2014 Astros: Defining the bridge we are building


Bridges fill many special roles out in the “real” world. Some are works of art, almost too lovely to use, others are extremely utilitarian. A few bridges seem to have been built by mistake and some stand out in the distance taunting us to approach and use them.

The Astros are in a “bridging” time frame as referenced by great idea man and fellow blogger daveb — trying to survive and stretch to the better times we pray are coming. So on the Astros’ current roster (and I’m counting Matt Albers instead of Josh Zeid) what kind of bridge do the players represent?

Here is a quickie look at where I would place these players:

Bridge of Sighs

I’ve seen the Bridge of Sighs in Venice and to me it conjures up good memories and positive sighs….

The following are players who can have a big role with the team for the longer term and who could inspire us to have the same kind of good memories.

Fowler, and especially Castro, could be trade targets — but if not they should be the elder leaders of the everyday players in future years. Cosart, Oberholtzer and Fields could be the foundation for a young and strong rotation and bullpen.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

The following players are ones who I see as assisting with the bridging process to the new generation of Astro but are not here for the long term.

Altuve amd Dominguez are the ones who I might be most easily wrong about. If he improves his hitting this season and becomes a more patient and better batter, Altuve could be here for the really long run. More consistent contact by Dominguez could combine with his fine glove and sporadic power to carve him a more permanent niche. Albers, Qualls and Crain are at an age and position that they could easily be a solid bridge over the next couple years and pitching elsewhere after that. Feldman is on the list because of age, but I could see the Astros trying to trade him at the deadline of his third season. Guzman strikes me as a player who will never quite become a long term foundation, especially when the youngsters start moving up from the minors.

Bridge too Far

The book and movie “A Bridge Too Far” was referring to an ambitious campaign by the Allies during WWII in which the plan could not be completed successfully taunted by one last bridge that could not be attained. It brought to mind a spring break trip where the great bridge over the Mississippi in Baton Rouge taunted us in the distance as we were hopelessly tangled in a many-mile traffic jam caused by having all of I-10 squeeze into a single lane exit on the other side of the river. But I digress.

These are players that just may never be good enough, but are being taunted by what that can’t attain. (Think J.D. Martinez or Brett Wallace):

All of these guys will have their good days and their bad days, but in the end they will find a long term career here to be out of their reach.

Bridge to Nowhere

In one scene in the movie “The Blues Brothers”, Jake and Elmore get their car to do an impossible back flip that distracts the neo-Nazis as they drive off the unfinished “Bridge to Nowhere”. Despite the scenes showing downtown Chicago in the background, the actual scene was filmed on a piece of freeway in Milwaukee that was in legal limbo at the time. It was probably 30 feet off the ground, not higher than the Sears Tower as in the movie – but then the one Nazi could not express his undying love to Henry Gibson if they had hit the ground 2 seconds after flying off the “bridge”. Oh well, in this case this refers to guys who are going nowhere career-wise….

I’m not saying these guys can’t play or contribute, but I could certainly see a scenario where none of them are around when 2015 rolls around.

Your turn: And don’t tell me you agree with me because I’m not sure I agree with me on this list.

 

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103 comments on “2014 Astros: Defining the bridge we are building

  1. I still like Altuve. Fowler has been put in the lead off slot. Altuve should be inked, not penciled, into the two slot. On a better team, probably the seventh or eighth slot. But put him in a place where he’s not pressured into RBI situations. Give him the best chance to succeed. Don’t try to make him into something he is not.

    Speaking of bridges, could Brent Strom be a bridge, a guy who takes over, for the time being, if my favorite manager was to get his pink slip?

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  2. I am oft to quote a saying that I read “somewhere”: There is nothing new under the sun! I’m quite certain I’m not the first to use a bridge reference in this context, nor will we be the last. I’m just hoping and praying that we don’t turn the corner one day soon and face a huge, ugly sign that says: “BRIDGE OUT!”

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      • Yes – but what happens when good young players come up and people want to see them Bo? Whathappens when the future is finally here?

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      • Fair question. Good young players ARE on the way.

        When the “future is here” it will still equate to mediocrity. This is what I keep on saying. Over and over, right? A few upstart arms and a couple GSprings just won’t be enough to legitimately compete for a division title. Not enough loyal fans, not enough revenue, not enough FA’s to round out the squad.

        And not NEARLY enough to topple the Rangers. Why? They own the market, and will continue to own the market!!

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    • Sadly, it’s true. I want Crane’s crummy franchise to fail. But if that happens, then good things will return to Houston one day soon.

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      • PS — I’ve been here all along. Not sure why my user name got jacked up. Might have something to do with me dinkering with WordPress lately. Maybe WordPress recognizes the IP addy of my machine? Who knows.

        But yeah, that’s me commenting on Krauss’ ongoing confidence issues, and the bleak future of this team without a fanbase.

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      • If this team fails we get to wait until they give us a franchise – let’s say maybe 5 years and then you get an expansion team and then another 10 yrs until we contend. And then I’m dead.

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      • Really? In 15 years you’ll be dead?

        At least the team will be competitive again, and back in the NL where it belongs. More importantly, you won’t sell your soul in the process by condoning Crane’s success!

        And what about your kids??

        Take heart. It won’t take 15 years anyway. Crane’s floating carcass could be belly up within a year or two the rate this ship is sinking.

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  3. These guys need to go back to Spring training, ’cause they are playing some AWFUL baseball. Bad running……BIG errors (2 tonight for Matty D.) and just
    plain bad ball. Going back to Cosarts last start, where he said he was “lazy, lethargic, and sleepy”……….WHO says that? Harrell actually pitched a fairly good game tonight, and if Matt D. hadn’t thrown that ball over Altuve’s head, well you know the rest. I gotta keep telling myself it’s only been a few games. Daveb your
    favorite manager ain’t going anywhere, any time soon. Give him until the All star
    break, then we can talk about a new manager. A rah-rah-ree kinda managing is getting old fast with these guys. I wonder where Geoff Blum got that “really”?
    T shirt he had done when Cooper was the manager???

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    • Good points – I guess if you are told over and over and over by everyone with a pen and paper that you are horrible, you start to believe your own demise. Playing week 1 with no regard and no energy is scary – because they don’t have wiggle room for getting worse without becoming the worst team in major league history.

      Better find some motivation quickly.

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  4. Bo – if the argument was to have Crane bought out and the Astros stay here – that I could get behind. But I don’t want Carlos Correa playing for the Portland Astros while I wait for MLB, which has screwed us royally at every turn, to hem and haw about ever giving us a team.
    I watched this happen where the Oilers went off and came within an eyelash of the Super Bowl while 15 or so years later the Texans have not sniffed the SB and now are the worst team in the NFL.

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  5. The Astros will not be leaving town at any point. But as I’ve mentioned before, with Crane having just 3 plus shares of the 16 voting shares in the ownership group, the other owners could conceivably turn on Crane. I’m sure Crane made every effort to surround himself with investors that he knows and presumably would be loyal to him, but, if the investors continually lose value in their investment ( as Forbes is claiming) then grumblings could grow. Major league teams are not supposed to lose value. bopert, that’s your best shot. I’d sure like to see a list of who owns how much of the club.

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    • daveb – that sounds like a more likely scenario. Even his loyal partners have to be asking him to throw the home fans a bone and to somehow resolve the Comcast debacle. Though how much leverage you have when you have games with a 0.0 rating…….

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      • Dan, I meant to complain about that day game the other day…but it slipped my mind. That’s a ridiculous feat of scheduling. If they want LAA to play @SEA after @HOU there should be a travel day. How might this be accommodated? Add in a few double headers. Ernie Banks had it right!

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    • Sounds viable – you can be my BFF until the day you start costing me millions. Ask Dre and Ice Cube what happens to BFFs when money gets in the middle lol.

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  6. daveb – the problem with replacing Porter is the unannounced under market lifetime contract he signed. He will be here forever…..

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  7. May I add a metaphor here. A “bridge” is a solid structure built starting and ending with a good foundation. A “bridge” with a good foundation on only one end is called a “ramp.” We are hoping that the foundation is good on both ends. That is yet to be seen, and God willing, we are half way over the “bridge” or “ramp.” I am hoping for a soft landing.

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    • Solid point. This is why I want more aggressive promotions. We know we lack of foundation and are hoping one develops in the minors and somehow does not suffer from growing pains once finally in Houston? If $$$ is the big concern then keep the stars and trade the avg players once they hit arbitration. They won’t all be worth eight figures annually.

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    • Yes, Devin – what made the last rebuild palatable were the early promotions of players. I know it is a different financial landscape – but this team is becoming unwatchable all over again.

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  8. Astro45 – I am afraid that we may only be at the middle of that bridge…… even if we are waiting on the young guns they wont be great right away – I can see us being competitive in 2 years, but I can see it taking 4-5 also.

    Nice right up – as usual you leave very little wiggle room for debate. Sure everyone might want to move one or two names up or down a rung in their exchange of opinions, but overall it does paint an accurate picture of the franchise as a whole.

    Now if I dare suggest someone is taking the bridge to nowhere cranky Gramps is going to blow a gasket!

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      • i agree that we need to refrain from personal attacks, but i have to side with Steven about the cranky guy. He is always the one that starts with the personal attacks when he thinks he has been criticized or just doesnt like your opinion. Where were the admonitions for him on his comments? Lets just talk baseball and understand not everyone will agree with on every subject.

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      • This is my particular post and there aren’t any persoanl attack comments from cranky guy to admonish in this post – when there is I will gladly step up.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Dan, I’m confident oldpro can hold his own. By the way, who was that guy, years ago, that Chip finally banned from the blog?….Becky would probably remember his name. Although he was very harsh in his style of debate, I was humored, and thought he brought a certain level of balance to our generally very friendly conversation.

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      • daveb – you know me – I like discussion – just hate when the focus gets off the baseball into the personal.
        However, if things keep going on this way – I might get real personal talking about the team owner, GM and M….

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      • I certainly hope so. Its gone on far too long.
        Somewhere a ways back someone said its too early to judge the players. I think todays game speaks to that. There will be ups and downs. Too few at bats to know for sure about these players yet.

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  9. I’m with you Becky that was horrible professional baseball last night. 3-6 and these guys are hanging their heads all ready. No energy, no teamwork, no leadership. I cant believe I’m seeing this again year 4. This is so depressing. I could go on about all the players who’s in who should be out, but you all have hashed that over pretty well. I mean every time Carter stirkes out he is like whoops better go back to the dugout, Domingo looks like he’s on drugs. I am so sick of this crap, now we go to Texas i can see us being like 4 -15 soon. Crane/Lunhow better start doing something or shut this organization down.

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    • Baseball is very cyclical and certainly they could break out and start hitting – but there is something in both the mental mistakes and their demeanor that is very bothersome. I would not care if I thought they were giving it their all – but they look stiff and scared frankly.

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      • totally agree Dan. I rarely get too see them on tv but i did get to see the game on espn and noticed the same thing. a fly ball was hit in right field foul territory and the right fielder showed no hustle going for it. it would have been a tough play but for goodness sake nothing should stop you from hustling. i want to see this team play hard each and every game, if they dont at least show that then i will join daveb in asking for a new manager.

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      • Ahh….the fish stinks from the head down…..Dan, that’s why I think Strom could end up being the interim guy….and one who could be reporting back to Luhnow on a daily basis. I know it sounds ugly, but that’s business, and Bo does not have his squad playing loose, smart ball. At 3 and 6, they should not be pressing so much.

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  10. The problem with the shifts is that pitchers are taught to move the ball around and change speeds and fool batters in the minors. They are taught command, and location over and over. Then the young ones get to the majors and now are faced with shifts behind them and now they are expected to keep the ball in the spot to facilitate the shift.
    If you have three fielders to a batter’s pull side you are not going to want to throw that fastball low on the outside corner early in the count because it can get punched right through the vacant side. Then the batter gets used to your inside sinker and the next thing you know he’s jumping all over it on a 2-1 count because your infielders have told him where the next pitch is coming.
    The Astros as a team are overwhelmed by superior opponents, lack of experience, average talent up and down the lineup and coaching that has not found a way to implement the strategy that the club has decided to follow in the shifting and enticing grounder to the shift side.
    The total confusion at the plate carries over to the fielding when a team that is not hitting takes the field. and the inability to keep the other team from scoring drags a team down when they come into the dugout to hit.
    I’m not surprised that Feldman and Fowler and Presley and Altuve have found some success while the rest of the young Astros are like Zombies. The four names I mentioned are actually major league players. This is going to be a rough year unless something is done about asking players to do more than they are capable of and not providing them help from the minors because of “The Plan”.

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    • i can’t see the games, I am assuming you are – are they using the shift too often? Porter really shouldn’t be using it, for the reason you said, unless the hitters spray chart is showing things in the extreme – against someone like Howard that is trying to pull even offspeed outside pitches. These are the things that get managers fired.

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      • Just to add on – you should only shift on guys where you would rather entice them to try to take the easy single instead of trying to mash something for extra bases. Extreme pull guys qualify too, but I can’t think of many ottomh that aren’t sluggers these days. I’m concerned Luhnow, based on his comments at MIT, is determined to show that that wisdom is wrong and that shifts should be employed more often.

        Pitchers have the advantage when they know where and what speed a pitch will be. Give a batter knowledge of either and it greatly improves his chance to succeed.

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    • Similar to last year – they are 1-6 in games where they score 3 or fewer runs and 2-0 when they score 4 or more.
      They have not come from behind in any of their 3 wins.
      Guys like Grossman seem to be way too patient at the plate – if the pitcher knows you never swing at the first pitch you are going to be down 0-1 more often than not.
      I agree with a lot of what you are saying – though I would say that Presley is not as established as the other 3 guys you mention.
      I just don’t see where these guys are getting coached or managed up.

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    • Those shifts are probably based on data from every at bat most of the players in the league have ever taken. And oldpro, the pitchers game plan is certainly discussed…..how each guy on the other team should be pitched to. It’s nothing new. The catcher has at least as much responsibility as the pitcher in keeping to that game plan. The problem with the concept is that when it works, nobody really says anything about it. Only when a ball finds a hole does it become an issue. Altuve started a nice double play last night when standing directly behind the bag at second. Of course, without the shift in place, it’s a base hit up the middle. So unless someone can find some stats confirming that the concept is working less than it’s successful, I’m not going to have a problem with shifts.

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      • One of the things I’d like to know is whether shifts work for a young pitching staff where the pitchers are less likely to hit their intended marks in the first place. A vet like Feldman is reaping the benefits of the shift – younger guys not so much?

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      • Dave, I’m not saying the shifts aren’t good or they don’t work. What I’m saying is that our young pitchers are not able YET to adapt to the style of pitching that it takes to take advantage of the shifts and haven’t been able to retire opposing hitters. Who is the one starting pitcher who has had success? Feldman, the old pro who has been around. Cosart has had command problems and control problems and, with shifting, has a smaller target because with three infielders on the same side, does he want to throw that heat on the outer portion of the plate and set the hitter up for an easy single to the opposite field? It just seems that an infield with three guys on one side of second tells the batter that he can wait and drive a pitch on the inside part of the plate, because it’s coming eventually. If the batter gets fooled and slaps an easy grounder to short and there’s no shortstop there to field it, you’ve got trouble.
        If the guy hits a ball over the fence because he knew he was gonna see something inside because of a shift, that shift actually might have hurt the pitcher rather than helping.

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  11. rj –
    It bothered me a lot that the team seemed to phone things in down the stretch last season. Bad young teams lose a lot – but they normally play hungry. After a nice 2 win start – the team is 1-6 since. I know the lack of talent on the team will restrict what they can do – but even under-talented players can hustle and play smart.
    These guys look like a dog that gets hit on the nose with a newspaper every time they make any move at all.

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  12. daveb – I’m afraid we will have to wait until a mountain lion comes into town and carries the stinky fish away – wait I’m switching over to the Bo side – “Luke – I mean Dan – come to the dark side – you know in your heart that is where you belong…..”

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  13. Let’s just hope that “bridge” has a Zip line installed on the side. If this team
    is going no where again this year, I want to EVERY single guy who’s on the cusp
    in the minors make it up to the big club………BEFORE the end of July. I don’t really think Crane cares if we can see the games, all he’s interested in is “where’s my money Comcast”? Daveb…….his name was Lowell, and it wasn’t just me…….he
    rubbed a LOT of people the wrong way.

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  14. Fellas……..EVERYONE should be afforded the same respect, if you agree with them or not. We are ALL just fans of the game, and pretty dang good arm-chair
    quarter backs! We love this team (well most of us do), and we meet here everyday
    to vent our anger, or kudos to wins. I think we should pat our selves on the back for being willing to ride out a bunch of poor seasons with this club. Can you imagine what the Yankees fans, or BoSox fans would do if THEY had to swallow the losses
    of the Astros like we have?? There would hell to pay if these teams had to “buy” in
    the Luhnow plan! Step back, and find *something* to be positive about, when
    posting your comments. I’m probably the only woman I know who can enjoy the back in forth with you guys, and for that I’m blessed! I look forward to Chip, DanP and Brian T’s subjects EVERYDAY! You guys have brought great subjects, and thoughtfull come backs……..you never fail to inspire. It’s gonna be a looooooong season,
    who knows we might be pleasantly surprised with these guys. I’ll step down off my
    soap box now! Thanks!!

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    • Thanks Becky – it helps to know that folks look forward to these efforts. There have been times when I’ve sat here going – what the heck can I write on that I would find interesting or new, much less what someone else would enjoy. A lot of times we piggyback off a thought of one of you folks and that does help us as we wade through this endless swamp of bad baseball.

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  15. Wow, lots of stuff here. I’m not a big shift guy generally, but it is important to note that the shift will only work if the pitch is made. In other words, if the pitcher doesn’t hit his spot, and all the infielders (except 1B) are positioned on the left side of the infield, you could, indeed, have a problem. Unfortunately, without an experienced staff or even a pitcher who doesn’t buy in (ahem, Harrell, for example), it may not always be the shift that is “broken”. Just sayin’…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a bit of a shift dunce – I just looked at an article from 2011 by Bill James and his preliminary findings were that it helped a lot – if no one was on base – but of course that was applying it to a handful of extreme pullers.
      My question would be (beyond how much you trust your pitcher’s control) is this a one size fits all solution. For example you do the spray diagram and it shows certain tendencies and patterns. But do those patterns apply the same to somebody like Harrell who throws a 91 mph and Cosart who throws a 96 mph? Does it take into account where the batter hits it off a big hook vs. a min-hook?
      I don’t know the answers to this – but I would say it would work better against certain stubborn hitters than it would against all.

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  16. Shampain – you are right they played an overall good game except for some goofiness in the 9th. It was good to see some offense out of slumling guys.

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  17. Thanks for these topics Dan, I dont think people realize how much effort is involved. And the film of the Tacoma bridge is classic!

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  18. Keuchel is gonna be ok. He had a dang good game tonight, which will only further Harrell’s departure of the rotation. Where’s that kid Folty???? Is he knocking down the door yet?
    Chip……..Appel might just live up to that name he had at Stanford!

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    • Keuchel had a great game.
      Small sample – but Clemens and David Martinez have pitched the best of the starters at OKC – Folty has not.

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  19. Springer breaks a 2-2 tie in the top of the eighth with his first bomb of the year. Then Singleton goes back to back and six runs come in and OKC beats New Orleans 8-2
    Andrew Aplin breaks up a no hitter with a single in the seventh and CC then gets 2 in the seventh and four in the eighth and wins 6-0. Seaton pitches five and Cruz pitches 3 and manage to get the shutout with a save from Jankowski.
    Quad Cities wins 5-3 over Lansing and the heroes in that were Blair walter with the save and Pat Christensen with a hold in the eighth for Michael Feliz who got knocked around a bit but got the W. Brett Phillips had 3 hits tonight for QC.
    Lancaster is currently ahead in the bottom of the sixth 5-2 as Anthony Kemp and Teoscar Hernandez continue to knock the cover off the ball and Carlos Corea has kind of struggled the last 3 games. Appel gave up 3 hits and two runs in five innings tonight in his best outing so far this season.
    If Lancaster holds on it is a clean sweep for all teams in the Astros organization tonight. It sure feels good to type that.

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    • Thanks op – getting up this morning – Lancaster blew the lead but won it in the 11th on a Kemp sac fly – so everybody won last night. A good night indeed.

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  20. Old pro………you are a wealth of good information, and we thank you for posting the stats on our young guns! The cream of the crop is still a year or so from making it up to the big club, and I tell my friends if you wanna see some good baseball…..go to
    Corpus Christi! Thanks again! Becky

    Like

  21. What do you folks use to check up or follow milb games? I use to visit each team’s milb.com site, but have decided that is tedious. Also, the layout, content, and advertisement bloat bothers me. What I’d really like is a single page aggregating the box scores each day for all farm clubs in an organization. Links to recaps would be nice too.

    Like

    • Devin, I go to milb.com and then hit Scores. A display of logos comes up and click on the Astros logo and all of the affiliates games come up on one page. I go to each box score because that tells you who did what. Then I go to the recaps, which gives you the flow of the game and fills in the blanks as to which plays really determined how the game turned, such as how an error or a wild pitch or a stolen base really was or wasn’t important in the game’s outcome.
      You can go back to previous day’s scores here and also check on tomorrow’s pitching matchups and games.
      In the box scores you can click on the player’s names and get their stats, too.
      One other good thing about this is the links to each team’s audio feed, so you can usually tune into that game and listen. When the house is quiet late at night I like to tune into Lancaster’s last innings because they are usually crazy, like they were last night.

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      • See – along with great writers – we have great blogging visitors at chipalatta.com ready to answer your questions!

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  22. This might be a good place to point out the Astros affiliate”s records:
    OKC 6-2
    CC 6-1
    Lancaster 6-2
    Quad Cities 3-4
    They are all playing tonight and it is CC’s home opener. Not bad, opening up with a 6-1 record on the road, eh?

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    • Very nice start – I harken back to 3-4 years ago when the affiliates were terrible…
      Looking at the prospects down on the farm it is not a huge surprise – there are a lot of talented guys in the pipeline and they are fighting hard to get to the top.

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    • Funny you should say that – but I have been watching us approaching triple digits.
      I’d like to take credit with the bridge subject matter – but the comments have wandered all over the Astros universe which is great in itself.
      The purpose here is to have as much dialog as possible and that makes us happy.

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  23. I read an article last night about Scott Feldman’s dad passing away. He will make
    his start tonight, and leave after the game to go to the funeral. He said his father would be “pretty ticked off” if he missed his start tonight. Those of us who have lost a parent, know how hard it is to lose one. A real stand up guy, and I will say a prayer for him tonight.

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    • Thanks for sharing that Becky. So many of these guys have parents who encouraged them, took them to practices, games, elite squad travel and had the pride of helping a boy become a major league player. God bless Scott’s father – who would probably hate it if his son missed a start over his passing.

      Like

  24. Just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the excellent Astros info.
    With a full time job and caring for an invalid, I just don’t have the time anymore.
    I would be lost without you’ll

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Sandy………we (me) miss you!! I know it’s not easy being a care giver, you get extra
    kudos from all of us! Glad you checked in.

    Like

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