It may be difficult to see in terms of overall record, but the Houston Astros are slowly but surely improving.
With a handful of up-and-coming players on the team's roster, the Astros are on the road to a newfound success in the majors -- although it may take a few more seasons to truly see the results.
In addition to continued dominance of the game by Jose Altuve, the two new biggest names to emerge at the plate in the first half of 2014 for Houston were George Springer and Jon Singleton.
Altuve, the lone Astros All-Star, leads the team at the break with a .335 batting average, with two home runs and 27 runs batted in.
Although Springer is batting just .233 overall this season, the young and talented outfileder has 19 home runs and 50 RBI thus far in 2014.
Singleton, meanwhile, has been fairly inconsistent this year but still managed 21 RBI and six home runs through 38 first-half games for Houston (but he is batting a mere .184 this season).
Dexter Fowler has been decent, but not exactly what the Astros expected when they signed the speedy center fielder.
Fowler is currently batting .270 with six home runs and 24 RBI.
Matt Dominguez has also been fairly consistent for Houston manning third base this year.
Dominguez currently holds a .237 batting average with 11 home runs and 39 RBI.
Young starting pitching, led by southpaw Dallas Keuchel, has also shown major strides in improving this seaon.
Keuchel, 9-5 overall with a 3.20 ERE and 87 strikeouts, has been a major bright spot this year for Houston.
Unfortunately, starting pitching has been flakey beyond Keuchel, but a lot of that has to do with new player jitters and inconsistency on the mound.
Right-hander Jarred Cosart has been consistent on the mound as well, garnering a 9-6 overall record with a 4.17 ERA and 67 strikeouts.
However, beyond Keuchel and Coasrt, starting pitching has been beyond shaky.
Chad Qualls returning to Houston's bullpen has also been a welcome sight, as the righty reliever has not allowed a single earned run in 28 of his final 30 outings heading to the All-Star break.
Qualls, who is 1-1 overall with a 1.95 ERA, has 10 saves and 29 strikeouts for the Astros this season.
Question marks remain when it comes to the Astros catcher position, although Jason Castro has begun to show signs or re-emerging as a star if he can learn to remain consistent and injury-free.
Castro is currently batting .232 with eight home runs and 36 RBI through 76 games.
Overall, it's been a see-saw season once again for Houston players and fans alike.
But I can promise you this Houston team is better than last year's squad.
The Astros were one of the hottest teams in baseball at one point during the first half of the season, and I have no doubt they can put together another solid win-streak.
With a 40-56 record at the break, Houston's 40 wins at the midway point is the team's best since 2009, and at least the Astros are no longer in the AL cellar (that would be the team's cross-town rival Texas Rangers, sitting at 38-57).
Granted, a .417 winning percentage at the All-Star break is nothing to celebrate, but at least the team is improving.
Take a deep breath, Houston fans; this climb from the MLB grave is going to take some more time, but have faith in these guys.
These Astros are solid, and the young guys on this team continue to grow and become better players each and every game.
If Houston can learn to surround Keuchel with a supporting starting pitching cast, and as long as the offense can continue to remain consistent, I see no reason as to why this team can't be a .500 team or better next year.
Reaching that .500 mark by THIS season's end may be a strech, but it's also not impossible.
One day at a time, Astros fans.
One game at a time...
Denton Ramsey may be reached via email at TXSWReport@gmail.com