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Where are the Astros?

By ClintTheScout

Executive Summary:

Uncover the mystery of the struggling Astros in 2024. Despite talent and potential, they find themselves in a tumultuous season. "Where are the Astros?"

The Astros continue to be an enigma of uncertainty and oddities in 2024. After 2023, I believed they would be an even better team this year and have an even better chance of winning another World Series. They would usher in the young talent of Yainer Diaz at catcher, solidify the position by adding Victor Caratini, a solid veteran catcher in his own right. Then, the big splash came when the Astros signed Josh Hader. They’re set to have the best backend bullpen in baseball.

But here they are, 30-37, run differential of plus 5.  As bad as this team is playing, or fans believe they are playing, they find themselves only 5.5 games back of the wild card and 7.5 games back of the division. This team is 8-21 against teams over .500 and has an expected record of 34-33 when comparing runs scored vs. runs allowed. It begs the question, where are the Houston Astros?

Last night’s game was the epitome of this season so far. The team battles in a close game, our closer holds their offense in the bottom of the 9th to give them a chance to score in the top of the 10th. Astros do just that, with baserunning and situational hitting. A 2-run lead in the bottom of the 10th was enough to work with, right? Unfortunately, it was not.

The 2022 free agency period continues to weigh down the Astros in pivotal moments. As good as Rafael Montero has appeared to be this season, his 5.67 FIP is more indicative of the pitcher he is or will be this season. Jose Abreu is a shell of the player we knew him to be before joining the Astros when signing that 3-year deal.

We comically blame Jeff Bagwell for the 2022 free agency signings, which, in my opinion, were the worst actions to take place without having a general manager in place. Perhaps what we have here is a rudderless ship searching for the proper path forward as an internal struggle takes place within the front office.

We haven’t had a chance to really see what Dana Brown can be as the general manager, but the fan base is up in arms over what he says. The fan base also believes Espada is in too deep, and that this team needs a change to save the season. The organization lost an opportunity to bolster this roster with first and second round talent in the 2020 and 2021 drafts, which has a significant effect now in 2024. There would have been talent to trade or bring up to help subsidize the perennial talent at the top-end of this roster. That’s also a big part of this, the roster is very top heavy in that regard.

This isn’t to say that’s the primary reason for the shortcomings of their season. Ryan Pressly has been at the center of several of these games in which the bullpen blows a lead. He is a reverse-FIP guy, as the results have not been indicative of a 2.63 FIP. He’s basically switched places with Rafael Montero in terms of actual very projected results, and the Astros need the projections to become real for Pressly to finally realize the strength of their bullpen.

As much as we want to blame Joe Espada, it’s difficult to find a moment in which he truly made the wrong choices, except for the one made last night. Why wasn’t Shawn Dubin used in the 10th last night? He’s rested, has reasonable xwOBA data against that part of the lineup and has a 2.78 Fip compared to the 5.67 FIP of Montero. LarryTheGM and I agree, this was the choice we would’ve made given the circumstance.

All of this, and you can ask any fan base which team you don’t want to see in the postseason? I’d bet they say the Astros. The pedigree, the talent, it’s all there, but it’s yet to be harnessed. We haven’t gotten the best of them all at the same time. The team struggles with RISP, the situational hitting has been MIA most of the time and the pitching has been a rollercoaster. They’ve been subject to the effects of baseball, which analytics can’t always overcome. Timing is everything, and keeping the window to the postseason open is priority.

So, what needs to change? Truth is, I don't know. I can say the hitting philosophy/approach is flawed, but the data would say this is a good offensive team. The pitching staff is not in the best of shape currently. However, Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti have been trending up. Framber Valdez is as well. JV continues to fight off father time and work around his 4.97 FIP.

It's as if they haven't found themselves yet, and they need to soon. At the end of the day, I believe this team has all the tools to be a threat for the World Series. It may have to be done in a different way, but there's a path forward. The offense needs to drive this team forward, and the pitching staff needs to be good enough when it matters.

Where are the Astros?

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1 Comment

What needs to change is guys like Peña, Meyers, and Dubon should not hit in the middle of the order. Their splits in terms of which spots in the lineup they hit best in clearly show that they are not the best at hitting in the middle of the order. Bagwell is asking them to makeup production that Abreu is getting paid to and failing to provide. Those guys are not going to succeed there and it's not their fault. That is the fault of Espada or whomever is making the lineups. It's ridiculous to try to watch Peña trying to drive in your best power hitters. Check Peña's stats hitting cleanup. He is not going to clear the …

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