MMQB: Depth, Feldman and lightning round


It’s been only one week — and not even a full week at that — but there have been several Astros’ highlights and lowlights. Here are a few Monday Morning Quarterback observations as week two gets underway.

Pitching and defense.

  • The Astros are competing because of pitching and defense. Only one error in six games and the pitching has been either exceptional or above average, Lucas Harrell and Jerome Williams notwithstanding.

Depth isn’t deep at all.

  • Five different lineups in six games have revealed what many of us already knew: Depth at the major league level isn’t very deep at all. Two of the Astros’ best hitters — Jason Castro and Dexter Fowler — have missed multiple games due to injury or illness, forcing manager Bo Porter to scramble and juggle the top half of his batting order. The Astros actually have depth though. Only problem: That depth is incubating at Oklahoma City. Still, the first-week problems demonstrate just how fragile the lineup can be for 2014.

The Luhnow Makeover.

  • He’s still in the honeymoon, but the team is growing more “Luhnow’ every day. Seventeen of the 25 players on the roster have been acquired during the past two seasons.

How ’bout that Scott Feldman.

  • He’ll need another 15-2o starts to talk Cy Young, but Feldman should be at the top of the list for AL Pitcher of the Week. Five hits and one earned run over 13.2 IP will do that, you know.

Let the debate begin. Okay, let it continue.

  • Now that Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt have officially retired, it’s time to hang their numbers next to Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. Sorry, can’t use the argument that the Astros have retired too many numbers just to keep two of the best to wear a Houston uniform from being honored.

And some start-of-the-second-week lightning round. Add your thoughts to mine:

  • Biggest surprise: Pitching, with exceptions mentioned earlier.
  • Biggest disappointment: Slow starts (albeit four games) for George Springer and Jon Singleton. Each has more Ks than hits.
  • Scary stat: Has to be that .200 team batting average.
  • All eyes are on: Matt Dominguez. Two hits — both HRs — to go with six Ks in 18 ABs.
  • Meanwhile, I noticed: Carlos Correa and Danry Vasquez are out of the chute quickly at Lancaster.

 

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37 comments on “MMQB: Depth, Feldman and lightning round

    • Thx, that was in interesting read. My one complaint is that I don’t see it as healthy for the players or owners to rake in money hand over fist … It isn’t an either or proposition to me.

      I still can’t understand the cabrera contract, unless Detroit is trying/hoping to pay for records to be broken in a tigers uniform. I’m not sure whether I feel Springer should have signed or took a good risk betting he can make more in free agency. He would have set a record with the contract extension.

      More than ever I’d like to see the owners open their books.

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      • I read somewhere recently that salaries account for about 53% of club expenses today, compared to 60% in 2002. Wish I had the link, but if accurate, salaries have gone down in comparison to other expenses over the past decade. Meanwhile, revenues continue to grow at a healthy clip overall.

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      • After chewing on the Springer deal for a couple of weeks I have concluded that it is ok. If he comes up and performs well he will get another offer and he and the club are better off. If he comes up and doesn’t play well, he and the club are not so well off but the money is off the table for the time being and he makes a half a million a yr as a rookie and we get to see if he gets better. If he grows into the star then he gets star money.

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    • Look, if a player is happy with a deal and a team is happy with a deal, should they care what the players association thinks? Of course, the players’ association is going to go to bat for players, but they can’t be found when players get those crazy salaries and don’t perform. Or get hurt for four of the six years. Sure insurance may cover some of that, but who pays for those premiums? Not the players.

      So the players are made at Mike Trout. Really? He’s supposed to keep in line with the PA? Hmmm. If the owners “keep in line” with each other, it’s conspiracy and they have to pay for it. Yeah, yeah, I get “unions”, but sometimes I really wonder what our country has come to.

      Am I missing something?

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      • Yes, you might. See, it’s not our country’s fault, It’s Crane’s. The market demand for his product, and the market value of superstars like Trout will price him (us) right out of competitiveness.

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  1. While off to a slow start by his standards, Springer is hitting .267 with a .421 OBP. The power will come. I would suggest that he’s continuing to prove he can show a solid BB/K rate if that’s so darn important. Isn’t that the one thing his detractors think they have on him?

    The Astros are still a bad hitting team. I’m basing that on our present day roster. Guys in the minors don’t count Dan. It’s nice to be playing .500 ball after six games, but with any team or individual stat, it’s hard to get too excited or concerned either way at this point. I think Dominguez will hit, but he’s still somewhat of a question mark. Villar is hitting .295 with only 1 error, but he’s still a question mark. First base is a question mark, especially with Krauss. Guzman will hit lefties, but he’s still a question mark if we write him into the lineup everyday. Left field and right field are both question marks. Grossman, while a serviceable guy in left, has gotten turned around on balls to right at least twice. These are two very different positions, and Grossman has illustrated that convincingly.

    Great to see Feldman off to an ace type start. And I really think Cosart will stick. He’s got the stuff, but has to be getting seven innings out of his starts at some point soon. It’s safe to say that we have at least three question marks in the rotation though.

    In the pen, Albers and Fields have looked as good as anyone could expect. But we’ve got at least three question marks there too, including our only lefty.

    So did I say that we’ve still got quite a few question marks? I think this is still a 100 loss team, at least based on Luhnow’s present reluctance to move guys up aggressively. So without a doubt, it’s time to hold Luhnow accountable.

    Feldman is my biggest positive surprise. The guy is 6’8″, throws 88 MPH fastballs and so far, is getting guys out.

    Correa is going to make it very hard for Luhnow to leave him out in California. It’s already turning into a wasted trip. Jio Mier should be worried about his shortstop job in Corpus. He might get released. And for now anyway, Nolan Fontana should be resigned to the fact that he’s a second baseman.

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    • Daveb, I can’t find much to disagree with you on (yet) this year. The question I have is how long we should be passive with Luhnow and friends targeting 100 losses. I am already voting with my wallet. I will spend more on tickets in multiple cities other than Houston this year.

      I’d like to see Fontana at third a little as well. I think he could transition to 2B at anytime with little effort.

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      • I don’t see Fontana at third, at least as a long term guy, simply because we should expect a power bat out of that position, rather than a professional walker who might produce a .700 OPS. Besides that, we’ve got other guys like Ruiz, Duffy and Meyer, all guys that are more prototypical third basemen that should continue to get most of the reps at that position.

        As far as Luhnow’s free pass goes, it’s over. This is his team and his minor league organization. But too bad you don’t want to go to the park. Plenty of empty seats to sit in and plenty of good teams coming through town to watch.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thoughts
    – I think the pitching has been better than the defense – while the Astros may have one scored error – there have been “hits” given on a pop-up that went untouched and scored a run and a couple fly balls lost in the lights. I will say that Jonathan Villar has been 10 times better in the field than last season. And that helps a lot.
    – With a couple exceptions – I have not been cringing every time Porter goes to the bullpen so far this season.
    – Feldman has set a nice tone for the youngsters. Throwing strikes and mixing his pitches – it has been impressive.
    – Like you said and like I said – the depth is not at the mlb level – at 1/2 the positions or more the better player may be in the minors right now and they are playing make do at the majors rather than bringing the kids up.
    – It does not bother me if they retire a couple more deserving guys – they are not running out of a numbers at this pace for a few hundred years and who knows by then whether they even use numbers or have live players….
    – Speaking of which – those of us who have Comcast access got to see them honor Berkman and Oswalt.
    – Berkman would be one of the funniest commentators of all time if he went in the broadcast booth. He threw out so many funny lines in the one inning he and Roy were in the booth. My favorite story was Lance talking about the 18 inning game and about Brad Ausmus’ HR to tie it in the 9th inning. He talked about how Ausmus was half Jewish but in fact was basically agnostic. Berkman told him after the game he better believe in God now because his homer was one of the biggest miracles he had ever seen.
    Biggest surprise – Villar’s play
    Biggest disappointment – That Bo has not been checking in while the Astros are at .500
    Scary stat – the scary stat has its upside – they are 3-3 with 8 of the 13 everydays hitting .200 or worse and 6 of the 13 hitting .150 or worse. Even for the Astros this type of hitting is unsustainable – better times should be coming (though the pitching may sink a bit too).
    All eyes are on – The hitting coach – can he get anybody not named Fowler to hit the ball consistently.
    Meanwhile I noticed – That I am really digging the fire that slightly rotund (hey I’m more than slightly rotund) Matt Albers is bringing to the mound every time he pitches.

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  3. The top #1-3 starters have been good. The other two have not but Keuchel will throw bad and then good so maybe his next start will be better.
    The defense has been bad when players were playing the wrong positions. or Castro was not behind the plate.
    I judge the Luhnow makeover by the record and right now that is 3-3 so I’m not complaining today.
    Feldman has been great against two teams with big lineups. Let’s see if other teams adjust. right now he is worth the money.
    Biggest Surprise- Villar! BA, OBP and SLG percentage great. Fielding % is 1.000 and his range factor is slightly above league avg. four of his five strikeouts came in the first three games and only one in the last three.
    Biggest disappointment- KRAUSS
    Matt Dominguez in a slump- It’s so early, a couple of two hit games changes everything.
    Springer and Singleton- No Tony D and four different lineups in the first four games trying to find a decent top of the order. That team will settle down as soon as they find a good leadoff man. Springer was in the three slot finally yesterday and Singleton has homered in the last two games.
    Correa has been amazing, leave him there to play for awhile, while we look at Fontana, who has had a decent start. We do want them both to play every day and they are. if you promote Correa you either have to promote Fontana or demote him. Right now Correa is playing perhaps the hardest shortstop position in Baseball. Lancaster has more singles up the middle than any park in the minors because of the light air, velocity off the bat and the hard turf in their infield. Correa is getting the toughest test of defense he will see until he gets to the majors. He loves his team and is having an absolute blast. Corpus Christi will still be there in June.

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      • He started the first three at SS and played 2b yesterday, but you may be right about Mier at SS just being temporary, waiting for Correa to come up and getting Fontana some time at 2B in preparation for that change. But isn’t it going to be amazing having Torreyes, Fontana and Kemp all rocking it in the minors at 2B with Altuve locked in contractually at 2B for the Astros.

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  4. Brett Wallace has started all four games for AAA Norfolk and his line is .200, .250, .267, .517. He has 1BB, 4 K’s and 1 GIDP. No rbi’s and 1 dbl. He is hitless against younger pitchers and hitless against LHP. He has been a DH for two games and 1B for two games.

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  5. Maybe this one should rank in the Rodney Daingerfield collection, but Scott Feldman apparently wasn’t even considered for AL Player of the Week. Hmm. Apparently, his 2-0, 0.66 ERA, .111 BAA, 0.66 WHIP doesn’t rate. Though Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale do. From the comparisons, looks like Ks are the biggest factor with voters.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/josh-hamilton-chris-colabello-earn-co-al-player-of-week-honors?ymd=20140407&content_id=71271296&vkey=news_mlb

    Does that seem odd? Or am I grasping a straws?

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    • Silly, Chip. All real baseball experts know that the goal of a pitcher is to look flashy and strike out batters – not prevent runs.

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  6. Whew buddy…….we got spanked today. I’m wondering if Harrell has another
    bad start, if Luhnow will think about putting Peacock in the rotation? Clearly, this
    wasn’t a very good “outta” the pen day for him, but I think as it stands now…….it
    might be Harrell’s last gasping breath.

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    • I’ve missed the last four broadcasts. Are the angels taking advantage of the shifts noticeably? My preference is to play a straight defensive alignment with fielders shading one way or another when the situation calls for ir .

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  7. Becky, I think Harrell gets another couple of starts at least, unless he absolutely bombs in Toronto. No one else (read Williams and Peacock) is just banging down the door. I’m actually hopeful Porter and Luhnow don’t push the panic button in April and let everyone have an opportunity to make their cases. Injuries will probably take care of some of the decisions and by the end of the month, the “clutter” will begin to work itself out. Maybe — just maybe — by that time, Folty or Martinez or others may be closer to being ready. Sooner or later Wojo or White may become available as well. Harrell and perhaps even Keuchel are just bridges to the future.

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    • Bridges: Grossman, Hoes, Villar, Guzman, Krauss, Carter, Corporan, Gonzalez, Presley. Maybe Dominguez too. How about that for a reality check?

      I’ll leave the pitching staff to someone else.

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    • Whether it’s two starts or eight, Harrell is toast. He just doesn’t have the quality or consistency to remain as a big-leaguer.

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  8. Minor leagues;
    OKC came from 4 runs down to beat New Orleans, 6-4. Folty got roughed up but Rudy Owens saved his bacon and delivered the win with 4 good innings and Austin Wates, Jon Singleton and Stassi had good nights at the plate.
    The Hooks came from behind and beat Springfield 8-5 as eight different Hookers had an RBI. Two hits from Duffy, Hernandez and, Duh, Gio Mier. Colton Cain and Brady Rodgers both got hit pretty hard but Andrew Robinson pitched a perfect 1.1 inning and got the win as the middleman between the tandem starters.
    Lancaster and San Jose had three hits each in the entire game but Rio Ruiz made it happen with a two out ninth inning walkoff double to knock in Teoscar Hernandez and Carlos Correa who had drawn two-out walks. Both Kyle Westwood and Vincent Velasquez pitched brilliantly with Westwood giving up an unearned run early in the 2-1 Jethawks victory.
    Quad Cities off today.

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  9. Maybe we need to look back in order to see some improvement in the Astros. This time last year we were 1-6 and had been shut out 3 times. Altuve was hot but everyone else was not. We were in the Wallace, Ankiel, Pena, Humber and Xavier Cedeno era.
    This time a year ago Correa had played in 40 professional games, Springer had not hit well in AA yet, Singleton was suspended, Appel was at Stanford, Hader was an Oriole prospect, Tucker was an unknown in high A, and Velasquez was in Quad Cities and not a top 20 guy. Castro was not an All-Star, Maxwell was our CF and Dexter Fowler wasn’t even a gleam in Jeff Luhnow’s eye. Folty was in Lancaster and JD Martinez was a defensive whiz in the outfield when compared to Chris K Carter.
    Let’s count our blessings.

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  10. OP, when I count my blessings, and I’ve got plenty, I leave the Astros out of the conversation altogether. It would not be fair to the Big Chief upstairs. There are indeed far more important issues in life. But Mr. Bill makes a good point. The guys we’ve got playing are making just as many bone headed plays that they were a year ago. The absolute winner of the young season so far is our man Hoes trying to go first to third on a two out infield grounder with his team down 8 runs. I also watched him stray too far off first on a pop up to right field in the opener and get doubled up. I’m convinced he’s just a guy with a low baseball IQ. And we’ve got at least a couple of guys that qualify in that regard. I really can’t hold my favorite manager responsible for this kind of stuff. Heck, the guys I played slow pitch with knew when to run where and where to throw when. And this was frequently after several Budweiser’s.

    But OP, you are also correct. Things are looking up. Help is on the way. But it’s still going to be a lengthy, grueling process waiting for this team to get well.

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