The 2021 season is on the books. The Astros beat the odds and made it to the World Series, but lost it against the Atlanta Braves. However, that’s a pretty simple lecture of what happened through the curse of a 162-game season and the different stages of the postseason.
In baseball, as in life, it’s fun and wise to look back and learn from the past. That’s why we’re going to dive deep into three things we learned from the 2021 Astros. Let’s take a look one by one...
1. GM James Click is not afraid to make trades
Right when, clearly, the Astros needed bullpen help, James Click had busy days before the trade deadline. On July 27, he struck the first of three deals, sending Abraham Toro and Joe Smith for righties Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero. The day after that, he acquired RHP Yimi García from the Marlins for reliever Austin Pruitt and outfielder Bryan De La Cruz.
But Click had another deal in mind for the 30th. Unexpectedly, Myles Straw was the trade chip. I mean, in the middle of the season you’re trading your regular centerfielder for bullpen arm Phil Maton.
And the trades paid off for the Astros. Even though he struggled at times, Graveman was a relief for their bullpen and represented another quality arm. Maton was shaky in the regular season but was excellent in the postseason. And García did a good job in the World Series. Even Montero threw six innings with no earned runs before suffering a season-ending injury — though he’s under control for one more year and might be part of the 2022 pen.
What’s good about this is that the Astros don’t have a sleepy, lazy general manager that doesn’t take risks. Click proved he can execute at the right time.
2. Carlos Correa might have officially entered his prime years
What do you recognize as prime years? I’d say is that period between your mid-20’s and your early-30’s in which you touch your ceiling as a player and have your peak performance. That’s what Carlos Correa is doing right now.
Fortunately, Correa has spent healthy the two past seasons — he’s played in 93 percent of the Astros’ total regular-season games, that is, 206 out of 222 contests. And what he’s done since the 2020 postseason has been incredible. If you want the numbers, here they are:
- 161 games
- 172 hits
- 35 doubles
- 32 home runs
- 109 runs batted in
- 111 runs scored
- 83 walks
- .286 batting average
I know these are combined numbers from the 2020 postseason and the 2021 regular season, but for you to have a reference, NO ONE in the Majors registered a group of stats like this. Not even Vladimir Guerrero Jr., not even Marcus Semien... Nobody!
Please, Click, sign the guy, pay the man. You just can’t let your franchise guy go!!!
3. The Astros need an established starter — or at least someone that can eat innings
Overall, the Astros had bad luck with their pitching in 2021. Framber Valdez suffered an injury and wasn’t ready until May. Justin Verlander wasn’t available as he was recovering from surgery. They signed Jake Odorizzi in March and he didn’t fulfill the expectations. Zack Greinke fell off the Earth. And Lance McCullers Jr. got injured in the ALCS and missed the rest of the series and the entire World Series.
That’s why the Astros need pitching depth. And the good news is that there are lots of starting pitchers on the market from all levels. In fact, pitching (besides re-signing Carlos Correa) is the area that will require more attention from Click and the rest of the front office. Why? The team doesn’t have Verlander and Greinke anymore (unless they come back to Houston) and they need one or two guys that join McCullers Jr., Valdez, and Odorizzi.
The free agency is now open and there are a bunch of interesting, affordable options. Let’s see what Click has on his mind to make the Astros have an interesting winter.