By BARRY LAMINACK
The trade deadline has come and gone and as the dust settles the Astros left their fans scratching their heads, frustrated, and freaking out a little. Well have no fear, Uncle Barry is here to get you through this.
First things first; everyone take a seat, relax, and breath. It’s going to be OK.
Would we all liked to have seen the Astros make a splash at the deadline? Of course we would have. And no, trading for Francisco Liriano hardly qualifies as a “big splash” (but more on that in a minute). Adding another 1 or 2 to this staff like Yu Darvish or Sonny Gray would have been huge; the same is true had they been able to land Zac Britton from the Orioels. All that said, it might not be as bad as you think.
First let’s discuss the move they did make. Believe it or not, adding Liriano actually makes the Astros better, for two reasons. I’ll admit if you just look at his numbers on the surface they aren’t pretty. In 2017 Liriano has a 5.88 ERA (4.15 for his career), the league is hitting .280 against him ( .241 BAA for his career), and he has a strikeout to walk ratio of 1.72. But those numbers include his numbers versus lefties and righties. If you only consider how he’s doing versus lefties (and again, we can assume that’s the majority of who he’ll face) his numbers are much better. This year he has a .231 BA against lefties (.221 for his career vs LHB) and a crazy good 17:1 strikeout to walk ratio when facing left handed batters (3.22 for his career). As you can see, Liriano has been stingy against lefties so he’ll replace the struggling Tony Sipp as the first option out of the pen to get a tough lefty out. The second reason the Astros will be better because of this trade is because of the fact that Nori Aoki was dealt as part of the trade. That clears the way for Derek Fisher to assume his role. Fisher has thus far proven to be a better hitter and outfielder than Aoki. In fact, he’s been so impressive it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that most teams the Astros dealt with were asking for him as part of a deal (he’s shown that much promise).
Now let’s discuss Lance McCullers going back on the DL. I think the thing that freaked most people out was because most of us found out that he went back on the DL mere minutes after the trade deadline. This led most people to question even more why the Astros didn’t go get a frontline starter. If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that the fact the McCullers wasn’t 100% could explain why he wasn’t pitching as well as he had prior to going on the DL. That would be good news as at least there’s a better chance that when/if he comes back 100% healthy, he’ll also return to being the dominant pitcher we saw in the first half.
This rotation, when healthy (and pitching their best) can compete with anyone. This is especially true considering how well Brad Peacock and Mike Fiers have been pitching. The crazy thing is, those guys will probably be moved to the pen in the playoffs. That’s because Charlie Morton has been solid, and (I know most people won’t agree with this) but Collin McHugh is probably the most steady and consistent arm they have. He’s a solid 3, but if Morton is the 3rd starter in the postseason, then McHugh’s value is even higher as a 4. Now don’t get me wrong, of course adding an arm down the stretch is always prefered. After all, you can never have too much pitching — but this team has decent amount of quality arms already. In fact, when you break down the team’s pitching staff come playoff time, it looks something like this:
Starters: Keuchel, McCullers, McHugh, Morton
Bullpen: Giles (closer), Gregerson (setup), Harris (high leverage), Devenski (high leverage, middle relief), Liriano (lefty specialist), Peacock (long relief), Fiers (long relief), Martes (blowouts)
That’s not bad at all.
Next let’s talk about the offense. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Astros offense is pretty good. In fact, it’s the best in the AL. No, scratch that, it’s the best in major-league baseball. They are on pace to score over 950 runs runs. The last time a team scored over 900 runs in a season was the 2009 New York Yankees. That year the Yankees won the World Series. And yes, I’m aware that pitching in the playoffs is always going to be tougher, but that Yankees team of 2009 averaged 5.5 runs a game in the World Series, and there’s no reason to think this Astros team can’t do the same.
The last thing I want to point out is something Fred Faour and Jerome Solomon mentioned on the Blitz on Monday of this week. If the Astros had not even tried to make a move, I’d be right there with you freaking out and pissed off. But that’s simply not the case. According to the Astros front office, they tried to get several different deals done but couldn’t. I’m told they were about 90% done with getting Zac Britton, but Orioles owner Peter Angelos killed that deal. So the inactivity wasn’t for lack of trying.
Now on the flip side of that, if we do find out that no deal was done because the Astros didn’t want to part ways with a few prospects, I give you my permission to get pissed again. I think this team is built to win now, and any “untradeable” prospects are already playing everyday on the major league roster, so that just simply should not have been the hang up. Overpaying is one thing, but not trading guys because of potential is inexcusable. Nobody ever lead the league in potential.
So relax Astros fans. This team is already built to win. They are the best team in the AL and the second best team in baseball, and they’ve done all this without all of their stars and role players (especially in the rotation) for large chunks of the year.
PS – It’s not over. The trade deadline isn’t the end of any possible deals. What you’ll see now is every team will put most of their players on waivers. Most players will clear waivers and once they do they can be traded. What does this mean? It means the Astros could still land a guy like Johnny Cueto (if he can get off the DL in time) or Justin Verlander.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
HOTTIE OF THE DAY