The Houston Astros are one of the season’s biggest surprises. Sure, they play in the weak AL West and they are only 49-42. However, they are also only half a game behind the Angels for the division lead after being at the bottom of the division for so many years and they hold the second wildcard spot. The reasons for their success have been one of the biggest unsolved puzzles in baseball and have been attributed to luck and half a dozen other things.
The Astros’ roster is not filled with names that you would recognize. Their lineup is anchored by young players such as Colby Rasmus, Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Evan Gattis while their pitching staff features Scott Feldman and Dallas Keuchel. Injuries to Scott Feldman and George Springer have slowed their performance, but it has not hurt them much in the weak AL West. Their lineup has been one of the best in baseball and their pitching has been pretty solid for the most part.
The primary strength of the Astros is their potent offense. It ranks fourth in baseball in runs scored (395). It has carried the pitching staff through some shaky stretches. Even though Evan Gattis, Jose Altuve, and George Springer have all suffered injuries at some point during the first half, the offense has not faltered.
Houston also has solid pitching. They have the league’s tenth best ERA at 3.58 and their starting rotation has been pretty solid despite the loss of Scott Feldman. They have good young arms that should be able to take them through the second half of the season.
Graphic via grantland
Houston needs an ace. They do not have a pitcher who they can trust to be a lock down pitcher and it has hurt them a little this year. As the season goes down the stretch, Houston will need a pitcher who they can depend on to turn in superb starts on a consistent basis. They currently don’t have that and it will hinder their chances at a playoff run
The Second Half
Most experts expect Houston to return to their traditional form in the second half of the season. However, all the indicators seem to prove that they are wrong. Given the state of the AL West, the Astros should be in contention for most of the second half and have an excellent chance to win the division, especially with the returns of Scott Feldman and George Springer. They face a tough stretch immediately after the All-Star break with series against Texas, Boston, Kansas City, and the Angels. If they can win these series, they will probably take the division lead. However, they will be set back significantly in the playoff race if they lose these series.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict whether the Astros will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. They have always been sellers at previous deadlines; however, this may change. An ace would put them in prime position for the playoff hunt and Cole Hamels of Philadelphia and Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati are almost certain to be on the market.
Graphic via fansided