We’re officially at the halfway point of the 2019 MLB season and the Houston Astros are riding high atop the AL West with a 7.5 game lead over the rest of the division and have the second-best record in the American League. It wasn’t the easiest road though with some serious adversity throughout the first half of the long 162-game grind.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the positives and negatives when it comes to the first half of the Astros season.
UP: Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole Living Up to Preseason Hype
The top two pitchers in the rotation have lived up to the preseason hype but in two different ways. Looking specifically at Justin Verlander, he has found the fountain of youth with a strong 10-4 record with a 2.98 ERA. He may have a lot of complaints about the baseballs being “juiced” and there’s a lot of evidence to say that it is an issue with a whopping 3,691 home runs in the first half of the season, but you have to look at his overall body of work and you can understand why he’ll be getting the start for the AL in the Midsummer Classic.
While Cole’s record is still solid, the ERA is a little too high and has had a tendency to give up a little more home runs compared to last season. That being said, his strikeout numbers and spin rate have been absolutely outstanding, leading the AL with 170 strikeouts. He keeps those strikeouts up, the Astros will continue to put up at least two wins over the course of a week.
DOWN: Spotty Bullpen
While the pitching rotation for the Astros has been on point, the bullpen has been suspect. There have been consistent bright spots like Ryan Pressley, but the pen isn’t helping matters when the starters have the occasional bad start. The biggest offender has to be closer Roberto Osuna in the last few weeks, going 0-1 with only 2 saves in his last eight appearances.
Considering how much hype was surrounding him heading into the 2019 season, the issues with the bullpen have largely fallen on their closer.
UP: Yordan Álvarez Rookie of the Year?
Everyone who had their eyes on the Astros farm system pegged Yordan Álvarez as being a player that will get called up before too long. It took a lot of injuries to get him to the show, but once he got to “The Show” he made an immediate impact with four of his first five games seeing the rookie send one out of the park.
While the home runs have dipped down, Álvarez has continued to bring the heat at the dish and may have finally solved the puzzle when it comes to the designated hitter spot in the lineup.
DOWN: Injury Bug Has Hurt Team
Speaking of those injuries, it was weird to see the injury bug decimate the roster the way it did. George Springer, Jose Altuve, among others were all out for a significant period of time and that really hurt the overall chemistry of this team.
It’s all the more interesting when it comes to what happens with Carlos Correa after a massage reportedly cracked a rib. He could be back not long after the All-Star break, but it could take a while for him knock off some of that rust after being out for several months.
UP: Michael Brantley Best Offseason Investment for Houston
The Astros are more known for their farm system being one of the absolute best in the MLB, but the offseason acquisition of Michael Brantley has been a godsend. The former Cleveland Indian is approaching some career highs and has been one of the most clutch hitters for the team with a .310 batting average with runners in scoring position and a .406 average with two outs and runners in scoring position.
With a lot of the injuries that the Astros have suffered, Brantley has stepped his game up and makes a strong case to be the first half MVP for the Astros.
DOWN: Corbin Martin Down with Tommy John
Corbin Martin got his call to the show on Mother’s Day and had an outstanding debut. However, he couldn’t sustain that with his next three starts being short starts before getting run off. One of the better pitching prospects that are ready for the show is now done for the rest of the season and possibly a good chunk of the 2020 season according to AJ Hinch after he underwent Tommy John surgery in the last week.
It’s always unfortunate to see someone with promise see their time in the bigs cut short, you can also throw in Forrest Whitley’s rough transition to AAA with a whopping 12.21 ERA. With Cole and Verlander not getting any younger, this really puts a possible 2020 rotation in flux.