The Astros have dropped six of their last eight games, which has cut the AL West lead down to two games over the A’s. A rather tenuous lead based on recent results. Since the All-Star break, the team has posted an 11-10 record overall. Injuries and lackluster performances are the root cause behind this stretch of games. As such, fan confidence has started to wane in recent weeks.
The above chart doesn’t include confidence ratings for the first week of August, but I feel that the downward trend will continue. That said, how concerned should we actually be about the Astros? It depends on who you ask.
Even with the relief corps getting a boost at the trade deadline by various acquisitions, the pitching staff has faltered at inopportune times. Namely, the starting rotation. Framber Valdez, for example, coughed up four earned runs in the second inning of his last start. The final score was 5-3, to the advantage of the Twins. Lance McCullers Jr. allowed four earned runs in only 4 2⁄3 innings on Sunday. Again, the final score favored the Twins, but this time it was a 7-5 defeat. Jake Odorizzi hasn’t looked right much of the season, especially in his last start against the Dodgers this past Wednesday. Yes, another loss.
During this recent stretch of games, the offense has also struggled with a 100 wRC+ since August 1, which is around league average. Not having Alex Bregman is clearly an issue, and it doesn’t help your cause when Robel García is basically a black hole in the lineup. Thankfully, that experiment is over (for now). Yuli Gurriel’s absence also can’t be ignored, along with some questionable decisions about the roster in general. Certain pinch-hitting decisions by Dusty Baker over the weekend, for example, are magnified further during losses.
Thankfully, the Astros did solidify the bullpen, and the early results have been relatively good. Kendall Graveman, in particular, grants Baker additional flexibility with his relievers, especially in high-leverage situations. Once the lineup regains some health, we should start to see some improvement there. Of course, the rotation is a bit of concern considering Valdez’s regression, Odorizzi’s struggles, and inopportune performances against lesser opponents. Of the division leaders entering Monday, no team has a worse record against sub-.500 clubs than the Astros at 23-18. Not entirely a rotation issue, but the starter needs to set the tone for their game. Something has to give with that trend, sooner or later.
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