FREE BLOG WEEKEND: Singleton, McHugh, Change of Scenery

After an almost unprecedented two-days-off-in-one-week, a roster move, more DL news our band of still-struggling major leaguers tries to get its act together this weekend facing one of the few teams it has a winning records against.

With the first full month behind the Astros and now looking the June draft square in the face, it’s getting close to the halfway point in Jeff Luhnow’s five-year plan. In other words, over the next few months, Astros’ fans should expect to see a trend of improvement, upward trends and new players.

On our Free Blog Weekend, I’ll begin with a few conversation starters. Feel free to add in your own subjects, chase rabbits, discuss red herrings, open up new conversations or wander off on a tangent. It’s a Free Blog Weekend!

  • So much for Jonathan Singleton being ready for the majors. He’s 5-for-32 (.152) in his last 10 games. Could he be bored? Or does he just need more grooming and learn to adjust as pitchers learn his weaknesses? Would he and George Springer benefit by hitting in the same lineup? Either OKC or Houston?
  • Many fans had given up on Jonathan Villar in spring training. However, he’s held his own with the glove for the most part and is hitting .241, though he has more Ks (27) than hits (20). There are others who are doing much worse, though. Which players have you given up on? Which players should the Astros give up on and send packing a la Lucas Harrell.  Indeed, it could time for that proverbial change of scenery for Marc Krauss or L.J. Hoes. Count me as one who still believe in Brett Oberholtzer and Josh Fields, at least in the long term.
  • Why not get on the prediction bandwagon? Is Collin McHugh a flash in the pan? Or the real deal? Or will he land somewhere in between as a serviceable major league pitcher, but not a huge star?
  • At the risk of raising the ire of some, who would you say the Astros’ MVP has been through the first 28 games? Best pitcher?
  • After a strong start, Houston’s minor league teams have settled into a so-so season. Oklahoma City is 15-13, Corpus Christi (14-13) is third in the Texas League South, Lancaster is 16-13 and Quad Cities is 12-15 with its much ballyhooed roster.
  • Chris Johnson has signed a long-term deal with the Braves that will buy out his last two years of arbitration and at least one year of free agency. It would be nice to have his bat back in Houston, but this may be a question of the team concept. If Johnson were in Houston, would he still be as successful as he has been in Atlanta? Raises the same question about players like Dexter Fowler, Jose Altuve or even younger players like Matt Dominguez, Villar or Springer.

Enjoy your weekend!

25 comments on “FREE BLOG WEEKEND: Singleton, McHugh, Change of Scenery

  1. Hey Chip – good post and conversation starters:
    – Singleton – his slump covers about 2/3 of the time that Springer has been gone. So is it normal cooling off? Is he being caught up with? Or is it that his protection is gone? And Springer needs to cut his swing back by about 15%. He looks like a duffer golfer who thinks that swinging as hard as he can is the answer to everything.
    – Villar – His OPS is a very solid .758 (4th among SS in the AL) his .458 SLG is 2nd among SS – and he is on 162 game pace for 42 doubles and 18 HRs. He only has 2 errors so far and shown good range.
    – I think Krauss could be heading down soon – but not sure if they are ready to bring slumping Singleton up.
    – I agree that both Oberholtzer and Fields should be given more time – but ….I’m thinking they might move Fields to a non-closing spot to up his confidence. Basically he had 3 bad games in a row – which we’ve seen before with even vets like Valverde. But with an inexperienced guy – you don’t know if his psyche is damaged.
    – McHugh – I really enjoyed watching him pitch his first two starts – but hey – nobody continues to put up almost all 0’s in the run column – there will be an adjustment back to the norm for him – I just don’t know where that norm level is.
    – MVP? Man this is tough because overall they are mostly stinking or below par. I can see reasons to push Altuve or even Villar here. I’m going to start an argument by picking Castro. Tied for the team lead in HR (4) – leading the team in RBIs (13) – basically tied for best OPS (.757) – he has done a much better job blocking the plate – only 1 PB and 3 WPs to date. I know his BA stinks and he is not hitting leftys and not throwing too many runners out – but I can’t give it to Altuve with a below .700 OPS and not ready to give it to Villar.
    – Minor league teams – A little discouraged that they have sunk to mediocre – but there have been injuries, the tandem pitching seems to clutch defeat from the jaws of victory quite often and hey – we would love it it the Astros had one of their W-L records…..
    – Chris Johnson – I’m going to be really surprised if CJ matches his breakout last season staying with the Braves – based on a very high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) last season that was near .400. He rarely walks / strikes out a lot and so when he has a more normal BABIP like he does right now – he is sitting at .641 OPS. Weird time to extend him – but maybe they felt like they could get a better deal when he was struggling.
    If CJ was here – he would be like all the other guys – no protection and not getting pitches to hit.


  2. It’s a shame we have to play this service time / team conTrol / price control game. Our 40 man isn’t full of excitement and it’s not clear how much, if anything, our prospects are learning in the minors.

    I don’t think an MVP award to anyone on this team is justified right now. How about a ‘Bopert says you might not be a scrub award’ instead? We just don’t have anyone with a 1.0+ WAR at this point and many guys are negative.

    Dominguez over CJ in my book. The BaBIP for CJ had to come down from 2013, and I couldn’t stand his body language out there.

    Re: McHugh, I wonder if other teams have had trouble preparing for him due to low scouting opps. It also makes me wonder if our team doesn’t know how to prepare as they make lots of pitchers look really good.

    Fields shouldn’t pitch consecutive games. Scale his usage back a little and see if he starts to locate better. He has an injury history and therefore small body of work to draw from, but I’m making the assumption he just doesn’t recover well enough overnight. I’m not concerned, though. I think he’ll be good over the long haul, but not great.


    • Devin, I agree on McHugh, that’s why I’ve said recently his next 2-3 starts (maybe even 3-5 starts) are critical. We’ll have a better idea at the end of May what the Astros have.

      On Fields, yes, that’s why I wouldn’t give up on him. Porter has overused him…too many back-to-back games or even 2 out of 3 days and 3 out of 4 day scenarios.

      And, agree with both Devin and Dan. No MVP at this point. I mean, man, NO ONE sticks out, at least in a positive way. Some players have had spurts (e.g. Fowler early, McHugh, even Feldman), but none over the entire month of April. That tells a huge story, doesn’t it.


  3. My MVPs All of us on this blog that have hung in there the last 4 years with Hope and are still stuck watching this team. 10 Games under 500 already another long year. I have said it over and over we just have way to many AAAA guys on the 25 man roster Every team needs a couple to fill in days off, that occasional good game we have like 15.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks, Chip. Great start of conversation as usual.
    – Singleton may be out of sorts a bit that he wasn’t called up with Springer; hopefully its not the case as his attitude is important. I’m looking forward to his call up and having him and Springer back to back in lineup. Protection, man. George seems to be playing at a speed that is unrealistic. We all hear of the speed of the game, and I think he is overplaying everything both in field and at bat. It will slow down for him, and he will catch his breath. I just hope the powers don’t try to mess with him as they’ve done with everyone else. He’s fine, and has been since he was 4. Leave him be.
    – Villar is playing very well, but still has lapses in concentration leading to non-nonchalant driven errors on simple ground balls. His bat is fun, as is his speed and aggressiveness. Love to watch him play. Krause will go down when, if not before, Singleton is brought up. I think they are now playing Guzmon to set him up for a trade when time arises. Notice he played (well) against right hander last game. Don’t know what’s up with LJ, but he seems to be trying the Springer swing at every pitch – unlike his approach last year. Maybe he’s thinking that he’s not going to play much anyway, so why not swing for the fences. Not helping his cause.
    – McHugh – his mound presence is impressive; acts like he’s been there before; we’ll see how he acts if/when he gets in the trouble (he did well with the bases loaded first inning the other day, so maybe . . .).
    – MVP – Castro – only real “presence” on everyday players team, and seems to be at peace with himself behind the plate. I know everyon loves Altuve, and I suspect some know that I am not so impressed, but he’s not an MVP.
    – Minor League Teams – hate the tandem pitching, as do apparently the pitchers involved. But then I’m old school and am willing to give this new process time.
    – Not mentioned, but I truly cannot stand the constant shifts by management. I can understand them in certain situations, but not when there are runners on first or first and third and less than two outs – almost impossible to get a double play the way they are setting up. I’ve seen too many guys punch the ball where they are not (where they would “normally” be) to like it. Know it kills the pitchers’ minds when a ball is so hit, or is bunted while Dominguez is playing shortstop. Really don’t think the overall effectiveness as asserted by Luhnow and Porter is correct in all situational at bats.
    – Happy for Chris Johnson, but if he were still with Astros, their manager and hitting coach would have him so out of sorts that he would likely not be playing much. Strange, huh.
    – Fields, etc., I agree that Porter is overusing and misusing them, but then he really doesn’t know how to manage. He’s proven that. At lease with the inexperienced guys he has here. He should be a football coach somewhere, so when he throws his players under the bus, at least they would have pads on.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Eight days ago Singleton was killing it and now he’s not. His manager said a few days ago that he is not getting any pitches to hit. Pitchers are throwing him nothing on the inside of the plate and no fastballs. Since his team is slumping there is no need to pitch to him.
    Singleton has six hits in his last 35 ABs but has 8 BBs in that time,too. Putting that in perspective, Krauss and Guzman have combined for nine walks the entire season.
    Singleton lost Springer hitting in front of him. and Springer has a .220 hitter in front of him now and a .150 hitter behind him, depending on if it’s Carter, Krauss or Guzman.
    There is no way I’m gonna say that Singleton is not ready now when he was ready a week ago. And Jon has way more plate appearances in AAA than Springer had, and over 2000 PA’s in the minors.
    If the Astros were hitting close to .230 at 1B it might be reasonable that Singleton is at OKC still, but right now the only reason for keeping him there is that 2015 #1 pick and the allotments that accompany it and the worst record. Oh, and not starting his clock!
    By the way, I read something about Kevin Goldstein saying that the Astros considered Singleton to be a top of the line fielding !B. So, he’s not in OKC learning his position.


    • oldpro, on the bright side of things, it looks like Santana is making the adjustment to AAA pretty well. I’m looking for him to start getting the OPS up into the .900’s. Then we can talk about bringing him up, maybe late in the season.


  6. Collin is not a flash in the pan but he is hot right now. Name 1 pitcher who has done what he has done over a full season. Not even Kershaw.
    McHugh will get hit eventually but if he has as many good days as bad days he will turn out better than most of our pitchers have in the last four years.
    He is a wonderful surprise and if he stays in the rotation and ends up a .500 pitcher this year we would be truly impressed. Am I correct here?


    • oldpro, I wasn’t suggesting he’d continue at the current pace. He’s certainly “hot” as you suggest and he’s pitched at a much higher level than anything in his minor or major league career would suggest. If he comes even back halfway to earth, he’ll be a keeper. And, yes, a “.500 pitcher this year” would be a welcomed addition to this club.


  7. The Astros gave up Chris Johnson for Bobby Borchering and Marc Krauss. Whoever has Johnson since then has gotten a lot more production from him than the Astros have gotten from the other two. That trade was a big lemon.
    Johnson would still be a miserable person if he was with us because every player in the last three years playing for the Astros has been feeling miserable about losing, so there’s that.


    • Yes, the Astros didn’t get much in return. However, if you recall, Houston was getting rid of players whose paydays were coming up sooner than later. Bourn, Pence, Norris, et al. CJ was the same. But Atlanta has locked him up for a reasonable 3/$23.5 million with a $10 million option. But, I also agree that he would likely be miserable if still here. Unfortunately.


  8. So, Tony Sipp joins the team, Paul Clemens to OKC and Jesse Crain (gulp) to the 60-day DL.

    That leaves 4 lefties on a 12-man staff with another move to come early-to-mid next week when Scott Feldman returns.


  9. Chip – so if Tony Sipp is pitching in a late close game – is Porter going to rally the hitters around him and tell them to “Win one for the Sipper”?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I was all on board with the rebuild and excited with the performance of the minor league teams last year. My friends say I am the ultimate Astros apologist and optimist, but I am really starting to lose faith in the plan and wonder if, oh goodness I can’t believe I am about to say this, Bopert is correct. I know it is only 1 month into the season, but the results I have seen throughout the entire system has me despondent and thinking this ship will never turn around.


  11. I might consider Altuve for MVP simply because his offensive production has stayed fairly stable and he seems much more focused defensively than in the past. I saw him in person Tuesday night against Washington and he threw out a guy at third on a well hit but routine ground ball. It showed me that he knew the runner (a catcher), knew he would have a shot on a ball hit right at him and made a fine no hesitation throw. I think as unlikely as it may seem he is having a very positive impact on Villar who is also impressing me defensively.

    I’m concerned that this management team is putting unreasonable expectations on Springer and he is reacting poorly to it. I would actually like to see him hit third with Castro offering a tiny bit of protection instead of being thrust into the clean up spot and being called upon to be the primary run producer in the lineup. His play in the field has been alarmingly bad with more errors (5) in his short stay here than in his entire minor league career. And before anyone points out he is a center fielder playing right field for the first time note that his errors have been on ground balls and throws which aren’t position dependent. If he is taking poor routes to fly balls that might be understood but those errors don’t often show up in the box score.

    At that same game I watched Fields do his latest fade. His first six pitches were balls and none of them particularly close. He had no command of his curve and his fastball topped out at 93 which is sub-par for him. Makes me wonder about his health.

    Another thing that puzzles me is why Dominguez is hitting behind Carter and Hoes. Carter is just dead weight and Hoes looks completely uninspired. When Krauss got his first AB he took a very hitable fastball for strike two and flailed ineffectively at a high pitch well out of the zone for strike three.

    McHugh will come back to earth but let’s enjoy the ride. Its nice to have at least one pitcher who sparks some excitement. With that said I’ll be the first to respond to best pitcher. For me it is Dallas Keuchel. He has been consistent and the guy competes hard. I see that in Cosart as well but Keuchel is more mature and I can see him becoming a stopper.

    Something that everyone seems to forget about the shift is that if a guy beats the shift with an opposite field ground ball or a bunt he is at least not hitting the ball hard and out of the ballpark. If the shift makes a power guy change his game I think that’s a good thing and if he goes ahead and hits to his strength there are more opportunities to turn hard hit balls into outs.

    I really don’t think this team will perform with Porter at the helm. He is not a teacher and that’s what this team needs. Any dope can do a post mortem after the mistakes are made but an effective manager would be doing the things required to make sure the mistakes don’t happen in the first place. I think the old adage that if the students don’t learn then the teacher didn’t teach applies here. Baseball requires a mental awareness that I just don’t think Porter understands. Successful players need to know what they are going to do with the ball before it is hit to them. I see the Astros getting balls hit to them and seeming to try to figure it out on the fly. Maybe that’s why I was so impressed with Altuve’s play on Tuesday.


  12. Everything about this team is frustrating…….and if something isn’t done soon to right this ship, we might be looking at ANOTHER 110-114 losing season. Altuve is really, the only bright spot right now. Something stinks in that clubhouse, ’cause I don’t see ANY spark in them. Depressing.


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