Is Houston the team to beat even if they don't make a move at the trade deadline?

What if the Astros stand pat at the deadline?

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Astros fans, are you OK with the team not making a move before the only trade deadline in Major League Baseball this season? Especially after the rumors have been hot and heavy that the team was looking to add a starting pitcher or two to the roster for depth and security as they head towards the postseason. General Manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have been open and active in discussions with teams around the league, as well as the media in admitting they would like to address the bullpen and add another catcher as well as at least one front line starting pitcher. Luhnow has been very hesitant to part with one if not both of his top prospects in Forrest Whitley and Kyle Tucker. In a market that has been less than stellar in terms of the quality of pitchers available and the number of teams willing to participate in trade discussions. So what if the deadline comes and goes and in passing your Astros fail to add another front line hurler to the rotation? Will you be disappointed? Frustrated? Will you still believe in this team and its chances to win a World Series? Although I have been lobbying for weeks that the team needs to go out and make a move for an arm, based on what I have seen lately around the American League, I still believe the Astros can get to the fall classic even if they don't make a move.

Yuli Gurriel Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The reason I still have so much confidence in this Houston team is actually two-fold and it starts with how good this team has been playing and how many games they continue to win even as they fight through the last few lingering injury issues they have been forced to deal with for the last few months. Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve have snapped out of early-season struggles at the plate to once again putting up big numbers and high levels of production at the plate. George Springer returned from a lingering hamstring issue to pick up where he left off putting up all-star numbers and Aledmys Diaz and Carlos Correa are finally back from their injuries to take their rightful place in the lineup and batting order. Rookie Yordan Alvarez has been a huge boost to the middle of the order and provided a much-needed power surge, while Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley have provided reliable, steady and strong starting pitching at the front of the rotation. As much as the bullpen has had a few slip-ups lately, overall the numbers for the season are good as they rank as one of the better bullpens in baseball. At the time of this article being published, Houston had the best record in the American League and was in a great position to compete for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Even if the team fails in attempts to add depth and improve the roster, there is no reason to believe that they don't have enough to make a run at another title.

Yankees Aaron Judge Astros Jose Altuve Photo by Getty Images / Composite by Brandon Strange

The other reason I believe the Astros are going to be OK even if they are unable to make a move before the trade deadline is the performance of the other teams in the American League that are thought to be contenders for the league championship. After a hot start, the Minnesota Twins have cooled off and are now in a dog fight with the Cleveland Indians down the stretch to see who will win the A.L. Central. In the East, the Yankees have gone from favorites to win the World Series to a team that doesn't have enough offense to cover for a less than stellar starting rotation. If New York doesn't make a move for a starting pitcher, they could be in real trouble heading into the postseason. As potent and powerful as their lineup has been all season and with all the injuries they have overcome, it appears that Brian Cashman has work to do if the Bronx Bombers are going to compete with Houston and others for American League supremacy. The reigning World Series Champion Red Sox have been disappointing all year and their lack of quality pitching continues to be at the heart of all the teams' struggles. If it all comes down to the Astros, Twins, and Yankees, I like Houston's chances assuming all three teams stay status quo. If they don't, I still believe the Astros will be there in the end, fighting for their second title in three years.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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