Can Houston win the battle against discomfort?
Are injuries jeopardizing the Astros' season?
The Astros have taken some big blows recently on the injury front. Jose Altuve hasn't played since May 10 after his hamstring injury. George Springer strained his hamstring on his first night back after missing several games with back tightness. Also this weekend Houston lost Max Stassi and Aledmys Diaz to other leg issues.
The discomforts are stacking up, and with that many will start to worry if all this missed time from these players will degrade the overall outcome of the 2019 season. My opinion on that matter at the moment is this: no, not really.
It's only May
Sure, it's the end of May, but still, it's early in the season. You hope injuries don't happen at any point in the season, but if they must, you'd prefer earlier than later. If you remember, Carlos Correa missed the first three games of the season with a neck strain, something that some conservative rest time has allowed him to play thus far fully healthy.
With so much season left, the Astros have plenty of time left to be conservative with players who need some time off, so they might as well take a slower approach and be sure that the players are 100 percent healthy before getting them back in the lineup.
Another side-benefit of allowing plenty of breathing room for these star players dealing with injuries: they can go on rehab assignments not only to get them back in rhythm but provide some veteran knowledge to some of the prospects we may see soon.
The newest member of the #RRExpress, Jose Altuve! pic.twitter.com/QNaJAUS5Nt
— Andrew Felts (@andrewfelts) May 26, 2019
The division looks very winnable
Early in the season, the Astros were looking up at the Mariners who started the season on an absolute tear. Since then, the Mariners have had a very tough stretch while the Astros have gone on to win series after series while putting together a couple of ten-game winning streaks.
It's of course too early to fly the division banner, but as of now, it's looking like even with some injuries along the way the Astros may find the AL West to be a division they can lock up well before the end of the season. However, they have a ton of AL West matchups in the second half which could either be cakewalks or fierce battles during the playoff push.
One more reason that Houston can absorb a few players going on the injured list and take their time coming back, the team is balanced and has good depth. One way a team can keep the train moving with a few of their offensive leaders missing time: good pitching and defense. The Astros have plenty of that, including their rotation led by Justin Verlander, and strong defense including a strong left side of the infield and crazy athletic outfield.
Ok, so Jake Marisnick hit a homer earlier tonight... exciting... but is it as exciting as this snag!?!?!?!?
I think we know Wade Miley's answer. #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/PnCZ2ug7nu
— AT&T SportsNet SW (@ATTSportsNetSW) May 25, 2019
There have been many plays on defense that have saved runs or stifled the momentum of opposing defenses, which along with a strong bullpen adds up to Houston's 8-5 record in one-run games. Despite moving Collin McHugh to the bullpen who would himself land on the injured list, the rest of the rotation has been solid, with Verlander having another Cy Young caliber year, Gerrit Cole leading the league in strikeouts, and Wade Miley and Brad Peacock racking up some quality starts.
A lot of defensive players can play multiple positions, which is a great benefit too. Yuli Gurriel can play first, second, or third. Tony Kemp can play second or in the outfield, and if needed Alex Bregman can play shortstop in addition to his now normal third base position. They're toeing the line of comfortability on infield versatility, but as of now, it's still manageable.
Put all of this together, and you've got a team that can still win plenty of games even with multiple injuries stacking up together. Even without Jose Altuve on the field and in the lineup, the Astros cruised along and rose to the top of the power rankings, and I think they still belong near the top of that list, for now, even with the other injuries that came later.
All of this said, even with the Astros being the best in the AL West, they need to ensure they can put themselves in a spot to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs because that will be one of the keys to a successful playoff run. That means that while the current injuries allow for plenty of time to play out, adding more, or more severe, injuries can make things challenging for the Astros in the rest of the season.