I feel like I'm getting the reputation of an unrealistically optimistic guy. But really, to me it feels more like playing devil's advocate in the face of excess negativity over the Astros' 2016 season.
Here's a snapshot of what has been an unmitigated disaster for the Astros this season:
- April's rotation (5.10 ERA)
- April Ken Giles (9.00 ERA)
- Carlos Gomez' batting so far (30 wRC+)
- The bench: Jake Marisnick (-21 wRC+), Preston Tucker (49 wRC+)
- Eric Kratz (-57 wRC+, also, lol)
- Evan Gattis and Lance McCullers injuries
Here's a big picture snapshot of what has gone well with the Astros:
- Jose Altuve (172 wRC+, 2.8 WAR)
- George Springer (124 wRC+)
- Carlos Correa (114 wRC+, with a sophomore slump that looks like most shortstop' best seasons)
- Tyler White (106 wRC+ as a Rookie)
- Will Harris (0.46 ERA...actually the whole bullpen has been pretty good)
- Michael Feliz (as a Rookie, 0.77 ERA after his first two appearances)
- Jason Castro (115 wRC+, his best season since 2013, and the top defensive catcher in the majors)
- Collin McHugh (3.86 ERA) , and Mike Fiers (3.38) have turned around their seasons during May
- Giles has turned around his season in May (2.45 ERA)
- Gattis is catching! McCullers is healthy finally!
- Feldman succeeding in the bullpen (2.53 ERA, striking out a batter per inning)
Now, me being a forward-looking guy, here's a realistic (let's say 50% likelihood) picture of what will probably happen over the next couple months:
- Reed, Musgrove callups. Maybe Bregman.
- Carlos Gomez plays league-average CF. There's reason to think he can manage this, given his long history and relative youth. Not that I'd be going to Vegas to bet on it, mind you. But it wouldn't surprise me.
- Giles will continue to dominate.
- McHugh, Fiers ERA's will reflect May rather than April
- McCullers will round into form to be a 3.50-ish starter
- Keuchel will probably either straighten out or go on DL. He probably won't be a Cy-Young type guy again until 2017 (just a guess), but there's more reason to suspect that a guy who was so amazing for the last two seasons will improve over his horrible 2016 start than continue being horrible.
- Astros make a couple trades to shore up the team in weak spots, maybe even for some cost controlled guys a-la the Gomez/Fiers trade last season.
To this point, the Astros have been a sub-.500 team, mostly because of hugely disappointing starts from the rotation, Keuchel in particular, Gomez, Giles, and the bench. Looking forward, the Astros have already addressed the bench or are addressing it. The rotation has already improved by leaps and bounds over April, except for Keuchel and Devenski. Carlos Gomez is on DL with a real injury, and is getting the chance to clear his head. Gattis and McCullers are healthy. And Luhnow has a proven history of midseason trades, and showed last year that he can make ones that positively impact the ML club.
Looking at what is already changing with the club, and making a few realistic assumptions about what WILL change, it's not hard to imagine the Astros being an over-.500 club in the second half of the season, and maybe starting a bit before the All Star break. I doubt they make the playoffs. But they are nowhere close to being mathematically eliminated. The last estimate I saw was 36% playoffs, though that came before the Rangers sweep. It's probably closer to 25% now.