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Astros: Real Solutions for the Real Problems

Astros: Real Solutions Real Problems - Uncover the true challenges facing the Astros in 2024 and explore practical solutions to elevate the team's performance.

I told a friend point blank that the Astros have only a few problems in 2024. If they can get even average resolution on these issues, the team is going to play far better than you expect. What are the real problems the Astros need to solve ASAP to facilitate them being the team we all want them to be in 2024?

Let's first look at two metrics for each position group and then assess the team's ability to solve the challenging areas.

Positions - by WAR and wRC+

Forget the numbers. This is my typical heat map where red is good, and blue is bad.

FOUR of the positions are delivering top 4 performance. SS is top 10. DH is down only because Alvarez has a weird challenge hitting when he DHes. Have him get on the phone with David Ortiz. Catcher is below average because the Astros have pushed Diaz too hard in his sophomore year. Just have Diaz play a little less catcher and DH him less.

Then we have the REAL problems in the offense. Clint and I have a standing Abreu topic on the Astros Weekly Recap. Please go to the YouTube channel and subscribe and watch and like the videos.

Fixing 1B

If you go to the Jose Abreu baseball savant page, you see this chart in the header. It is ugly. Abreu is hitting a 0.170 xwOBA and a 0.133 wOBA in 83 PA in 2024.

The challenges are universal against almost ALL pitches.

Here are the wOBA, xwOBA, exit velocity, and Launch Angle over the last three years for each pitch type that there is enough data to even consider. It is an across-the-board disaster of hitting. Look at the xwOBA column.

He is hitting curveballs only at 74.3 mph. Sliders are at only 81.1 mph. Cutters and sinkers have significant drops in EV.

Changeups and Cutters are being hit at higher launch angles. Curveballs, 4-seams, sinkers aren't getting off the ground.

Abreu has about a week or two to show SIGNIFICANT progress. Don't count on it. You may be angry and say this should have already happened. Billionaires are not known for swallowing their pride and admitting THEY made $59M mistakes. The next two weeks is being used to prove it one way or another to Crane.

Food for Thought: Singleton has a 116 wRC+ while playing 1B. If Singleton was delivering that level of performance all year, the Astros would rank 12th at 1B NOT 29th.

The answer at first base is addition by subtraction. Let Singleton start 60-70 percent of the games. Let Dubon play most games vs. LHP. Let Loperfido get an occasional start there as injury insurance.

Fixing 3B

Alex Bregman is having a career low year hitting. If we do the same analysis we did for Abreu pitch by pitch, what do we see?

Bregman is struggling the MOST with Curveballs and Sweepers. He is not elevating curveballs or making solid contact.

He is getting under changeups way more than in the last two years. It seems even worse with four seam fastballs.

There are signs of hope here. These numbers look more like Abreu did at the same time last year. (Oddly Abreu hit a HR on 5/28 LAST YEAR and Bregman did this year.) Bregman does NOT have to fix everything. First, he needs to figure out his curveball issues. Hopefully, the curveball solution applies to other breaking pitches as well.

Can he fix it? Yes, he CAN. Will he fix it? I would not bet against him. Until then, I think Bregman should be batting sixth or seventh until we know.

No, I would not trade Bregman. Help him figure it out and minimize the impact of the struggles he is having.

Pitching- by ERA and FIP and Month

The Astros have been decimated by injuries to their pitching. The impact of pitching injuries had the MOST impact on the Dodgers and Astros.

Even now as the team has gotten some pitchers back others like Javier and Urquidy have suffered new issues.

The injuries have impacted the Astros starting pitching. As a team they rank 27th in ERA and FIP. It is not really getting better.

The RP has had a great month in May so far by ERA and good month by FIP.

I focus on FIP because, especially in season, I believe it to be more predictive of future results. This table is sorted by FIP.

I asked on X this.

I was curious how long it would take until someone guessed Arrighetti. It took a while.

It has been a disaster of SP. Blanco, is the brightest hope. It may get better when Garcia returns, when McCullers returns, and the others perform more to their career means.

I do not think the Astros can wait.

Helping the SP

I propose the Astros make this deal to add some stability to their starting pitching. The Astros do NOT have vast assets to trade. You will argue I am paying too much. I sanity check my trades with the website. As you see THEY call it a fair trade.

Why would the Angels do this?

The Angels are not going anywhere. I expect them to sell anyone who is not a likely All-Star in the next three years.

Soriano is good, maybe even very good. He is not so good that they hang up on the Astros.

The Angels have problems everywhere. They need help in the OF. Their minor leagues are likely one of the few in worse shape than the Astros.

McCormick gives them another viable bat to play and even enables them trade Ward and/or Adell for other help they want.

Leon and Tamarez give them prospects with upside. The Angels need to make five more of these kinds of deals.

Why would the Astros do this?

McCormick or Meyers need to be traded. They are worth more in a trade than they are in splitting time with Dubon, Alvarez, and Loperfido in the OF. I think Chas is the most likely to be traded.

While Soriano is good, he is not so great that the team has to vastly overpay. He has had multiple injury issues so that depresses his trade value into something that works here.

With all of that being said, his ERA is almost exactly the same as Verlander's and his FIP is almost the same as Blanco's. He could be used out of the bullpen too as he has in 2023-2024.

This is the level of quality I think the Astros need to help their pitching staff. If he struggled relative to the full staff, he has option and at least six years of control.

It might not be Soriano the Astros get, but he is at the level they need.

What about fixing the RP?

I asked a similar question on X about the RP.

Most people are shocked to find out that the answer is.....

Ryan Pressly.

Here are the numbers.

The Astros bullpen has been a tale of two groups.

  • The April staff with the 4.90 ERA above- Terrible

  • The May staff with the 2.31 ERA above- Great

  • FIP indicates an improvement but indicates neither extreme is true.

The table to the right sorted by FIP also shows two different performance levels - Good and Bad with only Mushinski in the middle.

The other metrics indicate a more confusing or different view.

Here is what I would say. Try not to use Montero in high leverage situation. Perhaps, adding a SP and Garcia returning allows other starters to help with the bullpen.

The Astros do NOT have the 40-man roster spots to add many other pitchers. THIS is also why (along with their cost) the Astros did not re-sign Neris (4.76 FIP), Stanek (3.55 FIP), nor Maton (5.60 FIP). Despite the Astros fan narratives, they were correct about that.

Given the Astros roster, barring other injuries; I do NOT think the Astros invest in improving the bullpen.

There you have it. My 2.5 fixes for the Astros

  • Fix Jose Abreu or settle with him financially to let him go

  • Help Bregman "find it" vs. breaking pitches. I count this as a half of a fix.

  • Get the SP a good SP to help the 27th rotation in the MLB without breaking the bank in trade value.

When my team has issues, I am specific and clear what I think CAN be done. In my view, these are the real solutions to the real problems the Astros face.

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