The Opening Day tracker on the Astros website says 12 days. I'm not very happy about this. It should be none, or one, or some lower single digit. Spring Training has gone on long enough. We have sampled the hor d'oevres extensively and now want our main course. Sharpish. We are now entering the last week or March, and it would be nice to see real baseball in the first few days of April.
Thankfully when the Astros arrive at that point, they face steadier opposition than in previous years. In 2010 their 0-8 start pitted them against the World Series winning Giants and then the Phillies. Last year the season seemed to be over once Brandon Lyon had blown the first game of the season against Philadelphia. This year we square off against the Rockies and Braves at home.
I'm sure fans would appreciate their Astros splitting the opening homestand, or maybe even going above .500 for the first time since 2009. Already fans have had something to savour, as the above average showing so far in Florida has woken some up, because when you've reached the bottom, winning any sort of ballgame is enjoyable.
Loose ends are close to being sown up: the opening day lineup has likely crystallised. Jeremy Guthrie will be the Rockies opening day starter, so whether Brad Mills goes with Travis Buck or Brian Bogusevic (both left-handed bats) in right field is up in the air, while we await to see if Jordan Schafer will be healtthy and 100% by April 6.
Kyle Weiland and Livan Hernandez seem to be very close to securing rotation spots, and the only melodrama to be resolved is bullpen spots and bench places, made slightly easier by the mid-week trade that sent Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero to the Kansas City Royals.
While it is sad to see both of them go, Quintero was gone anyway and Bourgeois, apart from his deadly base-stealing ability is not an everyday player. We can cross our fingers on Kevin Chapman, and hope Jeff Luhnow got something nice with the PTBNL, and I think most people will agree with the deal (apart from those who comment on the Chronicle, who by all reports blew up, but there's no helping some people).
Lastly, I was intrigued and amused to read the Platoon Advantage's take on the Astros path to respectability in a piece by Jason W (sorry for the surname abbreviation). From the Astros projection of 60-102 by PECOTA, Jason tries to see the everything goes right scenario to get them up to 88 wins (he gets us up to 87 which is good enough).
Nothing on this list seems that crazy, but expecting everything to come good for this franchise is exactly what landed us in this mess in the first place. Some of the assumptions are out of date, as Jimmy Paredes is going back to Oklahoma City to focus on being a second baseman, effectively handing the job to Chris Johnson, who has had a good March. Whether the Astros can get above average pitching from Hernandez, J.A. Happ and whoever fills the fifth-starters' spot (Weiland we assume), is very questionable.
Since Jack Cust has just one hit this spring, I find it doubtful at this point he makes the 25-man roster, but what do I know. Then again, I think if Bogusevic puts up a modest slash line, plays defense the way he has showcased so far, and steals 30/35 bases, then he exceeds what Jason has listed (Bogusevic has 5 steals having reached base just 10 times this spring).
Frankly if you said we could hover around the .500 mark for a couple of months I would take it right now, since we have not been able to achieve this for years. A good showing from our stars of the future, J.D. Martinez, Jose Altuve and co would be more than enough for me. And it should be for you too.