How Astros next foe reinforces Houston's big picture formula
The Astros’ first road trip of the season has three games at Minnesota, then three at Pittsburgh. It follows a not good opening homestand. It wasn’t awful, it’s not remotely season-shaping, but for the Astros any losing homestand is a bad one, so 3-4 is bad. Both the Twins and Pirates went 4-2 in the season’s first week. Big deal. Good teams have bad weeks and bad teams have good weeks. The Twins could be pretty good. The Pirates almost definitely will again be very bad.
Any concern with the Astros’ offense in the early going must be hedged with the fact that Jose Altuve is out of the lineup. Throw out the 2020 60 game COVID season in which Altuve was awful, and he has posted an OPS of at least .837 six consecutive seasons. You are just not going to replace that without skipping some beats. To a lesser extent the same is true about Michael Brantley. It’s still a capable lineup, just taken down a couple of pegs. Yordan Alvarez’s hand evidently is juuuuuuust fine. Kyle Tucker appears primed for a huge season. Jose Abreu has a hit in all seven games.
Alex Bregman is off to an unfortunately characteristic slow start. 0 for sixteen with seven strikeouts slow before he finally produced three singles Monday. Seven games in Bregman is batting .138 with zero extra base hits. That’s the bad news. The good news is we can be pretty sure that at 29 years old Bregman isn’t suddenly washed up. Unbold prediction: he doesn’t go all season without a double or home run. No triple, maybe. Breggy’s last three bagger was in 2020.
One shaky turn through the starting rotation and at least one ineffective outing already from all four of the returning 2022 bullpen studs (Ryan Pressly, Rafael Montero, Ryne Stanek. Bryan Abreu, and if you like you can add Hector Neris) isn’t a feel good prescription, but should not cause night sweats. A rough week in June or July is just that. A rough week the first week of the season is the resume to date and naturally lends itself to overreaction by caring if sometimes irrational fans. If the Astros’ starting pitchers make it a long term routine to more often than not get no outs beyond the fifth inning, then yes they will have a problem. There just isn’t reason to expect that. Framber Valdez is two for two in good outings. Cristian Javier hasn’t dominated in either of his first two starts, who thinks it’s not coming? Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy are solid mid to back of rotation starters. The lone real question mark is Hunter Brown, who will have to pitch with better command to thrive as a big league starter. The Astros gave up at least three runs in each of their first six games. Only once in all of 2022 did they have a longer stretch giving up three-plus. It was eight straight games. It happened last April. Things turned out okay.
The Astros spend the weekend in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (actually close to 12 thousand), Minnesota. Other than for the sake of Twins’ home field advantage, the imploded Metrodome was a lousy place for Major League Baseball. It did prevent snowouts however. Target Field does not, so with the Thursday forecast of snow and temperature in the 30s during the day and temp down to near 20 Thursday night, the Astros get their first off day one day early. This is why Friday was originally slotted as an off day, giving the Twins a fallback for their home opener. The Friday, Saturday, Sunday Minneapolis forecast is beautiful.
The Twins are out of the shoot at 4-2 having swept three from royally crummy Kansas City, then dropping two out of three at Miami. Carlos Correa is off to a slow start to his second season as a Twin. Correa is batting .208 one week in after his offseason free agency saga. He agreed to a 13 year 350 million dollar contract with the Giants before they flunked him on his physical because of long term concerns with Correa’s lower right leg and ankle. Correa then pivoted to a 12 year 300 million dollar deal with the Mets, before they flunked him over the same concerns. No pity party is warranted for Correa settling for a six year 200 million dollar remarriage with the Twins. Still, while a very pleasant climate through the summer months and with a decent team around him, no way was Minneapolis Minnesota the market where Correa hoped to play however many years remain in his prime. Over his first three seasons with the Twins, Correa will pull down a little under 102 million dollars. Over those same three years the Astros will pay Jeremy Pena under three million, unless they enter into an early contract extension which pays more. Again: Correa approximately 102 mil, Pena approximately 3. Correa was the better player last season and the odds favor him being so this season, but not lopsidedly.
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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as: