After six games, we're already jumping to conclusions about this Astros team. Let's break down three things we know and three we don't about this team so far.
Here are three things we know:
The offense has struck out a bunch
You don't need me to tell you that Houston's offense has had a strikeout problem. In the first three games of this season, opposing starting pitchers set career highs in strikeouts against this team. This isn't a problem that's going away, either, as plenty of Astros are projected to strike out at least 20 percent of the time this season.
Through Saturday's game, though, Houston was striking out 35 percent of the time.
Bo Porter seemed optimistic his team was working through the issues, saying before Sunday's game that his team was seeing their pitches better and that he was encouraged by Saturday's offensive performance. Houston only struck out four times on Saturday, but quickly followed it up with 10 strikeouts on Sunday.
Hopefully, the KStros are gone for a bit. At least Houston doesn't have to face King Felix in the next series. All those strikeouts remind me of another point...
The defense has been a mixed bag
Very, very small sample size, but the defensive improvements that this team was supposed to be built around haven't shown up...yet.
On the one hand, there have been some very encouraging things. Jose Altuve already has generated four Defensive Runs Saved at second base. If he can turn around his defensive numbers, as we assumed he would, Altuve becomes a very valuable player. There are also a handful of guys who have been worth one Defensive Run Saved so far, including third baseman Matt Dominguez, center fielder Justin Maxwell and Marwin Gonzalez at second base.
On the other hand, Chris Carter, Brett Wallace, Marwin at short and Rick Ankiel have all been worth negative DRS so far. It's a very, very, VERY small sample size, too, so we can't read much into it. If there's one thing we can know, let it be that Altuve may fare better with advanced metrics than he did last season.
Jose Altuve can hit
Once upon a time, there was question whether a 5-foot-5 second baseman could hit enough to play every day in the majors leagues. After a no-so-good beginning in 2011, Jose Altuve proved those doubters wrong with a stellar 2012 campaign, where he hit over .300 for most of the season. Did he wear down because of over 7,000 plate appearances between winter ball and the season? Was the league just catching up to him? Would he be in for a sophomore slump?
It's only been six games, but so far, Altuve is proving to be the best Houston hitter by far. The second baseman racks up multi-hit games in his sleep and currently has the highest batting average of any second baseman in the majors.
Will an occasional day of rest as a DH help him out? That's the question which will bear watching as this season goes on. But, for now, Altuve may be the most consistent Astro at getting hits in the lineup every day.
Here's three things we don't know yet:
It's time to give up on Brett Wallace, Carlos Pena and Chris Carter
Look, they're the KStros for a reason. The three middle of the order bats Houston is depending on have drawn a ton of heat for striking out a combined 31 times so far. That's led to many fans already calling for their heads, that Houston needs to cut bait with them already and go with Brandon Laird or Robbie Grossman already.
The problem is it's only been a week.
One week. Not even 25 plate appearances.
It's way, way too early to figure out whether these guys should still be in the lineup. Maybe Brett Wallace won't hit this season, but one week won't tell us that. Chris Carter doesn't make a ton of contact, but his .091 batting average is being held down by an abnormally low .182 batting average on balls in play. That's a good 80 points below his career BABiP numbers.
If Wally and Pena and Carter are still hitting this poorly in three weeks, it may be time to make changes. You can believe that these guys will never hit, but baseball is about the slow play. It takes much, much longer than six games to figure that out.
The starting pitching has been rock solid
One of the things that media and even Bo Porter have been trumpeting this first week have been that Houston's starting pitching has been solid, it's the bullpen that has struggled.
Can I keep saying it's too early to know that? Three-fifths of the rotation has only pitched once. The two guys who have pitched twice (Norris, Harrell) had one good and one bad start each. None of the starters have gone deep into games.
So, why exactly do we think Houston's starters have been good?
If at the end of this month, Houston's starters ERA is still one of the best in the league, then we can say that. If these guys go through the rotation four or five times with success, then we have something.
Until then? It's early and we just don't know how things will work out.
It's going to be a long, long season
Look, the first week was rough. After that Opening Night victory, Houston got absolutely destroyed in the next five games.
It's easy to get discouraged at this point and figure that the entire season is already circling the drain. But, we have no idea how talented these teams Houston played are going to be. Last season, Houston jumped out to a quick start and was right around .500 in May. But, many of the teams the Astros played in those first two months turned out to be pretty bad.
This year, the Rangers and Athletics could both end up as playoff teams and could both go on to win 90 games.
Yes, Houston will struggle to win games, but if this bad stretch had come in the middle of June instead of to start the season, things wouldn't seem so bleak. They may well be bleak this season, but there's still plenty of time for Houston to win 65 games this year.