WADE MILEY HAS HAD SEVERAL BAD OUTINGS IN A ROW, GIVING EVERYONE CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Astros need to figure out fourth starter for playoffs

Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

For most of the year Wade Miley has been just what the doctor ordered in replacing Dallas Kuechel in the starting rotation and doing so with great numbers and results. Unfortunately everything took a turn for the worse when Miley and the Astros entered the month of September. Two straight home starts had Miley giving up 7 runs in the first inning of both games and leaving before he could toe the rubber for inning number 2. On the road the results were slightly better, but not enough to keep observers from wondering if there was a real problem brewing for the player and the team as they head to the post season? Miley has an ERA of 22.06 in September and has seen his overall ERA go up almost a full point in the last three weeks. In his most recent start he gave up 4 earned runs on 4 hits in one inning of work before being removed by Manager AJ Hinch. As good as Miley was for most of the season, his performance over the final month of the season has everyone involved searching for answers and wondering what they should do to avoid any similar issues that could severely hinder their run for a second World Series title in the last three years. As much as you like Miley and want to believe he can figure it out and get right before the A.L. Divisional Series gets under way early next month, time is running out and a tough decision may have to be made. If Miley doesn't get the ball for Game 4 of a playoff series, who could step up and take over the role while holding down the fort?

If this was last year, the answer would be easy as Brad Peacock has proven himself to be an above average weapon for this team whether it be out of the bullpen or in a starting role. He has pitched in the playoffs before and knows what it takes to pitch on the biggest stage, when the lights are at their brightest. That was then, this is now and the here and now says Peacock has struggled with injuries all season long with multiple stints on the IL, and after recently returning from his latest appearance on the injury report there doesn't seem to be enough time to get him "stretched out" and prepared with the endurance and arm strength required of a major league starting pitcher. Expect to see him on the playoff roster and ready for long and short relief out of the pen, but probably not as a starter filling in for Miley.

Collin McHugh/Facebook

Another former starter experiencing the same struggles and appearances on the injured list as Peacock is Colin McHugh. Together the two right-handers are living a parallel universe that has seen them both go from effective and trusted arms in the bullpen and rotation to a two-man MASH unit that can't be counted on based on health concerns alone. McHugh also has seen extended time on the IL and has yet to return to the active roster for the final few weeks of the season. The simple truth is, there is too much risk involved to roll the dice and hope for the potential rewards. As good as McHugh has been and for as much trust as AJ Hinch has built up in his ability to step up and step in wherever needed, he just doesn't seem like he is going to be healthy enough to be counted on for the playoffs. The bigger hope is that he can get healthy and return as a short inning reliever with valuable postseason experience as the team goes deeper into the playoffs.

The team has used the regular season to interview and audition several of their young and talented pitching prospects hoping that at least one would seize the opportunity and capture a spot in the rotation. Framber Valdez was given every chance to succeed but his lack of control and propensity to walk more hitters than he retires, has forced the club to move on for the rest of this season. Josh James experienced a similar fate after he was sidelined early in the year and again recently by injuries, then when he returned to the team he seemingly lost his ability to throw strikes while suddenly becoming a candidate to give up a long ball every time he took the mound. James still may make the playoff roster as a power arm in the pen, but for now it looks like his days as a starter are over. Jose Urquidy has looked good in his last three appearances but is on an innings limit due to his Tommy John surgery of a few years ago. He is fast approaching the magic number for innings pitched based on the organizational restrictions when you combine his major league and minor league totals and Hinch has said that he is not willing to push those boundaries as he has Urquidy's career in his hands. With that said and combined with his roller coaster season of results, the team isn't likely to give him a shot as a postseason starter.

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

All of that leaves the team with very few options and a limited number of potential solutions as they power towards the postseason. The team could go with a three man rotation and force their best starters into pitching on short rest well before they would otherwise consider such a scenario, or they consider going to an "opener" and then follow up whoever gets the start with a bullpen game by committee. Neither situation seems ideal, especially if they are in command and leading the series but the later would seem to be the best option to preserve the overall state of the rotation. If they go that route, look for Peacock or possibly James to get the call first, followed by anyone not named Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly or Will Harris. The bullpen started the season as one of the best collections of talent in all of baseball and it looks like they will end the year even more valuable if they are called upon and counted on to fill the void left by the inconsistency of Miley. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds and how the team elects to handle it. For the sake of Houston and the Astros, let's hope that Miley and pitching coach Brent Strom can figure out what has been going wrong, right the ship, and avoid having to make any rash decisions.

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

- William Shakespeare

You might wonder why there is a puppy picture on a story about the Astros scandal. This little beauty is my Dalmatian, Dynamo. Why is she here? To distract you. To dazzle you. Who doesn't love a puppy picture? Who cares if it has anything to do with the story? She made you look.

And the point is...

Sadly, that is the role of the media these days. Please listen to my rant. Please click on my story. Who cares if the headline isn't accurate? None of that matters. Look at me! I need likes and retweets!

The Astros cheating scandal is the latest story to be overblown, overanalyzed and overexposed. Why? Page views. Ratings. A failing media.

Exploring every angle

None of that is meant to excuse the team. Let's be honest; the Astros cheated. They will be punished, and they should. Draft picks, fines, suspensions. All are possible, and whatever they get is probably warranted.

And that is where the story should end. But that is not what the world is about anymore. It has to be endlessly debated. Pictures of a laptop on a table become the Zapruder film. There HAS to be a conspiracy. Every detail has to be debated. Which side you come down on depends on your biases.

Stupid takes

Some have even said the Astros should be stripped of their World Series title. This isn't college. It's a dumb, look at me take. It will never happen. This is not Avengers: Endgame where you can enter the quantum realm and change the past. It is real life, where events can't be changed. Did the cheating help them win? Who knows? You still have to hit the ball, even if you know what is coming. And it did not make a difference for the Astros pitchers. And harkening back to the steroid era, how do you know the other teams did not do it too and just did not get caught?

The big argument about PEDs was "oh, look at the big numbers the hitters put up." But how do you know the pitchers weren't doing it, too? The same goes here.

Truth is, you don't know. Which is why results can't and shouldn't be changed. Period. To suggest it is just dumb.

More stupid takes

On the Astros fan side, the defenses are just as silly. "They did nothing wrong. Where is your proof? Why aren't there other players coming forward?"

As an aside, let's not leave out the great misleading phrases. "Due diligence." (In other words, we know this is a bad idea, but we want to sound like we know what we are doing). "Witch hunt." (Yes, I am guilty, but this is how I deflect it).

As another aside, if you find an actual witch on your hunt, let me know. I always wanted to meet one.

They cheated. Period. And they will be punished. But the point is not that at all. It's to find every possible angle to get people to read and react. To care more about something than we should, when there are far more important things we should be riled up about. But you are being told to care, so you will keep clicking. It's the new normal, where reporters make themselves the stories and insert themselves into it. And that's why they turn stories like this into major issues. For their own benefit.

Nothing new

This is just the latest media distraction. The Patriots deflated balls saga was the most overplayed, overanalyzed scandal in sports history. Why was it so important? Because hot takes, web sites and analysts told us so. Many hinted at even bigger conspiracies. Why? Because we are a society dazzled by puppies.

Just this past weekend, the entire Colin Kaepernick story was over reported from all sides. The NFL was just doing a PR move. He just wants to be a martyr.

The NFL's waiver was broken down word by word.

Over a guy who hasn't played in three years.

The reason? He gets page views and clicks. And ratings. We keep getting told how important every aspect of the story is to our lives. In truth, it's just another distraction, a false narrative created to keep us dazzled and up in arms. Do we really care about these things? And if we do, what the hell is wrong with us?

Just like the Astros scandal. Is it a bad look? Of course. Are they guilty? Sure looks like it. But punish them and let's move on. We get it. They banged trashed cans. But punishment is never enough. People have to post pictures that might be something. Videos that might be something. Emails that might be something. Add it all up and it doesn't make things any worse. It just creates talking points. And people wonder why so many people consider the media - and social media, as the lines are completely blurred - "fake news."

In the end...

It's not fake news. It's misguided attempts to to keep us coming back for more. And too many of us fall into the trap. We are too distracted by everyone telling us these things are so important that we keep clicking. It takes on a life of its own, and then any theory is possible. Any conspiracy is possible. So we keep reading and digging and we are immersed in it. Look at this! Click on me! In a few weeks the Astros will be the most evil organization that ever lived and should be disbanded. And some of you will believe it and buy in, because that's how distractions work. And once we are distracted? We can believe anything.

Hence the picture of Dynamo. To distract you. By the way, did you notice one of her spots looks like Mickey Mouse? Let the Disney conspiracy begin. We shall start our own tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury.

And we all know what that signifies.

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