Charlie Pallilo: Astros should benefit from soft schedule

Dallas Keuchel has not been good. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Astros underwhelmed as they ran their four series gauntlet against their probable four fellow American League playoff teams, but it’s not as if their 6-7 record was horrible. The Indians, Yankees, Red Sox, and Mariners draw good paychecks too. Now the clouds have parted and the Astros should win a truckload of games between now and the All-Star break. As the Astros started their four game series in Arlington vs. the Rangers they had 36 games left before the break, exactly zero of them against anybody with a winning record.

To the Mariners’ credit they took advantage of a soft schedule stretch and ripped off 16 wins in 22 games and vaulted over the Astros to lead the American League West. But the schedule worm has turned. While the Astros play nobody good for the next month-plus, the Mariners have nine games against the Angels, seven against the Red Sox, and three against the Yankees. Add in six interleague games against the Rockies and that’s 25 out of 32 games upcoming for the Mariners vs. teams now over .500. They won’t necessarily sink like a stone, but they almost certainly won’t be winning two out of every three.

So it will be a definite disappointment and a big surprise if the Astros aren’t leading the division at the break.

The Astros still have not won a game all season in which they’ve trailed by more than two runs. They still are 0 for 2018 when trailing after eight innings. Nobody wins many games when trailing after eight but the Astros have blown three games when up going to the ninth.

Bearded blunder

It’s not quite a Keuchel Konundrum (especially since the word is conundrum) but Dallas needs to pick it up a bit or his spot in the starting rotation could wind up jeopardized. Collin McHugh is an obvious alternative. In the 80s Rod Stewart had a hit with Some Guys Have All The Luck. Rod meant good luck. Keuchel is the first eight game loser in the Majors this season, but while his performance has been mediocre overall he’s had bad luck too. Over his last eight starts Keuchel for his mound opponent twice drew Yankee ace Luis Severino, twice drew Indian ace and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Cory Kluber, once drew Oakland’s best and fresh off a no-hitter Sean Manaea, and most recently drew Mariner ace James Paxton. Keuchel’s ERA over those eight starts is 4.70 so he flat out hasn’t been good enough consistently enough. But check out the Astro run totals in Dallas’s defeats this season: 1, 1, 1, 1, 0, 4, 3, 1. No pitcher can produce a good record with that level of support. Keuchel took a no-decision at Cleveland after throwing six innings of two-run ball. The Astros scored nothing while Keuchel was in the game, then eleven runs off of the Indians’ bullpen in the final two innings.

Hold those Tigers

The 2014 Detroit Tigers had Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Rick Porcello 1-2-3 in their starting rotation. They got swept in the Division Series. The Tigers then traded Porcello, saw Scherzer walk as a free agent, and then a couple of years later traded Verlander. Porcello won a Cy Young Award in 2016, Scherzer won Cy Young Awards in both 2016 and 2017. Scherzer and Verlander may both win Cy Young Awards in 2018. The Tigers winningest pitcher this season is Mike Fiers.

Pat hand

A positive of the Texans’ offseason surfaced Thursday with word that Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman faces a four game PED suspension (he’s appealing). We’re three months out from the Texans-Patriots season opener in Foxborough. Edelman missed all last season after a preseason ACL tear. Tom Brady and the Pats held up OK. Shockingly, Rob Gronkowski didn’t retire and leave more than eight and a half million dollars on the table, so the Patriots figure to continue holding up OK.

Hall of shame

So Terrell Owens finally gets elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and announces he won’t be showing up for the induction ceremony this summer in Canton Ohio. Should make for a classier ceremony.

No decision?

As the Warriors polish off the Cavaliers, Rocket fantasists will ratchet up the “LeBron to Houston!” talk. I’m a pretty big never say never guy but the only Hall of Famer-to be James on the Rockets next season will be Harden.

Buzzer beaters

1. Justify should take the Belmont Stakes to win the Triple Crown Saturday. What a stud.  2. It’s better that in their 44th season of trying the Washington Capitals finally won the Stanley Cup than if the expansion Vegas Golden Knights had won it. The Knights’ first season is still one of the most amazing team stories ever. 3. Greatest Triple Crown winners:  Bronze-Mickey Mantle Silver-Ted Williams Gold-Secretariat.


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How much does it cost to attend an Astros baseball game?

According to the just released 2023 Team Marketing Report of Fan Cost, a family of four has to shell out $343.72 at Minute Maid Park to catch a game. That’s the third-highest price tag in all of Major League Baseball, trailing only the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

This cost analysis data is courtesy of Sporting Post and runs a tab of four “non-premium” tickets, four hot dogs, two small beers, two small soft drinks, two team hats and one parking space.

Sporting Post put the average price for Astros tickets at $58.61 per person, hot dogs $6 each, small beers $7.50 each, small sodas $5.50 each, Astros caps $24.99 each and parking $9.30.

Let’s crunch the numbers and get real.

I do not sit in the press box with a media pass. I go to games and I pay for tickets. I do not pay $58 for a ticket, however. For example, right now you can go on the Astros website and buy tickets for the June 19th game against the Mets – upper deck behind first base, third row, on the aisle, for $37 each. They’re good seats. And you don’t have to deal with secondary market entrepreneurs.

I don’t need to buy an Astros hat, certainly not a new one each time I go to a game. I have never paid for parking. There’s free parking downtown after 7 p.m. and you can find a space if you’re willing to walk a few blocks. You probably can use the exercise. Plus, unlike some other MLB towns, public transportation will get you near the ballpark.

I buy a hot dog and soda. I know they’re overpriced but a dog and Coke (or beer) are part of the baseball experience. I’m worth it. Fans are allowed to bring food, in reasonable amounts, to Minute Maid Park. Hot dogs supposedly taste best at a ballpark. I’ve never heard that about a tuna fish sandwich. Minute Maid Park is not a high school cafeteria.

I’m not an Astros apologist for their high prices. But …

You want a winning team? Pretty things cost money. It’s the difference between going to dinner at McDonald’s or an upscale steakhouse. The Astros are filet mignon. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for a doggie bag.

Yes, it’s expensive to attend a game at Minute Maid Park, but the Astros are putting out a quality product. They’re the best thing going in Houston. Why stop there? The Astros are the most successful pro sports team in America over the past seven years. You know the numbers: four American League pennants, six ALCS appearances in a row, four World Series appearances and two championships.

You get what you pay for. You want the Astros to sign Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez to long-term deals? Those players won’t come cheap.

Signing slugging first baseman Jose Abreu to a three-year deal took a ton of money. OK, bad example. But you get my point.

It’s not like the Astros are printing money with their local TV contract, like the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox. The Dodgers’ deal is worth upwards of $250 million. The Astros deal with AT&T SportsNet is worth about $73 million. For comparison, the Rangers’ local TV deal is worth about $111 million. I get it, the Dallas designated market is larger than Houston, but it’s still annoying when Dallas gets anything bigger or better than us.

Astros fans love their team and show out. The Astros are averaging 37,111 fans so far this year. That’s in the upper echelon of baseball, and 4,000 more fans per game over last year.

According to Forbes, the Astros are worth $2.25 billion (with a B), up 14 percent from 2022. Jim Crane and his support group bought the Astros for $610 million (with an M) in 2011.

The cheapest deal in baseball is offered by the Baltimore Orioles. A family of four can attend an O’s game for $198, according to Sporting Post data.

Now we enter the Bizarro World, or as they call it out west, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The A’s charge the 11th highest prices to attend a game - $240 for a family of four to watch the historically awful A’s lose game after game after game after (tell me when to stop).

On the other hand, you can enjoy quiet private time with your spouse and children in the empty upper deck. The A’s are averaging only 8,600 “fans” per game.

You know me and attendance figures. I’m calling bull on 8,600 fans.

I’m saying more like 5,000 … and I’ll still take the under.

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