Let's discuss who will be the Astros' best offensive player this season

Astros Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman
The Astros hammered the A's on Opening Day. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Even if the biggest Astros' homer ever, I presume you don't have them going 162-0 this season. But if you do, one down 161 to go! For the record put me down for 91 wins to edge out the A's for a reclaiming of the American League West title.

Who will be the Astros' best offensive player this season? Alex Bregman seems the most logical guess. He has two monster seasons to his name and is just 27 years old. Carlos Correa turns 27 in September. He's had zero monster full seasons, but has the talent for one and with free agency looming Correa could not be more incentivized for a huge 2021. Jose Altuve turns 31 next month. His best seasons are quite likely behind him, but you know Altuve wants to reestablish his excellence after an awful short-season 2020. What numbers could a (cross your fingers) healthy Yordan Alvarez amass over a first full season? Michael Brantley is consistently outstanding, but only in 2014 did he have a season that would be in the hunt for Astros' offensive MVP this season.

Francisco Lindor signing a 10 year 341 million dollar extension with the Mets doesn't help the Astros' hope of keeping Correa beyond 2021. Correa's best baseball has been better than Lindor's best, but Lindor has been much more durable and consistent. Other than that new Mets' owner Steve Cohen is worth 14 billion dollars give or take, the Lindor contract is crazy. Teams shouldn't be forced to match other teams' daffiness, but Correa no doubt is using the Lindor deal as a benchmark for his own.

Final Four

What a day Saturday with the Houston Cougars playing the Baylor Bears at the Final Four for a spot in Monday night's National Championship game. Kelvin Sampson has done a much heralded beyond stupendous job with the Cougar program. What Scott Drew has built at Baylor is no less impressive, in some ways even more so. The Bears are the rightful favorites (by five points). Baylor was tested by much stiffer competition over the course of the season, and after its first round wipeout of Hartford Baylor has beaten a stouter slate of opponents to get to the Final Four.

Baylor is definitely the better shooting team, as a squad over 40 percent behind the three point line. The Cougars definitely will have to score better than they did in getting through Rutgers, Syracuse, and Oregon State. It's certainly possible that Marcus Sasser and Quentin Grimes fill it up from deep. Consistently getting shots is a must. Baylor's defense is much better than what UH has seen to date. The Bears took control of their wins over Villanova and Arkansas with runs sparked by multiple forced turnovers. For all of Baylor's strengths it's not a great rebounding team. The Coogs have pummeled opponents with their offensive rebounding.

Geez, does UH even stand a chance? Of course it does. In a best of seven series the Bears would be a clear choice over the Cougars. In a best of one you never know.

By the same token yes 11th seed UCLA has a chance vs. Gonzaga. The 30-0 Bulldogs look unbeatable. They are not unbeatable. Even if they finish the job with two more wins to become the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976, there's a distinction between unbeaten and unbeatable. In 1991 defending champ UNLV was unbeaten and appeared unbeatable. Duke took down the Runnin' Rebels in the semifinals. In 2015 Kentucky was 38-0 before losing its semifinal game with Wisconsin. The 14 point underdog Bruins are unlikely to shock Gonzaga, but that's why it happening would be a shocker! And shockers happen. Just as UH almost certainly would not have a 28-3 record had it played in the Big 10 or Big 12 this season, Gonzaga would almost certainly not own a perfect resume if it played in a deep power conference instead of the West Coast Conference.

Rocket science

The Rockets' ugly slog toward the lottery has had a productive week. They've lost twice while Orlando has won twice, so the Rockets are now three and half games worse than the Magic which has the fourth worst record in the NBA. Reminder the Rockets need to finish in the bottom three of league standings to have their best shot at the top four draft pick necessary to avoid losing the pick.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. So Roy Williams retired at North Carolina. Kelvin Sampson attended the University of North Carolina…

2. Calm down Cougar fans. UNC-Pembroke for Sampson, not Chapel Hill. Never say never I guess, but he's not leaving UH off a Final Four appearance.

3. Good Friday movies: Bronze-Freaky Friday Silver-Friday Gold-Friday Night Lights

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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