After nine games, it's pretty clear where the Astros are going to have to find their success on the diamond this season:
The rotation so far has done much of the heavy lifting for Houston in this young season, and it has the Astros in a very premature second place in the NL Central. Last year, Houston got pretty mediocre contributions from a rotation that was, well, more of a carousel.
Sure, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Bud Norris didn't go anywhere, but the last two spots shuffled between JA Happ, Jordan Lyles, Henry Sosa, Nelson Figueroa, Aneury Rodriguez and even Lucas Harrell a couple of times. It was a sign of desperation - Happ gave the Astros nothing last year, Lyles showed he's very rough around the edges, and Sosa, a mid-season acquisition from San Francisco for Jeff Keppinger, showed everyone exactly why he could never crack the Giants pitching staff for three years.
There's more hope in this year's staff. That Jeff Luhnow and Brad Mills consciously chose to jettison Livan Hernandez and Zack Duke, the veterans brought into camp on minor league deals for the express purpose of pushing or taking those two spots in the rotation, was encouraging. That Lucas Harrell so far has shown that he deserved the chance proves them right
(we haven't seen enough of Kyle Weiland to say that.) Kyle Weiland did not have a happy Monday in Washington, and his ERA is now over 8, making him the only real candidate early on to head to Oklahoma City.
Wandy is doing what he does best, despite technically being responsible for three more runs this season than he's credited with (remember the ball he sent sailing into right field in the home opener?) But he's looked solid so far, or at least still capable of grinding his way through lineups to a quality start.
But the biggest improvement has been in JA Happ so far, who has cut his walk rate per nine in half and is striking out about nine per nine innings. Seeing him find his control has been more than encouraging.
There's are many rough edges still to be worked out with the Astros, and they aren't all going to be smoothed out this season. This team is one of the youngest in the league, and at the plate, they are showing it. But the pitching is fulfilling what was expected of it so far in this young season.
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