The Indians head to Houston tonight to kick off a three-game series with the Astros. It’s our first and only look at the team most analysts expected to be the worst club in baseball this year, so I talked to Greg Thurston from the great Astros blog Climbing Tal’s Hill about new GM Jeff Luhnow, flashy second baseman Jose Altuve, and what it would take for the Tribe to trade for Carlos Lee.
You can also read my answers to Greg’s questions on ClimbingTalsHill.com.
- The Astros are 13 games under .500, but that’s actually better than what some people predicted for them in 2012. Would you say they’ve beaten expectations this year?
The Astros got off to a nice start and were exceeding expectations until May 25 when they peaked at 22-23. The offense was clicking and the bullpen was getting the job done. But then the wheels came flying off. The team has now lost 18 of their last 24 (.250 winning pct.) and people are calling for heads to roll.
- What are your thoughts on new GM Jeff Luhnow so far? How long will it take him to get the Astros back into contention?
Even though the team has struggled it’s far from panic time. Jeff Luhnow has already been anointed the savior of the franchise, and I think he’s definitely on the right track. Next year’s move to the AL will make for some more growing pains and slow down any momentum Luhnow may have achieved. But the farm system is drastically improved and I think 2015 will be a good year.
Jose Altuve has been getting a lot of love from the blogosphere this season. What makes him so special?
Altuve is the real deal. This guy is a 5’5″ hitting machine. He makes solid contact (13.2% K rate) due to his outstanding hand-eye coordination. He has hit at every level, except AAA which he skipped right over, and just had his 22nd birthday last month. I think the Astros have found their 2B of the future.
- With trade season on the horizon, the Indians have been connected to Houston first baseman Carlos Lee. What do you want for him?
The question is: how much of Lee’s salary are the Astros willing to eat? That depends on the package of prospects that Luhnow can squeeze out of a potential trade partner. I’ll let my buddy Jeff sweat the details. (I was fortunate enough to get to meet him and ask a few questions at “blogger night” earlier this month) There is one player at Columbus that I like and the Indians don’t seem to have him in their plans. That player is Russ Canzler. I think he would look good in an Astros uniform, whatever that newly redesigned uniform may turn out to look like in 2013.
- Who’s pitching for the Astros this weekend, and what should Tribe fans look for from them?
Lucas Harrell goes in the opener for the Astros. He is one of my favorites. Nothing he throws is straight and he gets a ton of ground balls. His six wins leads the team and has been on top of his game in recent outings.
Rookie left-hander Dallas Keuchel makes only his second big league start on Saturday. He doesn’t overpower hitters and depends more on location. His first start against Texas was a good one but the bullpen coughed up the lead after he left the game.
J.A. Happ gets the start on Sunday. The big lefty has been inconsistent all season. He had a nice outing and picked up a win in his last start. His overall numbers are not pretty and do a good job of telling the story (5-7, 5.15 ERA, 1.538 WHIP).
- What’s your prediction for the series?
I would be surprised if the Astros can win more than one game in this series. They have been striking out at an alarming rate. Even Derek Lowe might be able to get double-digit strikeouts against them.