The Astros’ four-game series in Arlington this weekend is by far their most important series of the season to date. The Astros are five games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West after Meat Loafing it in St. Detroit Tigers. The Astros have 81 games left, 81 to go. Their 44-37 record has them tied with the Rangers and fourth-place Mariners, making for a disappointing but nowhere near disastrous first half. More disappointing considering the Astros’ standards over the last six years. Injuries have hurt, but the Astros’ have not had a monopoly on injury issues. The Yankees have been hit harder. The Rays’ pitching staff has been hit harder than the Astros staff.
Not improving in the second half would likely mean missing the postseason for the first time since 2016. You’ve no doubt seen a movie that started sluggishly, but once it got going, wow! On the other hand, some movies never deliver the goods. We’ll see how the Astros’ final cut rates. All their goals remain achievable. Well, probably not the best record in the American League, with the Astros entering the weekend 10 and a half games behind the Rays.
With the Astros fully intent on defending their division crown, it’s best that they at least split these four games with the Rangers. Obviously, a sweep would be great for the Astros and pull them within a game of the lead. Take three out of four to get within three games, fine and dandy. A split to hold back five wouldn’t be optimal, but would certainly keep the Astros within solid striking distance, especially with the Astros having the easier schedule through the first week and a half out of the All-Star break before getting the Rangers at Minute Maid Park in late July. Lose three of four at Globe Life Field to fall seven games off the pace, and the Astros are about as likely to miss the playoffs as win the division. Get swept four? Naaaaaaah.
A reminder (especially for those who think the Astros’ 44-37 first half was awful) that when this platinum era of Astros baseball began in 2017, the World Series-winning team hit exactly .500 ball over a stretch of 74 matches. ’17 The Stros exploded out of the gate with a 42-16 dominance. After acquiring Justin Verlander during the trade deadline, the Astros closed with a 22-8 run. Between 42-16 and 22-8, 37-37. In a 162-game season, 100 wins requires a .617 win rate. A 100 win team does not win at a .617 clip every month. The 2023 Astros are almost dead in the water in terms of being a 100-win team for the fifth time in the last six full seasons, unless you think 56-25 is plausible the rest of the way. That they win 50 games in the second half is not likely, but certainly doable, which would get them to 94 wins, a clear playoff berth and possibly another AL West title.
Who deserves to be in the All-Star Game?
It’s one thing to be a diehard fan, another to be silly. Most teams do similar things, but frankly, it should be embarrassing for all parties involved that the Astros encouraged people to vote Martin Maldonado and Jose Abreu as American League All-Stars. If, in an absurd result, they had been chosen, it would have only brought rightful attention to how bad they have been this season, even as Abreu has come alive. In terms of non-silly voting, with the amount of time he’s missed, it’s no fluke that Yordan Alvarez wasn’t voted a starter. Even with no chance he will play in the game, Alvarez deserves the honor of reserve selection. Framber Valdez obviously belongs on the AL pitching staff.
Despite inflated All-Star rosters with 32 players per league, Alvarez and Valdez are the only deserving Astros. Cristian Javier was in the hunt, but has been miserable in three of his last four starts and is currently nowhere close to being one of the top eight starting pitchers in the AL this season (eight starters and four relievers are being selected). Hector Neris and Phil Maton have been excellent, but as non-closers, they are not top four relievers. Kyle Tucker is having a good season, but certainly hasn’t been a top six AL outfielder worthy of a second straight All-Star selection.
Let’s get a reality check on the idea of Mauricio Dubon being an All-Star second baseman. If he is added, it’s a great story for him, but more testament to the overall lackluster group of second basemen performing in the American League. Dubon has been fantastic for what was expected of him going into this season. Still, it’s not as if Dubon has been unique. His defense has been strong, in fact he seems to be a better gloveman than Jose Altuve at this point. But Dubon is a below-average offensive player. His .286 batting average sounds good, but a woeful eight walks in 259 plate appearances means his on-base percentage is a not-so-good .309, his OPS an underwhelming .716. Also of note, Dubon has started just 46 games at second base, just 57 percent of the schedule.
Looking for more Astros coverage?
Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I’m a part of with Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule, a first video segment goes up on Monday at 3 p.m. on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, with the complete audio available in podcast form at outlets such as: