clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series preview: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Houston Astros

New, comments

Two previews for the price of one!

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Since we're playing the Astros for two games at Chase, and then immediately for two over in Minute Maid Park, it seemed logical to just smush these all together into one preview. So, here you have it: Nate is in Las Vegas, so you get me instead: I'm writing this on Sunday night, having just returned from a farewell party for the SnakePitette, who is heading off to Seattle. So, while my recap yesterday may have been alcohol-free, the same can certainly not be said about this preview....

The Houston Astros

Well, at least we're not the most disappointed fanbase in the major-leagues. Let's face it, this was a team that made the playoffs last year, and pushed the eventual World Series winners, the Royals, to five games in the American League Division Series. They were young! They were hungry! They looked sure to return to the post-season again in 2016! And, now.... The Minnesota Twins are the only team in the American League with a worse record, coming in to this series. What happened?

[Googles, "what happened to the 2016 Houston Astros"]

Damn. It hasn't been pretty, and seems mostly to have been bad starting pitching that's to blame. Remember Dallas Keuchel? Cy Young winner last season? 3-6, with a 5.58 ERA this year. The rest of the rotation has not been a great deal better, with Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers both sitting with ERAs above five. Doug Fister is their only regular starter with an ERA+ above 100, but he pitched Sunday against the Angels, so we won't be seeing him in either series. The Astros did win, taking the series and have won five of six after sweeping Baltimore - but it took them 13 innings, with seven bullpen arms throwing 144 pitches, so they will be sorely taxed.

Their offense has actually been okay, with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Spring all playing extremely solid baseball. Oh, hang on: I was looking at the 2015 stats. Scratch that. Altuve is still very good, trailing only Mike Trout and Manny Machado for bWAR among American League players, going into play on Sunday. But there's a bit of a steep fall-off after him. On the pitching front, all you need to know is that Will Harris has been the Astros' most valuable pitcher by bWAR in 2016. I'll repeat that: Will Harris has been the Astros' most valuable pitcher. My mind reels at the implications of this statement. Though that may just be the Stella.

Pitching match-ups

  • Monday: Collin McHugh vs. Edwin Escobar
  • Tuesday: Lance McCullers vs. Patrick Corbin
  • Wednesday: Robbie Ray vs. TBA
  • Thursday: Zach Greinke vs. TBA

There doesn't really seem much point in going into detail about these pitching match-ups, when there are so many TBAs and WTHIEEs [Who the hell is Edwin Escobar?] Look forward to analysis of each match-up as they arise - when I've had time to Google them. Brutal honesty. It's what the SnakePit delivers.

Injury and form updates

We may see Carlos Gomez activated at some point for the Astros. He has been on the DL with a bruised rib-cage, but is on a rehab assignment at Double-A Corpus Christi. The nearest the D-backs have to anyone coming back is likely David Peralta, who hit off a tee last week, but still seems some way off returning and would likely need a few rehab games of his own before he can return. Arizona will also be doing without Rubby De La Rosa, which kinda sucks, since he has been our best pitcher overall.

Focusing in on May though, Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin and Ray have.... had their moments, I guess? Dear god, writing that, I can only think how far the 2016 season has fallen. But they have both better ERAs than De La Rosa, even if neither is below 3.50. On the bullpen side, Zac Curtis and Jake Barrett lead the way. Among the hitters, Jake Lamb's .883 OPS leads the everyday crew, but Chip Hale is going to have to find more room for Chris Herrmann, whose line in 57 PA this month is .417/.482/.750 for a 1.232 OPS. At the other end, Yasmany Tomas and Welington Castillo have both been in the sub-.700 club, along with Nick Ahmed and Phil Gosselin.

Altuve and Springer lead the way for Houston, the former's 36 May hits among the top ten in the majors. Springer's lower average is compensated for with the seven home-riuns he has hit. Speaking of which, the Astros have actually hit more HR on the road this year, so their "fun-sized" ballpark doesn't appear to be having such an impact as in 2015. Colby Rasmus has sucked in May, batting sub-Uecker, with a .510 OPS. On the mound, Harris hasn't conceded a run since April 7, and has a scoreless streak of 22 games and 22.1 IP. In general, the Houston bullpen has been getting it done while the rotation hasn't: May ERAs are 2.33 and 4.77 respectively. So, score early, Arizona!

The feels

We have a better record than the Astros, going into play Monday night. That's quite a surprise. Does it augur well for the series? I'd be reluctant to claim too much. Both sides do have a bit of momentum: the Astros, as noted have won five games of six, while the D-backs have taken three of their past four series. I get the feeling this one will be decided by who gives more of a damn. Which probably means both series will be split evenly, each side winning one and losing one on their own turf and the opposition's. For mediocrity has been the trademark of both Houston and Arizona's season to date: until proven otherwise, I'm expecting this to continue, for both sides.