't going to make any more trades (welcome to the team, Ryan Pressly!!), and are looking at augment their roster from within.
* - fWAR uses a positional adjustment rating as part of the formula, which I think skews the WAR quite a lot toward up-the-middle players, who play more demanding defensive positions. Another way of putting it - it is tougher for a first baseman to put up a 4 fWAR season than a shortstop, as the first baseman would need to totally rake because they would be deemed to be playing a less valuable position. This may explain why the fWAR ratings for some of these Astros look a little lower than what the slash line would suggest.
** - Three problems here: (1) the Cardinals just parted with Luke Voit, another first baseman, and probably won't trade another player from that position (2) Martinez bats righty, and I think the Astros need a lefty power bat or two in there, which is why Kyle Tucker is getting a look, and before him, Derek Fisher and (3) the Astros and the Cardinals ain't gonna trade. Ever.
My Proposal: With this in mind, I promise to look, on a near-daily basis, at what is going on in Corpus and Fresno. This is for the purpose of looking at players that could assist the Astros with an August - September - October push, and cement their place in the team in doing so.
The areas that I will mostly concentrate on will be the corner bats, and the bullpen (and by bullpen, I really mean all pitching). It would also pay to keep an eye on youngsters like Handsome Jake and Ken Giles, to see how they are progressing in their rehabilitation. When Carlos Correa heads out on his rehab assignment, his progress will be carefully documented as well. However, regardless of position, if there are any ongoing outstanding performances, they will be highlighted in the new column, Reinforcing the Astros.
Hopefully, this gives you reason to scroll down past the Hot Links every morning.