The Royals and Astros are meeting this week for what could be a post-season preview as the two teams have the top two records in the league right now. We talked about Houston's surprising season with Ryan Dunsmore, editor of Crawfish Boxes to see if the Astros young talent can take them to October.
Royals Review: The Astros and Royals begin this series with the two best records in the league. The Royals are coming off a pennant-winning season, but the Astros lost 92 games this year. How big of a surprise is this season and what were your expectations before the year?
Ryan Dunsmore: My expectation this season was third place in the American League West. It’s been big surprise to say the least to see the Astros in first place for so long.. If I were to tell what the perfect situation for the Astros in 2015 season it wouldn’t have been even this good.
Royals Review: General Manager Jeff Luhnow conducted one of the biggest teardowns in recent memory, but the plan is paying off in spades now. How did Astros fans react to the rebuilding process as it was happening?
Ryan Dunsmore: Houston is a bit of fairweather town to begin with when it comes to sports. The Texans will always take the city’s attention and you can always find something to do in the fourth-largest city in America when the Astros aren’t doing well. That said I applaud Jeff Luhnow for not sugarcoating the rebuild, but the average fans did come for much of those three season. It also didn’t help that the team wasn’t on TV due to an Root Sports Network (the Astros' regional sports network) issue with Comcast and other major cable/satellite brands. The fans are coming back as the Astros have won more.
Royals Review: Former #1 overall pick shortstop Carlos Correa recently made his MLB debut and has looked impressive thus far. What can you tell us about this kid?
Ryan Dunsmore: This feels like the most extremist thing to say but Correa is the best of a young Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. All the reports I’ve seen on the 20-year-old say he has been a leader in the clubhouse of every team he has been on. He has every tool you’re looking for in a player, power bat, smart base runner, speed, range, and a cannon arm. He really is a special talent. The Astros players seem to realize that as well. It was reported that numerous players went into A.J. Hinch’s office and asked when the "kid" was going to be called after they loss Jed Lowrie early in the season.
Royals Review: The Astros offensive approach couldn't be more different than the Royals, with Houston being a prototypical "Three True Outcomes" club, leading the league in home runs and strikeouts,and fifth in walks. Is this a formula that can lead them to a pennant?
Ryan Dunsmore: I do think it can sustain the team into the playoff and deep into the playoffs. Home runs will keep the Astros in striking range of any game. Good pitching can neutralize slap hitters and power hitters a like. Maybe I’m just putting my fingers in my ears and saying "LALALA" and hoping the Astros make the playoffs with the Chris Carter, Evan Gattis, Luis Valbuena in the lineup. Also noting that Jed Lowrie returning to the lineup and adding Carlos Correa will help level out the strikeout totals.
Royals Review: Manager A.J. Hinch (and former Royals catcher) was a pretty forgettable manager in Arizona. What do you think of the job he has done for the Astros this year?
Ryan Dunsmore: It was the same qualities that got Hinch the job in Arizona that got him the job in Houston. Hinch’s experience as player, scout, and executive built a strong resume. But it wasn’t his time. The players turned on Hinch, thinking he was too close to the front office.
Thus far, Hinch seems like the perfect man for the job. He has been a complete change from Bo Porter, he ran a tight ship. Hinch on the other hand came into the season saying he wanted players to show their personalities. Hinch appears to have learned from his previous stop as manager and found a way to balance his connection with the clubhouse and the front office.
Royals Review: What weaknesses, if any, will the Astros look to address at the trade deadline?
Ryan Dunsmore: Starting pitching a clear weakness this team needs to address. The question is how will this team address it? A rental players like Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir, Kyle Lohse, Mike Leake, or Jeff Samardzija. A long term answer like Cole Hamels. Jeff Luhnow has preached service time with his acquisitions during his time with the Astros and that can be reflected in the moves he has made in the past -- for example bringing Chris Carter and Evan Gattis. I don’t see Luhnow selling the farm unless he can get some kind of control in return. That said, I’m sure they’ll be happy to throw a small package for a pitcher once the market settles and teams are out of the race closer to the deadline.
You can read all the latest Astros news at Crawfish Boxes. Many thanks to Ryan Dunsmore for his help.