What a start for Yuli Gurriel. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.
What a colossal thud of a week for the Astros. After a smashing success 5-1 road trip to open the season, the Astros stunk up Minute Maid Park with a 1-5 homestand leaving them the essence of early season mediocrity. Their record is 6-6 as they spend this weekend in Seattle for three games before two at Colorado before getting back home for a four game set with the Angels starting Thursday.
Getting too high in good times and too low in rough times is part of what being a fan is. In the bigger picture not too much should be made of the yin or yang of the season's first fortnight. However, it is simple truth that the Astros' roster simply isn't as good as it used to be. The margin for error is less. The upside (regular season) is still high but not in the realm of the 2017-19 juggernaut squads. In the short term, facing the next week plus without Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Alvarez because of COVID issues doesn't help.
The offense was mostly impotent during the homestand but the expectation certainly remains that the Astros' lineup will be well above average. If it mashes to potential the Astros have a pretty magnificent seven in Altuve, Bregman, Alvarez, Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, and Kyle Tucker. Tucker has been the weakest of the seven out of the gate, yet it's Tucker who leads the Astros in homers (four) and runs batted in (11).
Gurriel has drawn 11 walks in the Astros first 12 games. This is stunning. Last season in 57 games played he drew 12. In his three full seasons covering 139, 136, and 144 games played Gurriel walked a paltry 22, 23, and 37 times. Add the 11 walks to Gurriel batting .429 thus far and his on base percentage is an obviously not remotely sustainable yet astounding .547. Conversely, a lack of plate discipline is clearly contributing to a meh start for Alvarez. Yordan has 49 plate appearances and drawn one walk. One.
Questions about the pitching staff are abundant. Not because the Detroit Tigers lit them both up this week (though it doesn't help…), but there is zero chance that Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers can even come close to being the one-two punch atop the rotation that Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole were in 2018 and 2019. Jake Odorizzi made an awful first Astro impression but if healthy he should be all right, though not close to ace material.
Turn back the clock
Carlos Rodon of the White Sox this week joined ex-Astro Joe Musgrove as no-hitter throwers already this season. The Astros considered Rodon out of North Carolina State for the number one overall pick in the 2014 draft. They instead went for high school pitcher Brady Aiken. The Astros handled contract negotiations smartly if less than fully honorably and wound up not signing Aiken who turned down a final Astro offer of five million dollars. The next spring Aiken blew out his arm and went 17th in the draft, Cleveland gave him about half the Astros' final offer. His arm is mush and Aiken is unlikely to ever pitch in a big league game. Meanwhile, as compensation for not signing the first pick in the draft the Astros were awarded the second pick in 2015. They selected Alex Bregman.
Playing the lottery
The Rockets have about wrapped up finishing with one of the worst three records in the NBA. Over their last 34 games they are 3-31! Productive bottom feeding to give themselves their best possible shot (only 52.1 percent) of retaining their lottery pick by having it land in the top four spots. Their record is four games worse than Orlando which is presently fourth worst. Even if the Magic loses every game the rest of the way, there's a good shot the Rockets don't win four more games the rest of the season. Doesn't matter worst, second worst, or third worst, their chances at winning the lottery will be 14 percent, 13.4 percent for the second pick, 12.7 percent for the third pick, 12 percent for the fourth pick. That leaves a 47.9 chance of disaster, the pick falling fifth or lower in which case the Rockets lose the pick to Oklahoma City.
1. The Houston Dynamo starts its season Friday night. Oh, now called Houston Dynamo FC. Given their last several years, Houston Dynamo CO might be better. Cheapo Outfit.
2. The WNBA is of minute interest in Houston, the Comets last existed 13 years ago. Dallas has a team, and the Wings made UT center Charli Collier the first pick in the WNBA Draft Thursday night. Collier went to Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu.
3. Best too sugary cereals: Bronze-Honey Nut Cheerios Silver-Raisin Bran Gold-Lucky Charms
The Houston Astros were in need of some serious help in the bullpen with Phil Maton, Hector Neris, and Ryne Stanek likely leaving this year in free agency.
The Houston Astros have acquired RHP Dylan Coleman from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for RHP Carlos Mateo. pic.twitter.com/hDYuBLn2Kv
— Houston Astros (@astros) December 6, 2023
While some fans were getting concerned about the quiet offseason, the club has made two moves this week to get the ball rolling.
First the team signed Victor Caratini to be the backup catcher, and now they have added some relief pitching.
The Astros traded pitching prospect Carlos Mateo to the Royals for RHP pitcher Dylan Coleman.
Coleman appeared in 96 games in the past three seasons for KC, including 68 games in 2022 and 23 games last season. He has a career 3.88 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He’s fastball (95 mph), slider (81) and cutter (90) and walked 57 batters and struck out 99 in 92 2/3 innings.
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) December 6, 2023
Coleman is under club control for the next several years, and made just over $700,000 in 2022. With the Astros right up against the tax threshold, this is a good way to add to the bullpen without having to hand out a large contract.
The Royals had a tough roster decision to make with Coleman, and the Astros made the decision easy for them by making the trade.
Something to note
There's a reason Kansas City wasn't determined to protect Coleman from the Rule 5 Draft. Despite his decent numbers over the last three seasons, 2023 was a rough year for him, posting an 8.84 ERA over 23 games.
In fact, Coleman pitched more innings (30.2) for the Royals AAA team than he did for the big league club (18.1) in 2023.
Hopefully, the Astros can get him back on track this season with some help from their highly touted player development program.
You can watch some of his 2022 highlights above.