It seems like forever ago when Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell were leading the Astros to the World Series and everything in Houston was happy with regards to baseball. The city had baseball fever and it didn’t look like it was going to die.
But this can’t always last forever. As time went on, the Astros just kept on falling. It wasn’t just a minor fall. From 2004-2014, their win total went down consistently (except for 2008) and from 2011-2013, they didn’t surpass 56 wins. They were the laughing stock of baseball, but they knew what they were up to and knew what they needed to do to rebuild this team.
The Astros were smart about their draft picks and made some good signings and they are now one of the best teams in baseball today and were the first team to 30 wins in 2015.
Houston let go of their manager Bo Porter after some abysmal years at the helm of this ballclub after 2014, but he might have set it up for the future as they are now leading the AL West and don’t look to be slowing down. They hired AJ Hinch and he has pressed all of the right buttons to lead this team to where they are through May 26th at 30-17 with a 6.5 game lead in their division.
They are led by their All Star second baseman in Jose Altuve. He may not be that big of a guy, but he is one of the most exciting players to watch in the game. He can field well, steal bases at a high percentage, and he hits for some good average. Altuve hasn’t necessarily done all of that this year like he has in the past, but he is a household name and one of the best in the game today.
In addition to Altuve, their offense is pretty interesting. They have three guys who can absolutely mash the ball all around the ballpark. Chris Carter, Evan Gattis, and George Springer are all guys that hit lots of home runs, but they also strike out a lot in the process. This season through May 26th, they have the 28th best team average at .233 and also are first in the AL in strikeouts. They can really have nights when they are on and others where they are totally off, but so far it hasn’t been an issue for this team because they have been able to scrape across enough runs for their pitching to deal with.
Speaking of pitching, the Astros have probably one of the best pitchers in the AL on their ball club. If you haven’t met him yet, his name is Dallas Keuchel and you should really get to know him. In 72.2 IP (10 starts), he is 6-1 with a 1.98 ERA (3.19 FIP) with a K:BB ratio of 49:21. He has been money for this team and could be in contention for a Cy Young award in the AL if he can keep this up.
It hasn’t just been Keuchel however as the bullpen for this team has been stellar all year. They went out and signed Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson as two veteran guys to help their bullpen, but it hasn’t just been them. Chad Qualls, Josh Fields, and Will Harris have also been leading the charge in the late innings. Manager AJ Finch has a plethora of options out in the pen that he can turn to to shut down a ballgame and preserve a win.
This Houston team is one that is still getting better which is hard to believe. Carlos Correa is a top shortstop prospect now in AAA who is hitting around .350 in the minor leagues and could make an immediate impact whenever he is called up. The expectation is that he could be promoted some time this year, but the question is when exactly? Correa has the tools to be a force at the Major League level and other teams around the league better watch out for this Houston team down the road.
Sports Illustrated came out with an article last season that said they were going to be the 2017 World Series Champions. They may do that in 2017, but it could also be sooner if they can keep it up this season.
What worries me about this team is that they don’t hit for average. They do lead the AL in walks, but can winning games like they have done this season continue? That is the big question and they will have to become a little bit more consistent in terms of getting on base like they do.
I do like this team and think they can be really good. I don’t think they will be able to keep this up over the span of 162 games. If Houston is still in this thing at the deadline, it will be interesting to see if they make some deals or continue their rebuilding stage for a year or two more.
The Astros being good is a good thing for baseball. It creates some parity and some diversity, which is good for the league and it’s growth. If you haven’t watched this team yet this year, make it a priority to do so.
Seattle sports fan and MLB writer for International Sports Hub