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The Good and The Bad: The Astros so far

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The Astros are off to a 3-3 start. What’s been the best and the worst of this 2020 season? Let’s find out.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

After an off-day on Thursday, the Astros will resume their schedule this Friday beginning a three-game series at Anaheim, after dropping two against the Dodgers at Minute Maid Park. Houston is off to a 3-3 start, but it has lost three of the last four.

When you see what has been the Astros 2020 season so far, you’ll see ups and downs, good and bad. Keep reading below to break down their performance until now...

THE GOOD

Correa/Brantley/Maldonado

Fortunately, the Astros’ starting shortstop, left fielder, and catcher began the season red hot. Correa is 9-for-22 with two doubles, one home run, five runs batted in, two scored runs, three walks, and four strikeouts, along with a .409/.500/.636 slash line.

Brantley —who is in his walk year— owns a .435/.500/.696 hitting line, thanks to 10 hits in 23 at-bats. He’s recorded six ribbies and five runs. Regarding Maldonado, he registers five singles in 17 trips to the plate and six RBIs (.294/.294/.294).

Combined, they’re hitting for a .387 average (24-for-62) with 52% of the Astros’ total runs batted in (17 of 33) and 10 hits with runners in scoring position.

The bullpen and the new guys

I know the bullpen has taken two of the three losses so far, but in general, it’s looked better than you can expect after losing big veterans and handing relief duties to a bunch of youngsters and first-year players.

Through the first six games, the Astros’ bullpen ranks fifth in the MLB ERA department (2.12) and is tied with the Rays in fifth place of most innings pitched (29.2).

But the best part —or at least the most encouraging one— is what the young guys have done so far. Among the ones that have made their debut so far, only Enoli Paredes and Brandon Bielak have allowed earned runs.

Among Blake Taylor, Cristian Javier (excluding his start against the Dodgers), Brandon Bailey, Andre Scrubb, and Nivaldo Rodríguez are combining for 11 13 scoreless innings (eight hits and nine punchouts).

McCullers Jr./Javier/Framber

The rotation is now without ace Justin Verlander (shut down due to injury) and has been without José Urquidy since the beginning of the season due to COVID-19, but there are three pitchers that have stepped up: Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, and Javier.

McCullers Jr. finally came back from Tommy John surgery and had a good start to get the win against the Mariners: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB, 7 K, though he surrendered two home runs. Valdez went 4 13 frames against the Dodgers and looked better than you think (I wrote a piece about him after that start).

But the one I was most impressed with is Javier. He came out of the blue and —in his second MLB appearance (first start)— stymied the Dodgers through 5 23 episodes, allowed TWO hits and an earned run. Struck out eight and only gave up one base on balls.

THE BAD

Injuries and COVID-19

Well, the Astros are not doing well when it comes to health. Ace Justin Verlander will be out indefinitely with a right forearm strain, José Urquidy has yet to throw a pitch, and Yordan Álvarez has been out as well due to COVID-19.

But besides those players, reliever Ryan Pressly is still sidelined, utility Aledmys Díaz was placed on the 10-day IL (right groin issue), and also reliever Joe Biagini went to the 10-day IL as well (shoulder soreness).

The Astros have been the Mets in terms of carrying a hospital in their roster. But at least they should have Urquidy, Álvarez, and Cuban pitcher Cionel Pérez back anytime soon. That will surely help the cause.

Springer needs a whole space himself

What’s wrong with George? I mean, he usually takes his time to heat up, but his bat is still taking Summer Camp at-bats. In fact, this is the worst start of his career (in the team’s first six games). He’s gone 1-for-21 (.048) with a home run, an RBI, and six strikeouts.

The Astros definitely need Springer’s spark at the top of the lineup, but there’s something concerning in his advanced stats. His exit velocity is currently at 83 miles per hour after 15 batted balls. Last year, it was at 89.8 MPH and MLB average is something around that as well (88.2 MPH according to Baseball Savant).

It might just be a mechanics issue or something else with his bat, as his IFFB% is at 28.6% (was at 8.3% last year). Besides, Springer has gotten under the balls he’s hit in the 33.3% of the time. Look at his spray chart. His batted balls have barely left the infield:

Cold offense

Key players like José Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Josh Reddick haven’t been their best versions of themselves at the plate. Even though Altuve has recorded a double and a home run, the Venezuelan owns a .174 batting average (4-for-23), the same numbers as Bregman. Reddick is 4-for-22 and is hitting for a low .182 average.

Among those three, there are more strikeouts (16) than hits collected (12) and only 11 runs driven in.

Others like Yuli Gurriel (.238/.385/.381) and Kyle Tucker (188/.235/.313) are off to cold starts at the plate as well.