The Houston Astros have faced numerous challenges during the first half of the 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) season.
Despite injuries to key pitchers like José Urquidy, Luis Garcia, and Lance McCullers, as well as offensive stars José Altuve and Yordan Alvarez, the Astros find themselves in second place in the AL West, trailing the Texas Rangers by only two games.
Let us examine the culprits of their struggles; inconsistent offense, injury setbacks, and so many teams being in the hunt. There were also notable performances that you cannot ignore. With all these things the upcoming trade deadline for the Astros gives them hope as they aim to regroup and make a strong push for the division lead and the postseason in the second half of the season.
Surprises, and Gems from the first half
Mauricio Dubon has stepped up admirably in the absence of Jose Altuve, providing a spark for the team on offense and defense. Cory Julks an unexpected contributor this season has provided power, speed, and a great glove while in the lineup. Chas McCormick has also made notable contributions with their timely hits. Jake Myers has provided some key swings and solid defense when called upon, helping the Astros secure crucial victories.
The pitching staff has been excellent for the entire first half of the season. Young pitchers like JP France and Ronel Blanco have provided a total of 9 quality starts combined. Both pitchers have seen performances where they have recorded between 6 and 9 strikeouts on more than one occasion.
Inconsistent Offense and Injuries
The Astros’ offense has been plagued by inconsistencies, partially due to injuries suffered by key players. The absence of José Altuve and Yordan Alvarez has been felt, as their offensive contributions were sorely missed. Alex Bregman until June had been off to his typical slow start but ended the first half being one of three Astros hitters with 55 RBI or more at the halfway point. This has not been done in Houston since the early 2000s. He did happen to lead the team in RBI in June and ranks 3rd in walks in all MLB. The Astros have experienced struggles against lesser teams, making it difficult for them to maintain their winning ways consistently. However, they have managed to go on a few win streaks and have shown resilience in essential series against formidable opponents like the Braves, Rangers, and Rays.
In the offseason, the Astros signed former MVP Jose Abreau. Known for his production at the plate with RISP, he seemed to face an uncharacteristically extended slow start to the 2023 season. So long that Dusty Baker called the White Sox to ask them about his newly acquired first baseman. The slow start was A-typical, but the length of that struggle was a new trend. Struggling to find his rhythm, his performance in the early months raised concerns among Astros fans. However, starting in June, Abreu began to regain his form, showing signs of his true capabilities. His improved approach at the plate and increased offensive output have brought renewed confidence to the Astros. He even said he stopped speaking to his bat in Spanish, and only speaks to it in English, telling me that he is gaining more confidence and coming out of his shell.
The Second Half
As the second half of the season unfolds, José Abreu’s resurgence will be of utmost importance to the Houston Astros. As a veteran presence and a former MVP, Abreu’s ability to produce consistently can provide a significant boost to the team’s offense. His experience and leadership qualities make him an asset in the clubhouse as well.
With Abreu picking up the pace, the Astros can rely on his powerful bat in key moments. His ability to drive in runs and produce extra-base hits adds depth to their lineup and puts additional pressure on opposing pitchers. Abreu’s performance will not only contribute to the team’s success in individual games but will also have a cumulative effect on their overall standings.
Mysteries and Trade Deadline
One puzzling aspect of the first half was the limited playing time for Yainer Diaz at catcher, despite his impressive offensive performance compared to Martín Maldonado. The Astros’ decision to persist with Maldonado’s lackluster offensive output raises eyebrows. However, despite these mysteries, the team remains just two games behind the Rangers in the division standings.
Looking ahead, the trade deadline will become the focal point for new GM Dana Brown, who must consider bolstering the team’s strengths and addressing areas of concern. With the impending return of Alvarez, Altuve, and Urquidy, the Astros have the potential to regain their winning form and make a strong playoff push in the second half of the season.
The Houston Astros have faced significant challenges in the first half of the 2023 MLB season, including inconsistent offense, key injuries, and mysteries surrounding roster decisions. Despite these obstacles, the team finds itself in second place in the AL West, trailing the Texas Rangers. The return of key players and potential moves at the trade deadline present opportunities for the Astros to solidify their position and mount a playoff run. As the second half unfolds, fans eagerly anticipate the team’s ability to overcome adversity and showcase their championship potential once again.
Brett Chancey is the co-host of the Locked on Astros Podcast. He can be followed on Twitter/Instagram @htownwheelhosue or @stros411 on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook.