Jays From the Couch brings you 2016 MLB Wrap Ups. This time we sit down with Astros County to chat Houston Astros.
Jays From the Couch is kicking off a little series of wrap ups of teams around MLB. We’ll sit down with writers from all over the league to get their thoughts on teams we might not have been paying attention to in Blue Jays Land. This time: Houston Astros!
This MLB Wrap Up features James from Astros County as he gives us his take on the 2016 season the ‘Stros had. They finished 3rd in the AL West, 11 games back of the Texas Rangers and ended up missing the Wild Card spot by 5 games. Once again, Jose Altuve was a bright spot for Houston as he hit himself right into the mix of AL MVP considerations.
You can follow Astros County on Twitter @AstrosCounty and be sure to check out their coverage over at Astros County, your neighborhood Astros blog and grill!
JFtC: If you could sum up the Houston Astros’ season in a paragraph, what would you say?
James: It was frustrating. Oh, a paragraph? Okay. For the first time in ten years Astros fans had some expectations about a legitimate postseason run. The 2015 run took most of us by surprise, so it was a lot of fun to see the Astros leading the AL West in March. Then April happened and the Astros crapped the bed under the weight of their expectations, and they couldn’t dig themselves out of that hole. They tried – the Astros were one of the best teams in baseball from the end of May to the All-Star Break – but it’s hard to win your division when you can only win four out of 19 games against your main rival (the Ramgers, as I like to call them). We’re all waiting to see if the 2015 Astros or the 2016 Astros were closer to the truth.
JFtC: What went right for the Astros team this year?
James: Not a whole lot. Alex Bregman was as good as advertised after starting out 2-for-34. So he’s a legit option at 3B for the Astros. Bringing Yulieski Gurriel (not real cool to break up the brothers, there, Blue Jays) on board should provide another bat for a lineup that desperately needs it. Carlos Correa got a full season under his belt. Prospects got a year older.
JFtC: What went wrong for them?
James: Plenty! Injuries were the biggest issue for the Astros. Lance McCullers was expected to be a solid #2 option, but was hurt for most of the year. Dallas Keuchel couldn’t finish the season and his Cy Young follow-up wasn’t nearly as good. Luis Valbuena was the best hitter on the team when his hamstring apparently detached from the bone. The other issue is the complete inability to beat the Rangers. Whether it’s now a mental block, or the Rangers just manage to beat the mess out of the Astros 80% of the time, it’s a major issue now.
JFtC: Who stood out on the roster?
James: Jose Altuve stood out as being the only consistent force with the bat. I know all the alarm bells that are about to ring by using batting average, but still Altuve has the 2nd-highest batting average in baseball since 2013 (.319, behind Miguel Cabrera‘s .327). Alex Bregman stood out for finishing the season strong. George Springer played in every game.
JFtC: Who went under appreciated?
James: It’s hard to say that a guy who finished 4th in AL ROY voting was underappreciated, but Chris Devenski makes this list for me. He wasn’t on the Opening Day roster, but an early blowout meant he got called up for his arm, and he ran with his opportunity. Devenski spent most of his time out of the bullpen, but made five spot starts. As a reliever he had a 1.61 ERA/0.81 WHIP in 83.2IP. I’ll take that every year.
JFtC: Who underperformed?
James: So many. Colby Rasmus started off hot but dealt with a variety of issues through the season – a cyst on his inner ear that had to be removed, for instance. He just couldn’t get right. Maybe this has more to do with appropriate expectations, but Carlos Correa didn’t turn into the love child of A-Rod and Honus Wagner (for 2016, anyway). The aforementioned injuries to Keuchel and McCullers meant the Astros didn’t get what they thought they’d get out of the top of the rotation. Jason Castro did Jason Castro things – pretty good defensively, not much offensively. “Underperformed” might be the word to best describe the 2016 Astros.
JFtC: Where does Houston go this offseason? What do they do?
James: They have to get an arm or two (and today’s signing of Charlie Morton isn’t going to get the season ticket holder line to ring off the hook). They desperately need a better option at 1B, whether that’s through the progression of prospect A.J. Reed or some outside option. They’re going to need a catcher, because I don’t think Evan Gattis‘ body can hold up catching 140 games. Through trades or free agency, they’re going to need to fill some very real holes.
JFtC: What can fans expect from this team in 2017?
James: Most fans are expecting the playoffs. We got a taste of blood in 2015 and 2016 was so disappointing that I think they’ll have to make a jump next season.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.