It’s still very early in the 2021 MLB season, but the Houston Astros are struggling. After a hot start out of the gate, the Astros have found very little success of late. Conclusions about a team should not be drawn after just three weeks of a six-month season. However, Houston looks lost, losing nine of their last ten. There are a lot of issues that are compounding, so here is a breakdown of the Astros’ early struggles.
In Houston’s rough ten-game stretch that began April 9, they have averaged just 2.6 runs per game. COVID issues were partially to blame for the Astros’ early struggles, as Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia all missed a chunk of the stretch. Altuve is the only one yet to return, but his return is imminent. The lineup’s struggles aren’t just limited to the absence of some of the mainstays.
When Maldonado has been in the lineup, he has not produced. The veteran catcher is 3-37 with no extra-base hits and 19 strikeouts. Houston’s other backstop, Jason Castro, hasn’t been much better, going 3-21, but with two of those hits being home runs. Maldonado’s fellow bottom-of-the-order batter, Myles Straw, hasn’t been extremely productive either. The young outfielder is hitting .200 with little pop.
Despite leading the team in home runs (4) and RBI (11,) 2020 breakout star Kyle Tucker has yet to find his rhythm. Houston’s right fielder is hitting .169 with a .200 on-base percentage. Another issue Houston has had is the lack of movement on the base paths. As a team, they have stolen only four bases and Straw has three of them. The return of Altuve will be a boost to this offense, but they need to get everyone going simultaneously in the meantime.
During the same span in which the Astros offense has averaged 2.6 runs per game, their pitching staff has given up 5.8 runs per game. That number would be even higher had they not shut out the Seattle Mariners in a 1-0 victory on April 17. A major cause of these struggles has been the inability to keep the ball in the park. During the ten-game stretch, Astros pitchers have given up 18 homers. Long balls have been a massive issue for new arrival Jake Odorizzi in particular. The 31-year-old has made two starts, giving up nine runs in 7.2 innings. He has been taken deep three times in those starts.
Injuries have also been an issue, as Enoli Paredes and Blake Taylor were recently placed on the Injured List. Meanwhile, Andre Scrubb and Pedro Baez have remained on the Injured List. The struggles of the pitching staff go beyond just injuries, but a fully healthy bullpen would help immensely.
Astros Need Quick Turnaround
Houston has entered an eight-game stretch against division foes: Los Angeles Angels and the Mariners. With the Astros looking up at all the teams in the AL West, this stretch is critical. It is still early in the 2021 season, but division games are important no matter the time of year, especially with the team struggling like this. There is plenty of time to right the ship, but now would be as good of a time as ever to erase the Astros’ early struggles.
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