Three myths about the Astros

Everyone has an opinion about a team that loses 100 games for three straight seasons. Some of those opinions are based in frustration. Others are founded in rumors or lack of information. Still, some are based in truth — or at least some truth.

For the Astros, frustration, rumors and “at least some truth” abounds and will continue to abound for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, here are three myths. Myths, at least from where we stand in September 2013.

Jim Crane will not spend money.

  • Phooey! No one knows that. He’s said even recently that the Astros payroll would be in the top 5 or 10 teams in MLB. Do you know of any facts that will refute that? Is there something in his track record that indicates he won’t invest in his product? I look at the recent signing of Jose Altuve as not only a good faith down payment, but also a good business decision. Over the past couple of years, the Astros have invested more in the minor league system than at any other time in their history. You don’t add the roof to a house before you pour the foundation. Yes, you can point to the meager signings this season (Carlos Pena, Rick Ankiel et al) but hanging your hat on those decisions alone are short-sighted. Crane and Jeff Luhnow will spend the money. In due time. Honestly, I don’t ever see the Astros as a top 5 team in payroll, but top half would be nice eventually. As an example, Washington is #10 this season at $116 million.

The Astros don’t have any good players.

  • Poppycock! Are there any stars in the bunch? Now, that’s still debatable. But there are some good players in the bunch. It’s easy to tear apart players like Altuve or Jason Castro when they’re the “best” players on a poor team. Though they are All Stars, they may not be stars on an Astros’ team in 2016. Still, they could be strong, regular contributors. Imagine Altuve in the 9-hole or Castro hitting sixth. Right now, Bo Porter has no choice but to plug them in key roles (e.g. 3-hole, cleanup) because that’s all he’s got. Brett Oberholtzer, Jarred Cosart, even Jordan Lyles may not eventually be impact players, but they’ve already proven they can contribute at this level. On a good team, you have to wonder if players like Matt Dominguez, Brandon Barnes or Robbie Grossman might improve. It’s a myth the Astros don’t have good players. Do those players make a good team? Now that’s another subject.

Luhnow is a great GM, Luhnow is a horrible GM.

  • Balderdash! You don’t know yet. Yes, there are some remarkable moves and, indeed, there have been some faux pas along the way. You can tell where a man is going by looking to see where he has been. Luhnow’s track record is quite extraordinary and even the commitment to developing talent in Houston has been striking. If George Springer, Jonathan Singleton or any of the others currently in incubation turn out to be nearly as good as Cosart or Oberholtzer, the Astros will be in good hands for years to come. No, Luhnow may not have drafted or traded for all of these players, but he and his team have been key in their development. If fans had their way, Cosart would have been in the rotation out of spring training and Springer would have be in center field in May or June. His track record may portend greatness, but the product on the field in Houston (not OKC, Corpus Christi or some other foreign field) will tell the tale. As I’ve suggested often, look at what the man was given to work with. It’s hard to make lemonade when you don’t even have the lemons at your disposal.

37 comments on “Three myths about the Astros

  1. Crane spent the max amount allowed in getting his last two drafts signed. That’s a start.

    Actually, I don’t think we have many good players at the ML level, at this point anyway. For instance, on a contending team, Altuve might be on the bench by now. And to this day, although guys like Cosart have given us a reason to be a bit more optimistic, there are no sure things with any of our pitchers; rotation or pen.

    Luhnow is going to get at least a couple of more years to build the organization, unless of course someone buys him out. so the jury on him will be out for some time still.


  2. I was completely on board until this past winter. No reason to pay the salaries that were being paid for a last place team. (sans $15M to Pirates to take Wandy) But Crane/Luhnow lost me this past year signing the bottom of the FA barrel. Now it would appear there are potential stars in the minors and we can’t bring them up due to “starting the clock” or something. And there is a fourth myth for me. Why do players do well in the minors, come up and stink, and go back and do well. I know that MLB is tougher competition, but one would think that at least one promotion in the past two years would stick out. I am not knocking any player, but as a group, the Astros MLB staff does not seem to be able to teach, nor to motivate. (Let me apologize, but this constant losing is getting to me)


    • You know 45, I think the level of competition really is much greater when making the jump from AA or AAA to the majors. And even some of the guys who have the raw talent fail, because I also think there is a whole mental aspect that does not get considered. I’ve seen too many J.R.Towles’ and Brett Wallace’s over the years.


  3. Let’s see – another myth – the Astros can’t win a walk off game. Well, they did it today, though they had to blow a 2 run lead late to set it up.
    Crane – I’m totally with you Chip – Crane has spent bucks in the draft, in the minors and (I think) on a few Latin American FAs. I can’t yet judge him on not signing FAs at the right time, because it has not been deemed the right time. (I can gripe about not getting George Springer to the majors yet as he is about to turn 24).
    No good players – I think they now have some talent – I don’t know which of these guys will be long term good, but there will be some. I like guys like Castro and Grossman and Cosart and Oberholtzer – but we have a way to go to know what we’ve got.
    Luhnow – I’ve liked more of his moves than I’ve disliked – the proof will be in the pudding over the next couple of years as the blossoming minors either feed good players to the big club or win minor league championships.
    Astro45 – not everybody is a Bagwell or an Oswalt – there are many guys who struggle on their first exposure to the mlb and succeed later. Have to show some patience at this point.


  4. Keeping Springer down at OKC has nothing to do with starting his Major League clock or not thinking he’s ready.

    Springer is still in OKC for two reasons:

    1. Luhnow wants that team to win its championship. You might think the PCL championship is worth a bucket of warm spit, but you’d be wrong. These kids are learning to be champions. They are learning to survive in a playoff atmosphere. That’s important.

    2. The Rule 5 draft. If we bring up Springer right now, we have to put him on the 40-man roster. And there he stays. It’s not like we can put him through waivers and expect him to clear and be off the 40-man roster.

    So what, you say? He deserves a spot on the 40-man roster!

    Sure. In the spring he does. But if we put him on the 40-man roster, then he takes the place of someone else who needs to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. So keeping him in OKC keeps one other player in our system. And it’s not like bringing Springer up right now will make a difference anyway.


    • DanP/BrianT: I think it is my perspective that is different. First, 5 years and counting below .500 gets to me. Not that the Astros play poorly, but they continue to dump marginal talent for more prospects. To me that is just going cheap. It is a self fulfilling prophecy of continuing to lose. As to the Rule 5/40 man roster, when I look at the current 40 man – I wouldn’t blink if at least 10 and probably 15 just went to another team. Finally, Omaha (KC) is in the playoffs – yet they pulled up 5-6 from the minors on September 1st. (This is hyperbole, but losing on purpose at the MLB level is Un-American to me-I said it was hyperbole)


      • I agree with Brian that I think it is important that Springer stay in OKC and attempt to win a championship. Some of his teammates will be with him on the Astros someday and if they can establish that winning attitude now I believe it will only translate at the major league level. I am sure Springer will be our starting CF come opening day next year and, if time allows after the PCL playoffs, maybe he can get in 2 weeks this.


  5. The first “myth” is not a myth at all. Crane’s cheapness and greed is the very cancer that has already killed this franchise. (Emphasis on the word “already”. The evidence of Crane’s character is overwhelming, you’d be wise not to go there in rebuttal.)

    If you do go there, can you name one single solitary thing that Crane has done that’s in the best interest of the fans or the city?

    Stockpiling talent is cheap. Retaining them is not.

    It’s easy to say there’s no evidence of the contrary when the evidence already points to EXTREME FAN INDIFFERENCE. The pattern is already set, If you bet on extreme generosity, then that’s a sucker’s ruse.

    My bet is mediocrity galore, year over year. How could it possible turn out any other way? Will the revenues and generosity sans revenues appear out of nowhere?

    The man will not suddenly become a generous giver to the fans, the city, or the players under his employ. Even if he did find God and become a giver, his product is dominated regionally in every single respect.

    It’s a done deal. Astros fans lose.


  6. Regarding Springer remaining in the minors because the Rule 5 Draft and the 40-man roster, that argument is vapid. The 40-man roster is chock full of crap and mediocrity. I can name at least 10 players that are waivable and have ZERO risk of being lost to other squads. C’mon!!


  7. Bo – is weaver your middle name and pert (as in Bopert) your last – anyways – I completely agree with you on the 40 man – there are quite a few folks on there who will not get picked up elsewhere if cut or if they are picked up elsewhere – who cares. Or they could move JD Martinez to the 60 day DL and open a spot.
    But there is no proof that Crane will not spend money, there is just speculation. There is proof that he has not spent money – at least outside the draft picks the minor league system and a small Altuve signing.
    Time will tell all on that one – hitting the same unprovable drum will not get you there.


  8. We have no idea how much Crane will spend next year, or the year after, but I think most of us can tell….the man does NOT like losing. Luhnow is perfect for the future
    of this rebuilding phase, and probably for several years after. I respect him, and have had no reason to doubt he can do this job. Most of the really GOOD players are in Corpus, and high A ball, OKC has Springer, and Singelton, but it gets slim
    after that. We will lose some guys to rule 5, that’s a given, but so will the other 29 teams, and so far…..Luhnow has done fairly well in picking up some good players.
    Ever since we picked up L.J. Hoes the outfield has finally gotten a bit settled, with Grossman (hurt right now) and Barnes. It’s been a looooong summer of constant
    bullpen meltdowns, and not too many high fives, but with the walk off in today’s game, you would have thought these kids just won the World Series! I’ll take it!


  9. I am willing to give Crane the benefit of the doubt until he shows me otherwise. I strongly believe he punted on this season from the beginning in the hopes of obtaining the #1 pick in next years first year player draft. I am fine with this as an extra 10-15 wins by acquiring better players via free agency would have meant very little compared to getting the #1 pick. Now, I expect Crane to spend some money this offseason, especially to improve the bullpen. I would expect our payroll to be between $40-50M and keep nudging upwards as we improve.


    • It will be interesting to see how much they actually spend – I don’t think they will be able to increase it that much based on the type of FAs out there and the type of players they will be looking for. But it better be more that this year …


      • I think they need to add, at least, 2 quality arms to the bullpen, withe one being a legitimate closer. Those two players would cost around $15M. I would also think Luhnow would want one experienced arm in the rotation, which would probably run about $8M. That is $23M added to the already low $13M payroll. You add in some role players and, voila, you are up to $40M+.


      • Tim –
        I think you are right – but I’m betting he only goes and gets the bullpen help. I’m betting we have a very young rotation next season – like the one we are ending the season with. (I would go and get the experienced arm to help them – but looking at the potential FA list – I’m not sure there is someone Luhnow wants there and/or wants to come here).


  10. I will give Crane another year to show me he is willing to field a competitive team. at least a little improvement over this year. I will say some of the trades (or sales ) they made late this year did bother me. If nothing is done this off season I will be joining the Crane bashers.

    I see some talent on this team, however, they could use better coaching and a more traditional manager.

    Luhnow does impress me. I’m afraid he may impress other owners and move on after a while. Hope not.


  11. I’d like to know what FA were approached for 2013 that turned Luhnow down. I suspect it was a tough sell with everyone and their mother knowing the Astros would still lose 90+ games if everything went just right for them. 2014 should be more promising. I’m not excited about players on the market though. I’m still trying to baseline the talent following the PED crackdowns. With many players doing their best to continue cheating it makes that evaluation more difficult than it should be.


  12. While he will have to be added to the 40 man, any call up for Springer at this point will not count towards service time (as long as he has zero service time now and the call up is after 1 Sep). Adding him to the 40 man should be easy.

    I am under the assumption that we will see Springer right after the AAA playoffs. Maybe its Pagnozzi that gets waived when Corporan comes back, and that would appear to correspond with the timing of the playoffs.


  13. Everything is based on a small sample, but Brad Peacock, after being horrendous in the early season, has put up decent numbers since his call-up.
    Comparisons of early / after call-up
    ERA 8.07 / 3.68
    WL 1-3 / 3-2
    WHIP 1.759 / 1.200
    K per 9 IP 7.1 / 9.3
    OPS against .998 / .655

    Since his call-up he has put up the kind of numbers a #3 starter would give you. So maybe he is earning a 2014 rotation spot here at the end of 2013.


  14. We will find out where Crane and Luhnow are willing to go this offseason. Cosart is set, but Appel, McCullers, and others are way off. Assume you start with Cosart – where do you go? Do you keep hammering Lyles out there given his age? Do you REALLY think Oberholtzer and Keuchel can give you 20 quality starts each?

    The pitching is deep on the market this year. You could build a good rotation out of it. Arroyo, Garza, Hughes, Kuroda, Lester, ZLilly, Nolasco, Santana (Ervin type), the list is long. There are also a few that will be seeking that proverbial redemption contract like Garland, Floyd, Karstens and a few others.

    There are also a few that I wouldn’t expect options to get picked up on including Shields and *gasp* Wandy.

    I realize Houston is not the destination for most of these guys – but there are a ton of possiblities that would beat watching Lyles, Oberholtzer or Keuchel or Clemens or Humber or any of them while you wait on more dominant younger arms like Appel and McCullers (or Rodon since it looks like we won that race too).

    I think the cleaning out was necessary, there were a lot of over priced contracts paying to underperforming veterans like Myers, Wandy, Lee, heck take us back to Woody for that matter, but maybe we shouldn’t be scared to dip our toes in the water of a 2 year deal to a Kuroda type, or even, and my preference, a 4 year deal to a Nolasco type. Solidifying 20% of your rotation will go along ways in not losing 100 games for FOUR straight seasons.


    • Steven, I agree it is worth pursuing a higher dollar free agent for the rotation. This year has been hard to really evaluate. If you’re looking at quality starts, here’s what we have left (note – Norris was 13/21 before the trade):
      Keuchel – 18 GS – 9 QS
      Bedard – 23 GS – 9 QS
      Lyles – 22 GS – 9 QS
      Harrell – 21 GS – 8 QS
      Cosart – 9 GS – 7 QS
      Oberholtzer – 6 GS – 5 QS
      Peacock – 11 GS – 4 QS (but 4/6 starts since his recall are quality)
      Humber – 7 GS – 2 QS (we may need to recount to verify those)
      Clemens – 2 GS – 1 QS

      I wouldn’t bet on anyone beyond Cosart on this roster giving us 20 quality starts. This begs the question: has our bullpen been so terrible because they throw so many innings?

      One more thing – on the 20 QS thing, here’s are AL pitchers with close to 20 QS for relevant teams:
      Texas – Holland (20), Darvish (19)
      Oakland – Parker (21), Colon (19)
      Detroit – Scherzer (22), Fister (20), Verlander (18), Sanchez (17)
      Cleveland – Masterson (18)
      KC – Shields (23), Santana (20)
      Tampa – none
      Baltimore – Tillman (18)
      Boston – Lackey (18), Lester (17)
      NYY – Kuroda (17)


    • I agree. It would be great to see an established, quality pitcher added to the rotation. I’d be pleasantly surprised though. Steven, you might be right about Wandy though…..with an incentive laden deal. In the meantime, don’t forget about Wojoski. I think he wins a spot in the rotation next spring. Worst case, he gets a job in the pen initially and moves to a starting job as others drop out.


  15. Wandy has never been great – but he was a very very consistent and good pitcher from 2008 to 2012 – his ERA was in the 3 to 3.7 range and he was always hitting around 200 IP. This year he had a decent ERA but arm problems did him in – it would have to be incentive laden because 60 IP and an inflamed elbow are not a harbinger of good things for 2014.


    • Wandy has been decent, but always in the N.L. I have my concerns about him pitching in the A.L. and he is not exactly the veteran I had in mind when I mentioned the Astros adding a veteran to the rotation. I prefer someone who can be a leader to the young pups and I don’t think Wandy has that trait.


  16. My reason for listing Wandy was to give all the names, not advocate him. My hope is the Astros seriously pursue Nolasco. Other than that it could be dicey, but they have the payroll flexibility for the next few years to take a chance.

    Now convincing any of them to come here…. which is why you might end up with one of guys in need of an incentive laden, one year recovery job.


  17. Cody Clark’s 0-19 is just…yeesh. Between his career .243 minor league average, Pagnozzi’s .219 minor league career, and Jason Jaramillo being a fountain of uselessness over in AAA begs the question…where in the heck do they FIND these people?! To be that bad in the *minors* and last that long just blows my mind.


    • Not that he is Carlton Fisk, but watching Clark on TV he has had a bit of buzzard’s luck in his 0 for 19. Hit a number of speared line drives and last night dropped one about an inch foul down the left field line.
      The truth is that there is catching talent in the system (Stassi was one before getting hit in the face) and some guys we should see inn the next couple eyars.


    • How many times have you heard business owners say “I can’t find good people who will work hard”? There aren’t enough good catchers anywhere in baseball at any level. Everyone wants to be an arrow, not a target.


  18. Heineman put up strong offensive and defensive numbers at Lancaster A+ ball and both Garcia and Perez were solid both sides at Corpus AA. (But neither of them got the call….)


  19. Dan and Billy…THAT is exactly why I’m standing on my soap box about the NEED of catchers! Catching prospects are few and far between, but if I were Luhnow, I would make THAT a number ONE priority in this next years draft. The Astros are
    going to have two more high picks in round one, and Luhnow had better not squander them………GET A CATCHER!


  20. OKC is out of the play offs……..who gets the call? I would bet money, we see Springer when the club gets back to Houston. How SWEET would THAT be!


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