Headed into the 2021 season there were question marks aplenty surrounding the Houston Astros. Some analysts believed the team could find the success of previous years. Others were not so sure. Some saw the team as the 29-31 team of the 2020 regular season. They saw the down seasons of stars like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa and thought it was a sign of a fall for Houston. Would the star-filled lineup bounce back or would the decline continue? Would the young pitching take steps forward? Through the first half of the 2021 season, Houston has answered a lot of those questions. Here is an Astros 2021 Midseason update: a recap of the first half and a preview of the second half.
First Half Recap
At 55-36, Houston finished the first half at the top of the AL West and among the best teams in the entire AL. There are a few reasons why they find themselves at this position midway through the season.
Without a doubt, the Astros have put their 2020 offensive struggles behind them. Houston has returned to the top when it comes to scoring runs. Their 496 runs scored is 20 more than the next closest team. In a league where batting average is at an all-time low, they lead baseball with a .269 mark. Strikeouts are running rampant in the game, but the Astros are the toughest team to strike out, having the fewest strikeouts in baseball: 672.
The team’s success has been fueled by bounce-back seasons from Altuve, Correa, and Yuli Gurriel. Altuve is following a career-worst season with a powerful performance out of the leadoff spot. The veteran has a team-leading 20 homers, punctuated with a first-half walk-off bomb against the New York Yankees. Correa is leading the team with 47 walks and has a .385 on-base percentage. And Gurriel is having his best season at age 37, leading the team in hits with 96.
Houston’s young pitching has taken the necessary steps forward in order to put them at the top of the division. The overall team ERA is 3.60, which is good for third in the AL. Zack Greinke continues to churn out quality starts. The veteran is 8-3 with a 3.59 ERA in 115.1 innings. The most pleasant surprise has been Luis Garcia, the team’s breakout star. He is 6-5 with a 3.06 ERA in 85.1 innings.
The bullpen has been uneven at times, but that is through no fault of Ryan Pressly. Pressly is putting forth yet another All-Star season. He has 16 saves and his 1.42 ERA is the best in the Houston bullpen. He has had the swing and miss stuff going all year, with 48 batters fanned in 38 innings.
Second Half Preview
Heading into the second half of 2021, the Astros must continue their hot-hitting and developing pitching. Houston has a 3.5 game lead on the Oakland Athletics, which is good, but some more distance would be nice. Against teams who entered the break above .500, the Astros are an impressive 42-22. However, that means they are only 13-14 against teams who are below .500. If they want to not only maintain but expand on their division lead, they need to take care of business against teams they are supposed to beat. Regardless of their record against below .500 teams, the Astros are in a fantastic spot at the 2021 midseason point.
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