MMQB: Porter, 120 losses, contracts, buyers

Our weekly Monday morning quarterback meetings are heating up. We’re not even out of the first month of the season, but the Astros have plenty of controversy. There’s enough rehashing, wailing and gnashing of teeth to go around every TV network, radio talk show and every blog that even remotely follows the Astros.

As Brian Todd points out, it’s just been awful. But here are some Monday morning starters.

What is it they say about hindsight?

  • With Robbie Grossman back at Oklahoma City and third baseman Matt Dominguez on the bench — at least for a game — wonder how Luhnow feels about those long-term, arbitration-eating contracts now? Still want to tie up those average or above average players in an effort to buy cost certainty later in the decade? Perhaps the Astros should stick to the Springers, Singletons and Jarred Cosarts for now.

Is Bo Porter on the clock?

  • Brian touched on this yesterday, but I can’t leave it alone. Only a few days ago, GM Jeff Luhnow said: “Guys that don’t produce aren’t going to stick around.” The question is: Does that apply only to players or to managers and coaches as well? Whether it’s the bullpen, the lineup, not bunting when you should, fundamental errors or other head-scratching moves, Porter has made plenty since taking over the reins last year. For me, however, it’s more of the “feel” than the x’s and o’s. Challenging Jed Lowrie over the weekend was curious to say the least. Throwing an ice chest in the dugout was still even curiouser. We’ve all discussed his penchant for in-the-media discussions regarding player discipline. But here’s the bottom line and the tell-tale: Luhnow will know the state of the clubhouse, and he will have to judge the progression of the young players who will be the next generation (Jarred Cosart, George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, even Jason Castro and Jose Altuve). If he deems that isn’t moving forward effectively, he has a choice to make. Whether or not that choice is in-season or this fall may determine the speed of the rebuilding project. Indeed, Bo is — or should be — on the clock.

120 losses? No way!

  • Look, there’s no disagreement: The Astros’ season to date has been awful, terrible, even horrific. Through the first few weeks. But there is absolutely no way that Luhnow can allow the status quo to continue throughout the year. Yes, it may have been fine for 2012, even 2013. Not in 2014. Singleton is the obvious next addition and Austin Wates shouldn’t be far behind, but there will be others. Mark it down. Without significant improvement, Luhnow and the Astros will lose that little foundation of support that remains.

All Star break: Buyers or sellers?

  • The Astros don’t have to make the playoffs or even have a winning season in 2014. What they must do is show improvement. As the season progresses, the core of the Astros’ future will continue to manifest. If the right deal comes along in a couple of months, there is no reason the Astros should not be a buyer. Not talking about an over-the-hill retread for a stretch run type of player, but a player that fits into the mix for the future. Not talking about a series of trades, just one, perhaps two, key upgrades that address a specific need.

And, some Monday questions to help you start the week:

  • Would you rather have Singleton and Michael Foltynewicz on the Astros’ roster by the end of April or Porter fired as manager?
  • If you could make one change to the Astros’ lineup for this week’s games, what would that one change be?
  • Porter has made scores of mistakes. What bothers you most about his style or approach to the game?
  • Which one of these recent Astros would you most like to have back right now: Bud Norris, Jordan Lyles, Chris Johnson or  Jed Lowrie?


37 comments on “MMQB: Porter, 120 losses, contracts, buyers

  1. A lot to chew on here, Chip – too bad so much of it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
    – Good point on giving contracts to those who have not proven very much in the majors yet
    – Porter has to be on the clock or perhaps on the hourglass….
    – 120 losses – it should not occur with what looks like a decent rotation – but the hitters are nut cases currently.
    – All star buyers or sellers – I hope they are All-star caller-ups (if not a lot sooner).
    – The way they are currently playing – I would rather have Singleton and Tropeano (2.40 ERA / 1.000 WHIP) than Singleton and Folty ((7.20 ERA / 1.800 WHIP) – but it is early. And I’d rather have the call-ups than the firing of Bo (this month).
    – One lineup change for the week? This is like coming upon the victim of a terrible car wreck and trying to pick which toenail you want to clip.
    – What bothers me about Porter’s style? Over the years in my line of business – I’ve seen his type before – the guys who get promoted over their heads and believe they have to act a certain way to be considered the boss – acting like they thought a boss should act rather than being themselves and gaining respect.
    – Of the guys you mentioned – I would most want Jordan Lyles back – not because of his current performance or Fowler’s current performance, but in that I don’t believe you give up on pitchers at 23 years old.


  2. This team doesn’t really need a manager. Have the computers spit out a lineup and stock with it. Maybe allow two or three exceptions to address major matchup flaws. Give the bullpen guys known assignments.

    What they do need is a coach. By all accounts, bo porter is pretty good at being a coach. Get him to work on fundamentals. Contract Watson from IBM to handle all interaction with the media.

    BTW, where is bopert weighing with a theory that Crane forced the players to go out on the healthcare exchange and their current rash of illnesses is a result of losing preventative care?


    • By all accounts, Porter is a good coach? If that’s the case, that’s what he should be doing. Coaching. But this club does not have a great grasp of fundamentals, whether it be knowing when or when not to take an extra base, avoiding being picked off, working counts, throwing to the correct base, hitting behind a runner…..these are all basic things that well coached major league teams do. Just watching the crispness of play from the A’s over the weekend illustrates just how far this club is from even acting like a major league team. And that starts at the top. With the manager. Another thing about those A’s. They were having fun out there. They knew they were going to get to Qualls on Saturday. They are a loose bunch. A good manager has something to do with that.

      Dominguez was the latest guy to get publicly dressed down. And he’s probably one of the most baseball savvy guys on the team. If I’m his manager, I know there’s no need to embarrass him. He’s not going to make that kind of mistake again, with or without commentary from his boss. But he will certainly remember that Porter embarrassed him.

      Then on the very next day, in the first inning, Altuve gets thrown out trying to steal third with Castro at the plate and Springer on deck. After our league worst showing in steal percentage last year, no guy on the team should have a green light to run. And if Porter actually sent Altuve in that situation, it’s an even bigger sin. Either way, a good manager makes sure that Altuve is NOT running in that situation. How do you think our starters feel every time we run ourselves out of an inning? It’s awfully tough to pitch when you never have a lead.

      I could go on and on. Bo’s foolishness with Lowrie over the weekend was simply bush. Let the players get into it with each other. But not a manager. He should be setting an example out there. And the water cooler? Does anyone really attack the water cooler anymore? Only the manager of a team that’s not very good about keeping its composure. The fish stinks from the head down.


    • Devin, I don’t see a lot that suggests that Porter “…is pretty good at being a coach”. If you’re a coach, you see the inconsistencies, deficiencies and areas where the team and players need to work. “Coach” isn’t a title, it’s something that people live and breathe. It’s part of them. They’re coaching whether they are in the position or not. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that coaching is going on, at least as it pertains to fundamentals.

      Granted, players at this level should know which bases to throw to, which situations to take an extra base, when to steal a base, how to manage a count, etc. Ah, how to bunt. But, if they aren’t executing, then it’s back to basics. Early BP. Extra grounds balls. More basic infield practice. More throws from the outfield. The bench.

      Indeed, if you think Bo is a “pretty good” coach, at this point, it doesn’t seem as though he’s exercising that option.


  3. I would rather have Singleton. If I had only one choice that would be it. I wanted him and Springer on the team against the Yankees. I don’t think Folty is quite ready, but I think he could be by the middle of the summer.
    I think the thing I like least about Porter is his inability to get his players to win. I don’t know what to attribute it to but he hasn’t been able to get his players to play well and that is the crux of his job. If I had to choose one it would be Chris Johnson because he is an everyday player. I don’t think he would play the same here because he wouldn’t want to be here.
    I miss Tony D.


  4. I forgot to respond to the Monday questions.

    I’d like to see Singleton brought up and Porter gone. I’m not one to compromise. And if the Stros loose three to the mediocre M’s, I’d not be surprised if Bo does not make the trip back on the team plane.

    The one real change I’d like to see with the line up is to see it stop changing. Outside of lefty righty match ups, leave it be and make sure everyone knows what their roles are.

    What bothers me most about Bo Porter? I can’t ever recollect him saying that he screwed up. He is of course pretty good about throwing his own guys under the bus. That’s the worst kind of leader. By the way, when was the last time you ever heard an Astro player have anything good to say about their manager? Silence speaks volumes.

    I guess I’d like to have seen Lyle’s get another shot. But I think he’ll regress. Johnson has a lifetime .9 WAR. That’s after his 2.4 last year. The Braves had to pay 4.75 million to keep him. So far this season, he’s got 1 walk and 18 K’s. Sound familiar? Bud Norris will always be Bud Norris. His Baltimore stats are pretty much what he gave us here. At first glance, Lowrie is the guy we should miss most. But we would not have Stassi today had the deal not been made. And I think Stassi will be a keeper.


  5. I think I said this last year, but luhnow needs to be a buyer at the break. By this, I mean that he needs to be acquiring pieces for the 2015 MLB club and not stocking the lower levels with longshots.

    120 losses is a real possibility. It just doesn’t seem like they value each at-bat, out, and opportunity in the field. The fifteen game skid to end 2013 heavily skewed my opinion on this, though.

    I wanted to see Singleton to start the year, but he didn’t force their hand in ST. I can only respond tor your qu


  6. Dan, by the way, it is too bad about Sclafani getting into only 5 games to date. Hard to turn heads that way, but I guess the club looks at him as a secondary prospect. He’s going to have to hope for someone to go on the DL, and that’s not a positive way to go about business. It could get even tougher for him too, with Correa moving to Corpus at some point.


  7. I posted a comment on the last article about whether it is time to question Luhnow’s plan, but in regards to Porter it is becoming abundantly clear he is not ready to be a manager. He would make a great bench coach or base coach, but this team makes too many errors in judgement as well as lack of fundamental baseball falls on the manager. I remember when Luhnow hired him he said he could see Bo being our manager for the next 20 years and, since Luhnow hired him, I bet Bo will be given a lot of latitude before he is let go.


    • Tim – it klnd of reminds me of a variation on an old joke – where one guys says remember the 20 years where Bo was the manager and another guys – says – what do you mean – he was only manager for a year and a half. And the first guy says – you are right – it only seemed like 20 years.


  8. At some point, you just have to laugh instead of cry. Scott Feldman headed to the DL with bicep tendinitis. Colin McHugh headed to Seattle to join the Astros and make the Tuesday start. FYI, McHugh is on the 40-man, which probably explains the choice. Others like Folty and Buchanan are not.


      • No sir, just that it was the easiest move without having to remove someone from the 40-man roster. Plus, he was also among the most logical since he was in line to pitch Tuesday. But, yes, his clock has already started and I’m not sure he has the same upside as some of the others who aren’t on the 40-man. 🙂 Is that what I’m supposed to say?


      • I’m one of the cynics around here, but I did not anticipate things being so bad, so quickly. Dan, McHugh is part of the immediate future, but certainly not by design.


    • Chip, It’s sad alright. But Feldman has only topped 180 innings threes time in his career, never reaching 190. It was bound to happen at some point. Ironically, it might help Bo keep his job a bit longer.


  9. McHugh has four appearances for okc, two as a starter and two as the tandem reliever. His two starts were decent with a low era(3.00) and a decent BAA. As the tandem reliever he has been wild and gotten into trouble and has allowed a bunch of runs. This is probably his one chance to impress management. For the sake of the team, I hope he does.


  10. Speaking of the tandem concept, McHugh has gone 3,4,2,5 innings in his four OKC outings. He’s not exactly ready to give the big club 6 or 7 innings. We might have to go find Lucas Harrell.

    This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel that Jeff Luhnow is not quite bullet proof. He sure has gotten a free pass to date, but does he deserve it?


    • But Dave, in his two starts he was pulled because of the tandem rules. The four inning start he was pulled because he was at 73 pitches after four. He’s only allowed 75 pitches. He was ahead when pulled and OKC won that game. He might have easily thrown 100 pitches that night if he needed to.
      The second start he was pulled after five good innings , but that is the tandem rules. He had only thrown 56 pitches and might have gone three more innings. He left that game down 1-0, OKC got the lead back but Darin Downs blew the save in the ninth.
      The other two appearances were in relief.
      I’m not saying McHugh is my guy, but his two starts in OKC were good and he was only pulled because of the tandem.


      • I’m with you oldpro, I’m just saying that the present circumstances have led me to question the wisdom of the tandem concept, at least at the AAA level. Suddenly, after releasing one starter, and a second going on the DL, we don’t have a guy anywhere in the system to start on Tuesday night that has thrown close to 100 pitches this season.


      • daveb, I think you have to look at the tandem philosophy as a whole or in the long-term, not in the current state of affairs. In theory, the key pitchers are getting innings for the first half of the season. Then, halfway through, management reassesses and goes to a more traditional rotation using the data from the first half. But we’ve hashed and re-hashed this. Just sayin…


      • Chip, you can look at the tandem system as a whole if you care to. But this circumstance is an actual event with McHugh being called up. He’s been working with four days rest and now he’s going to five days and he hasn’t thrown a lot of pitches because of the tandems in OKC. So they have relievers there that don’t get enough work and now he’s supposed to work on major league hitters and do what he can to go at least six or seven so our bullpen doesn’t get worn out.
        So you have a system in OKC that is the opposite of the system here. That is a problem with the tandems.


      • oldpro, I think there’ll be more pressure on Keuchel tonight and whoever throws Wednesday to “save” the bullpen…I would guess they’d be ecstatic if they get five good innings from McHugh.


      • I’m with daveb on this one. We’re not playing fantasy baseball. At some point, the uniforms have to stand between the chalk lines and get us some results. Having pitchers who can give you 90-100 pitches without laboring is necessary.


  11. I knew a guy in East Texas that in 1962 bought a new 1962 Ford. When he died, 20 years had passed, and the car was still sitting in his garage. I guess he was before his time and “did not want the clock (mileage) to start.” And as a former “Bo” who blamed all my company’s faults on the employees – I had to change for them to change. I learned that if you don’t support your employees – they don’t support you. And Tim, when I saw your post, I continue to look at Billy Beane and am amazed. He obviously (or someone on his payroll) knows how to evaluate talent. Talk about a no-name team that contends each year.


  12. My clock on Porter comes with this question: When does Tony D get back from cancer treatments? The interim manager in OKC is doing fine. Bump Tony to Houston and take the “interim” tag off that guy’s title.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I wish nothing but the best for Tony D., but he was 16 and 25 during his interim role with the Astros. Does that make him the best choice to take over this team at any point?


    • At this point in the season — or any point for that matter — the best you could hope for is a care-taker. You’re not going to do an exhaustive search and find a viable candidate in mid-season.

      That said, I’d give Tony D a half season or better to make his case. He may have been 16-25, but he has a little more to work with now, IMO.


  14. When Tony D came up, he started losing right away with a bad, dejected team. But he got them on a roll at the end. I’d like to see what he does with four or five months.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not only that, they played with fire. After a bad start they finished pretty good and with less to work with versus now. The team with Mills was a stagnant moribund bunch. Even with Porter kicking and screaming the same thing has happened. Different approach same results. What makes it real bad is that not only does Porter have poor people skills, he has even worse decision making.


  15. The scarce few that even remotely follow the Lastros, do they really believe Crane (this time) as he proclaims the TV deal is going down in the next 30 days?


  16. Chip on the Lastros somehow becoming buyers by the break:

    WHAT HE SAID: “If the right deal comes along in a couple of months, there is no reason the Astros should not be a buyer. Not talking about an over-the-hill retread for a stretch run type of player, but a player that fits into the mix for the future….”

    WHAT HE MEANT: “It’s been so darn long since the Lastros showed anything to get excited about, that I’ve developed this delusional pipe dream that Crane will miraculously become generous enough to pursue legit ML talent with payroll dollars that don’t exist….”

    Hello, “no reason”? Lack of money IS a good reason!

    My take: Crane will not miraculously become generous and spend money that he doesn’t have just so the Lastros APPEAR to be making progress.


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