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2020 turned out okay for the Astros, all things considered. 

This week’s ball-doctoring story that mentioned Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander might have otherwise grabbed some eyeballs but wound up buried beneath the seesawing fate of America’s democracy. 

All in all, the trash-bang scandal of 2019 got lost in much bigger conversations, so the traveling circus that would’ve been Houston’s 2020 playing on the road in front of fans that hated them never got out of the garage. Despite season-ending injuries to Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez and mostly silent bats from Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel (curious), the Astros remained a force to be reckoned with when it mattered most, striking fear in the hearts of baseball fans everywhere when they pushed the Rays to game 7 of the ALCS. 

2021 will be even more challenging. Though Yordan Alvarez is running again after surgeries on both knees, Houston will likely be without free agent outfielders George Springer and Michael Brantley. The system offers some possible help on the mound, but the bulk of their position prospects are too young to contribute anytime soon. 

Please, blog, may I have some more?

If you set the filter to 30 minor league innings pitched, 65 Houston Astros struck out more than a batter per inning in their minor league system in 2019. The Cubs: 44. The Yankees: 46. Dodgers: 62. I think I checked all the teams I thought had a shot to match, and I might’ve actually checked all the teams. There’s not a leaderboard for this so far as I know. Just me geeking out with my cat, Calvin. 

Every time I would think of a team to check–the Rays–yes, duh, of course, the Rays! 45. 

The Marlins? They seem to have a lot of heat last year, right? 36. 

The Padres? Yup, gotta be. 64. Huge, but second place. 

Anyway, they’re gonna be fine–the Astros–at least in the medium-term. Or maybe not. Maybe that one hyper-competitive dude was making all the magic and the next crew won’t take time for all his tricks (“Illusions, Dad! You don’t have time for my illusions!” – G.O.B.)  

But it wasn’t just tricks. Something true came out of all the spycraft. Four-seam fastballs up. Curveballs down. Timeless. 

More, too, but that’s at least partly how I’ll remember the Lunhow Astros. They redefined pitching. It wasn’t just them, of course, but they were a huge part of it. 

They also tainted my favorite game on the planet. Changed history. Changed lives. Yu Darvish. Dave Roberts. No need to cry for everyone here–it’s just a game and all–and a lot of the people most impacted by the cheating are probably doing pretty damn great on the quality of life scale, historically speaking, but it’s not a good look. It’s kind of amazing the game can just pick up and move on. Even more amazing how many people just shrug the everyone cheats. I get it. The world is built to make us do that.

Anyway, so: Astros prospects! Do they throw things? What do they throw? Let’s find out! 

Please, blog, may I have some more?