USA Today Sports
Christian Fuentes, sports journalist for Metro Puerto Rico
They were the dark horse pick to represent the American League in the World Series this year. They were the team that people thought would skyrocket (no pun intended) from the momentum they created this year. It seems as though they’ve fallen into a slump. The Houston Astros are likely the disappointment of the 2016 MLB season. There’s a LOT of baseball left, but it’s quite a hole they have to dig out of in the AL West.
They have a young core of players that is the envy of MLB GMs everywhere. Carlos Correa, José Altuve, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers form part of an exciting group of talented players that many team would dream of having from ther farm system. Unfortunately, things haven’t been so good in 2016, when expectations increased after a memorable 2015, in which they went 86-76 and were a few innings short of playing in the ALCS.
There are two factors that come into this season-long slump they’ve had: A) Bad deals and B) Inconsistent performances from some of their stars.
To explain point A: Instead of letting the young team grown on its own, GM Jeff Lunhow pulled the trigger on some moves that can be described as “win now” and are a bit stuck. Last season, they wen’t out and got Carlos Gómez and Mike Fiers in trades. During the offseason, they gave up the electric-armed Vince Velásquez to the Phillies in exchange for reliever Ken Giles. Starting pitching is at a premium, and the Astros felt they needed to address their bullpen. Giles is a hard thrower who they thought could close. Now, Velásquez is hurt and that was the bug-a-boo. But he’s been fantasctic for the Phillies (5-2, 3.65 ERA, 73 K in 61.2 IP). Giles has not been that good in return (5.76 ERA and ONE save).
To explain point B: The AL Cy Young in 2015, Dallas Keuchel, is having a horrific start to the season. He leads the league in losses, with eight, and in hits allowed, with 92. His ERA is 5.44. Altuve is Altuve. He is the constant there. Correa and Springer are starting to get there. Evan Gattis (team HR leader in 2015) has been relegated to platoon duty. Gómez isn’t exactly what they expected.
I’m not saying they’re done. At 29-33, they are, however, nine games back of the first place Texas Rangers, who seem to own them after beating them in nine out of ten games this season. They have the talent to make a run. But they have to start now. The problem with heightened expectations is that fans and the front office won’t settle for less than what they achieved the year before. We all thought this team was a couple of years away and they overachieved in 2015. The GM jumps the gun on some of the young talent and tries to win now, and they have a sort of slump. That being said, if I was a GM, I’d STILL want their terrific young talent.