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Rocket Launch

Houston we have a Problem

As I write this the Houston Astros have just beat the New York Yankees in the final game of a 3 game series putting their record against the Yankees this season to 1 – 6 and the team are celebrating like crazy, this however is not the Astros that have had the Yankees number over the past half decade. This isn’t even the Astros that have dominated the AL West for a similar amount of time. Quite frankly this is not the Houston Astros.


Now with any sport there are cycles teams will be good, teams will be bad and is this just a case of the Astros approaching the end of the cycle or are there more things attached to it so let’s have a look at a couple of things that could be in play here.

Bye bye Dusty Baker – Legendary manager Dusty Baker managed the Astros between 2020 (the covid season) and 2023 and provided a stabilizing presence behind the scenes. Obviously himself and his team did a lot of work everyday but in recent years watching the Astros was just like watching a team of fully functioning robotic units take their place on the field and in most cases beat what was in front of them. During his 4 seasons in charge they finished 2nd, 1st,1st and 1st in the AL West making the World Series in 2021 and going to back to back World Series but this time winning in 2022. During Bakers tenure they has a regular season record of 320 – 226 with a .586 win percentage. As I write this they currently sit bottom of the AL West with a record of 13 – 24 at a .351 winning record being 5 – 5 in their last 10 which remarkably stands up there as their best season span of results in a 10 game stretch of the season.



Inability to win a series – Its ok winning the odd game here and there but in all honesty you’re not going to make the playoffs if you can’t consistently win a series. The Astros have only won 4 series so far this year and have only completed a sweep once and that was the 2 game Mexico series against the Colorado Rockies. The consistency that the Astros have thrived on over the past half a decade is no longer there.



The fear factor has gone – More scarily for them than anything else is the fact that teams no longer fear the Astros. It’s been no secret that the consistency and dominance of the Astros was a frightening proposition for a good while now. This season however when I watch them play this isn’t there. Fielding errors are more common. Intimidating players like Justin Verlander, Alex Bregman and Jose Abreu are not the threats they were. Incredibly at the end of April the Astros sent Abreu to the minor league in the middle season of a 3 year $58.5 million dollar contract as he was batting under a .100 avg. This is the first time he has ever played in the minors.



Starting pitcher issues – Since the start of the season Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and Justin Verlander are just some of the pitchers that have spent time on the IL and without having access to the main rotation they would want to use Houston have had to patch together a rotation that quite frankly has not been good enough so far. Only Ronel Blanco who admittedly is having a great season so far is really pitching to his potential.



Josh Hader – The big off season acquisition for the Houston Astros was Josh Hader and so far quite frankly he’s been underwhelming. As of writing he has played 16 games pitching to an ERA of around 6. This is not the Hader and closer the Astros paid for in the $95 million 5 year deal they gave him. Also this has taken the closer spot away from Ryan Pressly who has mainly pitched in the 8th innings this year and is no where near as effective as has he has been in previous years when he was the teams closer.



The rookie manager – Joe Espada has earned his chance to manage a team after being a great coach and obviously the Astros management team thought so as well as they gave him the job. There will however be teething problems. Most of the roster under Dusty Baker were like a well-oiled machine under Espada who undoubtedly will want to put his own stamp on the team this is taking a little while to get back there.



Are the Astros suddenly a bad team? No but they are not the Astros of the past few years and already look like they may struggle to make the playoffs. Is this just a minor blip or the end of the cycle? We will have to see but it could well be the end of seeing the Astros dominate as the perennial AL team of the 2020’s.

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