The Houston Astros are rolling through the American League yet it is not a single dominant player that is leading the team, rather it is a full cast. A.J. Hinch is managing an offense that can pound opponents from different angles and a pitching staff that is above average. Put the two together and it is clear why the race for the American League West ended a long time ago.
Offensively the Astros are not a one man show, rather they are a cast of many. A quick rundown of the statistics paints a vivid picture. Houston has:
- 7 players with 100 or more hits: Jose Altuve, George Springer, Yuli Gurriel, Josh Reddick, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and Marwin Gonzalez.
- Carlos Beltran has 94 hits.
- 4 players with .300 or better Batting Average: Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Marwin Gonzalez, and George Springer.
- Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel are hitting .295.
- 6 players with at least 50 RBI: Carlos Correa, George Springer, Marwin Gonzalez, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, and Josh Reddick.
- 4 players with 40 or more walks: Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer.
- Marwin Gonzalez has 37 walks.
- 8 players with 50 or more Runs scored: George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Josh Reddick, Alex Bregman, Carlos Beltran, Yuli Gurriel, and Marwin Gonzalez.
- 11 players with 11 or more home runs: George Springer, Carlos Correa, Marwin Gonzalez, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Jake Marisnick, Josh Reddick, and Evan Gattis.
Houston can hit for average and power, can get a runner over and then in. The Astros have the fewest strikeouts in the Majors, they put the ball in play and good things are happening. Even with Correa, McCann, and Gattis sporting injuries, this team still has enough firepower to continue rolling along. Not relying on one or two players for their offense should prevent the Astros from running out of steam in October.
The Astros hope to continue the celebration in October. (Aric Crabb/ Bay Area News Group)
Even if the Astros offense gets hurt and/or all runs cold the pitching staff is capable to keeping the team going. While not as dominant as the offense, it’s a tough act to follow, the Houston pitching staff has a 4.24 team ERA, below the MLB average of 4.34. They lead MLB in strikeouts with 1,201 and are only slightly above average in walks allowed with 397, average is 389. The team WHIP is 1.288 against the MLB average of 1.342. None of these numbers are eye popping. They merely point out that the Astros have a serviceable pitching staff able to keep games close enough on those nights when the offense slows down a step. Despite his own injuries, Dallas Keuchel leads the starting rotation with a 2.77 ERA in 15 starts. Injuries to Keuchel, Lance McCullers, and Collin McHugh have meant the linchpin to the pitching staff’s success has been the bullpen. Set up men Chris Devenski and Will Harris have ERAs below 2.86, while closer Ken Giles has an ERA of 2.80 with 23 saves and 40 games finished. The ability to shorten a game to only six or seven innings on a given night means even in close games opposing teams have to get their offense going early otherwise the Houston bullpen can shut them down.
Houston lost a lot of games for several years to rebuild into a contender. The plan has worked. The Astros are one of, if not, the best team in baseball. The discomfort of losing season after season should result in winning season after season for the foreseeable future. A.J. Hinch’s team shows no sign of slowing down. The offense is carrying the team, yet the pitching staff is good enough to keep the success going once playoff baseball arrives. Time will tell, but for now Houston looks almost unstoppable.
The best moves in Major League Baseball for the week of December 9th through December 15th and their impact on the teams involved for this season and beyond.
Bartolo Colon has signed a two year, $20 million contract with the New York Mets. Coming off a 2013 campaign which saw him go 16 and 6 with a 2.65 ERA, Colon instantly provides veteran leadership and depth to the Mets rotation. He will protect Zack Wheeler by not thrusting him into being the Mets ace before he is ready while Matt Harvey is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Colon will be 41 during the 2014 season, and many are wondering how much longer he can pitch like a man a decade younger than he is. His increasing age and the history of PED use and suspension have made Colon a fairly low risk signing for the Mets as they begin to climb back to .500.
The Miami Marlins seem like they could be serious about building a winning ball club. The signing of Garret Jones to a two year deal gives them a corner outfielder with Giancarlo Stanton in Center. Jones will also aid in protecting Stanton in the batting order as adding an extra left handed bat to their line up should give Stanton more pitches to hit and more opportunities to drive in runs. Jones, along with the signing of Rafael Furcal and Jarrod Saltalamacchia last week seems to be signaling that Miami has finally figured out that building a winning team takes time. Instead of going after the big money free agents they are starting with the solid free agents and then they should become a destination for free agents in the future. All this however is dependent upon Jeffrey Loria not hosting his seemingly biannual fire sale.
Omar Infante will help the Kansas City Royals win the extra games they need in order to make the playoffs. Having signed a four year deal, Infante will provide stability and leadership for the Royals in their infield and in the club house. His leadership and playoff experience will help the young Royals handle the extra stresses that come with a playoff race in August and September. An above average hitter and fielder, much of Infante’s value does not show up in a box score. His ability to play five or six different positions allows his teammates to get a day off, yet he prevents a roster spot from being filled by a player who is solely a backup. The Royals need every player they can get as they march towards October and Infante will help them get over the hump and make the playoffs.
There should be plenty of Home Runs for Diamondback fans to catch after Arizona completed a three team trade which brought them former Angels slugger Mark Trumbo. Unfortunately for Arizona fans, those Home Runs come at a price, lots and lots of strikeouts. While Trumbo will never be mistaken for Andruw Jones in the outfield, he can provide average defense. His value is his ability to launch a baseball into the next county. Trumbo has major upside with his bat if he can harness his power and cut down on his strikeouts, even a little. Adding him to the lineup that already has Paul Goldschmidt and Gerardo Parra could instantly make the Diamondbacks a major threat in the National League West. I think Trumbo has the ability to be an amazing player, but he needs to understand that a base hit is not a failure and that hitting a Home Run should not be the only goal of an at bat.