Different View

There are more questions than answers right now for this Astros team

You won't make a living arguing sports with Charlie Pallilo but I had an issue with an article he wrote last week on this very website. He didn't write the headline but it said that the Astros were heading into spring training with very few questions to answer.

I beg to differ.

True, there aren't a lot of roster spots up for grabs and the Astros are a heavy favorite to win the A.L. West again but there are a lot more storylines than the fifth starter and Carlos Correa's back.

I'm not nearly as bullish on this team as I was the past two years. Again, they will win the A.L. West and be back in the postseason but that's not the standard anymore. I'm not sure this team has done enough this offseason to catch the Red Sox and they were probably passed by the Yankees who have been extremely busy.

Let's start with the Yankees. They lost starter Sonny Gray who was a disaster for them and replaced him with James Paxton who is one of the best lefties in baseball and an Astro killer. They also re-signed J.A. Happ who was 7-0 since they picked him up last year from the Blue Jays. They lost David Robertson from their bullpen but added Adam Ottavino who was dominant in Colorado. He should be lights out in New York. They also added D.J. LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki to fill in while Didi Gregorius heals from Tommy John surgery. He should be back before August.

That was a 100 win team. They are better, possibly much better.

The Red Sox didn't do much this offseason. They didn't have to. They won 108 games and the world title. They re-signed Nathan Eovaldi, which was huge. They lost closer Craig Kimbrel but I'm not sure they won't be better off. If Ryan Brasier can't handle it Matt Barnes can. They have both got closer stuff.

The Astros solved their closer dilemma last trade deadline. Roberto Osuna is firmly planted in that role. That's the only sure thing in a bullpen that was a disaster again last postseason. Ryan Pressly is solid and will be counted on in big late game situations. Otherwise it's a crap shoot. Hector Rondon wasn't even on the LDS roster and wasn't happy about it. Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski weren't invited to the party either. Will Harris was awful for three months last year but righted the ship and made the playoff roster only to see that go poorly once he was there. Josh James may or may not be counted on to give them bullpen innings. He could be a starter. Either way the longer he stayed in the game last year the worse it got but he was young and going through it all for the first time. He will hopefully be better. Lord knows he has the "stuff." Cionel Perez will take Tony Sipp's spot as the token lefty.

Meanwhile 3/5 of the rotation is gone. Verlander and Cole are the only ones back. They're arguably the best one-two punch in baseball but they only start 40% of the games. The other 60% is very much up in the air.

One thing we know for sure, Collin McHugh will be the third starter to begin the season. That's a two-fold problem. One, it takes him out of a role where he excelled, middle relief. Two, it puts more pressure on a bullpen that will be taxed this season. McHugh will have to build up plenty of stamina to go more than 6 innings. Last year he went 3 innings twice. In '16, his last year as a starter he averaged less than 5 2/3 innings per start.

Wade Miley is your fouth starter. He'd been sturdy up until last year but he made only 16 starts and threw 80 innings. Hopefully he will be able to make all his starts but that doesn't mean he will be effective. He's a below .500 pitcher in his career but he's never worked with Brent Strom before. That seems to be magical for most guys.

Brad Peacock and Josh James will fight for the last spot. The other will head to the pen. In '16 Peacock averaged less than 5 1/3 innings per start. If Josh James is the fifth starter who knows how patient AJ will be with him when he struggles into the 4th, 5th and 6th innings.

All of this means that the bullpen will play an even bigger role than ever. By the postseason you can bet that it'll be overworked. You'll need the bullpen for some 500 innings. That's about what they gave you last year. We've already seen what that means in all three of these recent postseasons. There has been very little left in the tank. Even when they won it all it was only because the starters came in and saved the day.

Offensively the Astros will probably be one of baseball's best. It fell off last year with injuries to Altuve and Correa. Hopefully those two will be back to '17 form. You can bet on Altuve but Correa isn't a sure thing. Backs are tricky and I'm not not so sure some of it wasn't in his head. He looked tentative and overmatched at times. That can't happen this year.

Other than that you'll have to live with a dead spot in the lineup from the catchers but I'll be interested to see what Tyler White can do with more at bats. Michael Brantley will be a welcome addition. Kyle Tucker will get another shot. Hopefully he makes more of it. He actually hit into some poor luck. Tony Kemp deserves more time. Maybe he'll platoon at DH. Aledmys Diaz has a lot to prove if he's going to replace Marwin. Alex Bregman had a huge offseason. He needs to validate his breakout year with another big one this season.

Again, this team will be back in the postseason. The A.L. West got weaker with Seattle's fire sale. But that's not enough. Not anymore. It's parade or bust. To get back there Jeff Luhnow is going to have to make a lot more noise at the trade deadline than he did this offseason.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome