Why the Astros Will Make the Playoffs
By: Sean Morton
The ball club of my newly adopted hometown is destined for the playoffs- this year. Sure, there are plenty of doubters. “The Astros are young,” they will say. “They need to add more impact players,” they might add. Maybe the argument will be that they need a year or two to learn the ways of new manager A.J. Hinch and build team chemistry. But the truth is that the ‘Stros are the real deal. They WILL make a run for the playoffs, and they WILL make it. Here’s why:
The Stats Don’t Lie
The Astros currently have the 4th best record in the majors at 14-7, after finishing last season with the fifth worst. They are 3rd in team ERA. They are also number 1 in the big leagues in stolen bases (Jose Altuve already has 9, while George Springer and Jake Marisnick each have 8). Despite early struggles in offensive productivity, the team is 4th in the league in home runs, and top ten in other key batting categories including total RBI’s and slugging percentage. Sure it’s early in the season, but these kinds of numbers, which have continued from a strong spring training season, are indicative of a playoff-bound team.
The Astros Have a Good Blend of Young and Experienced Players
This team has an excellent balance between young talent and seasoned veterans. The pitching staff has been an early surprise- it’s hard to dispute that Houston has the best 1-2 starting pitchers in Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh, at least in the AL West. We also can’t discount slinger Scott Feldman, who is still in the prime of his pitching career. The oldest guys on the roster outside of the pitching staff are barely in their 30s, but players like Luis Valbuena and Colby Rasmus have been in the league for years now and are providing healthy team leadership and productivity both offensively and defensively.
These trends will only continue- I’m not saying they will win it all this year, but they’re going to make it into the playoffs.
Why the Astro’s won’t make the playoffs this year
By Eric Shulman
Don’t believe the hype. It’s too early in the year. Sure, the Astros have the best record in the American League. Guess what? Last week it was the Tigers. Heck, the Mets currently have the best record in the National League. The point is, it’s simply too early in the year with far too small of a sample size to change my predictions on this team or the AL West.
The Pitching is not Sustainable
Dallas Keuchel has been phenomenal so far this year. There’s no denying that. However, his career numbers don’t come anywhere to what he is doing now, and his batting average on balls in in play (babip) of .158 suggests a significant amount of luck. For the sake of argument, let’s say Collin McHugh and Keuchel outperform their career numbers. They still have to come back to Earth at least a little, meaning a few real bad outings in the future.
Depth of the rotation is a big weakness. Scott Feldman is not a break out candidate. He has been in the MLB eleven years and his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) numbers, a stat that helps show a pitcher’s effectiveness in more detail than ERA, have consistently been around 4 the last six years with a 4.41 career average. This number is indicative of an average pitcher, not a great one. He is a known commodity; consistent, but consistently average. Not to mention, behind Feldman is where things start to get very questionable with Roberto Hernandez and the injured Brett Oberholtzer.
Swing and Miss
The Astros offense is built on swinging for the fences. We’ve detailed how strikeout heavy this lineup can be in the earlier referenced AL West Overview. There is great potential, but all power hitters go through phases of mashing and slumping. Over the last few years Jose Altuve alone couldn’t carry the offense, which makes the inevitable power drought a scary proposition. George Springer, the young slugging outfielder, is hitting .200. Houston as a team is hitting a weak .238, 22nd in the MLB. Without homeruns, the offense will sputter.
The Astros are a very good team that deserves to be watched. The way the team has been built, we can expect to see winning streaks like this from them all year long, Unfortunately, we can also expect to see long losing streaks when the power is out and the pitchers are struggling. This is a playoff team, but not until they mature and develop some patience. With 140 games left in the season, don’t jump on the bandwagon yet.