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Evaluating the Astros at the halfway point

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Tuesday's doubleheader against the Angels represented games 30 and 31 of the shortened 60 game season, pushing the Astros past the halfway point of the year. The Astros are 17-14, which is 2nd in the AL West, 4.5 GB of the division leading Athletics. Of course, because of the expanded playoffs this season, 2nd place is good enough to get the Astros in the playoffs as a six seed. If the playoffs started today, they would square off against the Yankees.

What have the major storylines of the first half been (brawling aside)?

Injuries

This bears repeating from a previous story. Take a gander at this pitching staff.

Gerrit Cole

Justin Verlander

Wade Miley

Collin McHugh

Jose Urquidy

Roberto Osuna, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, Joe Biagini, Cionel Perez

While, yes, a majority of the names on that staff are unavailable due to free agent departure, the likes of Verlander, Urquidy, Osuna, Smith, Peacock, Biagini, and Perez have all been unavailable for all of or portions of the season due to injury. Now, one could argue that the Astros would be better off with some of these guys on the IL instead, but that's a discussion for another day. The Astros staff has been ravaged by injuries, and that's just on the pitching side.

Yordan Alvarez was available for less than a week, Michael Brantley spent a stint on the IL, George Springer missed time with injury, and Alex Bregman is currently unavailable due to injury. Those guys alone would create one of the most fearsome foursomes in MLB regardless of the supporting cast. Luckily for the Astros, the rest of the supporting staff is pretty good, which is why the team has stayed afloat, but the injury bug has certainly bit the Astros.

New Faces

People say when a door closes another one opens. The exodus of talent and injury issues have provided opportunity for some youngsters to seize. Kyle Tucker has played the best baseball of his big league career over the last two weeks, Enoli Paredes and Blake Taylor seem like legitimate bullpen options long term, Framber Valdez has been the Astros second best starter, and Cristian Javier has been impressive at times. All-in-all, the Astros can't be too upset with what they've gotten from their young crop of players.

Struggling Stars

Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and George Springer have all stumbled out of the gates to different degrees. Springer and Altuve's batting averages add up to .400 (.207 and .193 respectively), which isn't very good. Bregman was just starting to really heat up before straining his hamstring in Colorado and hitting the IL. With Alvarez out of the lineup for the year, it's hard to take the Astros seriously as a contender without these guys posing a threat and clicking. Let's hope they can get it together sooner rather than later.

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