MMQB: Second guessing Porter and Luhnow


It’s Monday, so we’re throwing out the questions and second guesses while wondering if teams from the NFL and major league baseball from the same market have ever drafted #1 in the same season. The Texans face a quandary this week while the Astros have narrowed their choices down to seven. What are the chances they’ll both draft success stories? Or both draft busts?

Meanwhile, on to some Monday morning quarterbacking…

What Bo knew and when he knew it.

  • Manager Bo Porter moved rookie George Springer down in the lineup on Sunday “to a spot where he doesn’t feel the pressure”, continuing by saying “sometimes you have to protect them from themselves.” Maybe I just don’t get it, but isn’t this a little backward? Shouldn’t Porter have realized on April 16 (when Springer came up) that putting him in the top of the order might create undue pressure? Wouldn’t it have been a better scenario to start him in the six hole, let him get his legs under him, then move him up? Did Porter just adopt the “protect them from themselves” principle this week or did he just not follow it back on April 16?

Indecision leads to onslaught.

  • As solid as he’d been for the first six innings, Dallas Keuchel should have never pitched to the third batter in the seventh inning Saturday. First clue: Control had been stellar. No walks in first six innings. Second clue: Eight straight balls to lead off the seventh. Third clue: The history shows that as Keuchel tires, the more hits — and walks — he allows. It’s understandable that Porter might be hesitant to take the ball out of the hands of arguably his best pitcher right now and put it in the hands of the gas can du jour, but with all the emphasis on numbers and analytics, wouldn’t Bo have had access to this insightful info?

Jonathan Villar. Tie him up?

  • The “locking up” rumors have subsided in recent weeks as players associated with those rumors (i.e. Robbie Grossman, Matt Dominguez) haven’t played up to par. But another player quietly is settling into his role without a lot of fanfare or lights. Villar has hit ninth all season out of the limelight, but is hittingĀ .255, while leading the team in HRs (5), OPS (.852), not to mention extra base hits. At 23 (yes, he just turned 23 this week) and with the shortstop heir apparent Carlos Correa likely a couple of years away at least, Villar could be a good candidate to lock up…at least for a few years. Because he was signed as an amateur free agent, he didn’t have one of those huge signing bonuses, so the Astros could offer a team-friendly deal to a player that could play several more years in Houston.

Jose can you Abreu?

  • If you want to Monday Morning Quarterback on Jeff Luhnow, take a look at the Astros’ near-miss in the Jose Abreu signing. Depending on the report you care to believe, the Astros were among the top three finalists for Abreu, who ultimately signed with the White Sox for six years, $68 million. The key to the deal is that he can opt out after three years, or when he becomes arbitration eligible. If he continues at his current pace, that is almost guaranteed.

Monday lightning round.

  • Pitcher most likely to still be in the rotation in September: Keuchel, Brett Oberholtzer, Collin McHugh.
  • Your best guess at the player with the most walks for the Astros. (You may be surprised.)
  • Scott Feldman returns to the rotation Friday. Which pitcher should leave the rotation? And where should he go, to Oklahoma City, or to the bullpen?
  • Two Astros’ regulars have not committed an error this season. Any ideas which two?
  • Borrowing from Dan Peschong, what does Porter mean when he says — referring to George Springer — “…sometimes you have to protect them from themselves”?
  • And, just some trivia for you. In 2013, the Astros used 26 pitchers, 10 of those started games. In 2014 — through 31 games — Luhnow and Porter have used 19 pitchers with seven of those started games.
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30 comments on “MMQB: Second guessing Porter and Luhnow

  1. I begged for Springer to be brought up but I would have put him batting third where he always was in the minors and in CF where he always was in the minors. I don’t know why they want to make guys do things in the pressure cooker of Houston that they didn’t do in the minors. Springer got ousted from CF by a guy hitting 230 who was supposed to be a leadoof hitter. Aplin was a great center fielder who got ousted by a second baseman. The Astros are chocked full of starting pitchers who can’t go past five or six innings, but are training their starters in the minors to throw only four or five innings. They’re weird!
    The Astros are losing a ton of games with Jeff Luhnow and Bo Porter running the show.
    Do not tie up Villar right now. Don’t even talk about stuff like that right now.
    Keuchel most likely of the three to still be there in September.
    Carter with the most walks. I did guess it and then looked it up. Altuve second.
    I don’t care who they replace Feldman with.
    Altuve and Fowler without an error yet. Jinx?
    Sometime, the Astros are going to protect the team from their manager.
    Jeff, phase one was horrible, but phase two is worse.

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  2. Chip – all interesting stuff – here.
    – Porter and Springer. I’m not as upset about him starting Springer higher in the lineup when he first came up as I am how long it took him to move him down. Still – I think they need to sit him a couple days and tell him he will keep getting pulled until he stops trying to hit 3 HRs with one swing.
    – Relative to Keuchel being left out there too long – I do have sympathy for Porter – with the injuries and non-performance in the bullpen – I can understand him wanting to get another inning out of Keuchel. It seems that if he waits or if he goes to the pen early – either way he is screwed.
    – Villar – Most improved player on the Astros and one of the few improved players on the Astros. It is early to do the “on pace” stuff – but he is on pace for 27 HR, 70 RBI, 75 runs scored and 32 SBs out of the 9th spot while playing good defense. They probably won’t talk to him until after the season – but….
    – Most likely in the rotation in September – Keuchel
    – Most walks? Could it be Altuve????
    – Feldman comes back – Peacock to the bullpen (could be Oberholtzer to OKC)
    – No errors for regulars – Altuve and…Fowler?
    – Hey you are stealing my gig – haha – What Bo meant – “I’m afraid the kid is going to tear a rotator cuff he is swinging so hard in the cleanup spot – maybe he will throttle back from 150 % to 100% swing and finally hit a dinger down in the lineup.”
    – And on all the pitchers the Astros use – The Astros – where all released pitchers in the mlb go to tryout….

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  3. I believe it is too early to lock up Villar. He has really improved, but he is yet to complete his first year. As to who should leave the rotation, all I know is whoever does – will probably go to OKC and throw back to back no hitters. It is obvious I can not judge MLB talent, and the jury is still out on Luhnow (not a knock on him, just an observation). Right now, not only are the Astros struggling, but the farm is no longer lights out. What a humbling game! My guess on the walks would be Cosart.

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    • By the way, love the “back-to-back no hitters” line. Probably true, but why is that? 1. Lesser competition (AAA). 2. The pitcher who will be demoted is only a AAAA guy and not a major league quality pitcher? Or… 3. The atmosphere at Oklahoma City is better to perform in than Houston’s?

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  4. Don’t know how I missed it, but with the Diamondback’s early Australian woes, it wasn’t until May 5th that the Houston Astros finally were able to pull themselves up into last place in the MLB standings., one percentage point behind Arizona. Now that is progress!

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    • Yikes! Oldpro, hadn’t noticed that myself. In recent weeks, the Astros had been as (ahem) high as 28th a couple of times! Now, back to 30th, with this note: Despite having a two-game improvement over last year (8-23 in 2013), the Astros are still on pace for 109 losses. If you’d have asked me six weeks ago, I’d have been willing to bet they wouldn’t lose 100 games…and I am not a betting man!

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      • Probably lost five games they should have won. I think the team improves as the year goes on if they stay healthy. 100 losses is still likely though.

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  5. So last night I was thinking…now that we play in the AL (keep forgetting that), what happens if Meter is not the leading vote getter for the All Star team and Villar continues at this pace? I think the rosters are large enough that they can carry three SS, but HOU has to have a rep and no one is making a better case just yet.

    I don’t mind seeing young guys get paid fairly, but don’t think locking up Villar helps you long term.

    Missed the game…did porter have anyone warming up when Keuchel threw his first pitch that inning? He had thrown about 80 pitches, so expecting another inning isn’t a bad move, but you still need insurance.

    I don’t have a prob with Springer in the four hole. The consistency of our lineup is such that you don’t get any protection from any spot. Also, if we knock them for having too many lineups it seems wrong to jump on this. I’d explain to Springer that he’s going to be the #3 or #4 guy in the lineup for years…so use this (lost) season as a learning experience.

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  6. Devin, I honestly think the key for Springer — or any young player — isn’t where you hit him in the lineup, but the protection factor. I, too, would like him in the three hole with Castro hitting behind him.

    My point on this isn’t where he’s hitting. But Bo’s thinking. If Springer needs protecting from himself, wasn’t that the case on April 16 as well as May 4? Didn’t Bo realize that THEN? In other words, is he learning on the job, making this stuff up as he goes along or is the team just so bad he deserves a dozen mulligans?

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    • I’m convinced Bo Porter is really bad at press conferences. I don’t think the words he string together often mean what he thinks or is trying to convey. He could use some coaching on that.

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  7. I know it will never happen since he is on a guaranteed contract, but I would like to see us DFA Jerome Williams and move either Keuchel or Obie to the bullpen. This would allow McHugh to stay in the rotation. I don’t think you can have enough lefties in the bullpen and this would give us 3.

    I am going to guess that either Altuve or Krauss has the most walks. The two players with no errors, and this is purely a guess, is Fowler and Presley.

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  8. Lost in this forgettable season is the improvement of Jose Altuve. He is one of the regulars along with Fowler who has not committed an error and trails only Carter in most walks. He is leading the league in SB and is also striking out a lot less. In fact he has as many walks this season as Ks. Unmeasurable is his improved awareness. I was at the Nationals game on Tuesday and he threw out a guy at third on a routine but sharply hit ground ball and it wasn’t close. Showed me he knew the runner was relatively slow so he would have a chance on a sharply hit ball, came up throwing with no hesitation and put the throw right on the money. One key to playing good defense is knowing what you will do with the ball before it is hit to you in various situations. I think his more professional attitude is rubbing off on Villar. I can’t recall either of them making a bonehead play on the bases or in the field and Villar has occasionally been spectacular.

    As for Springer I would like to see him hit third since he is really the only guy on the roster who has the combination of speed and power that you want in a prototypical three hitter. Unlike Castro he is not as limited against certain types of pitching. A lineup of Altuve, Fowler, Springer, Castro, Dominguez every night could grow into something effective. Leave Villar at nine and fill in the blanks at six, seven, and eight. Bring up Singleton and fill one of those spots, then Stassi for another and before long we may approach competence.

    Speaking of competence, Porter is not. I think he is a poor teacher judging by how poorly his students learn. The two most improved players on the team IMO are Altuve and Villar and I think a lot of credit there goes to Pat Listach both for their infield play and baserunning.

    I’m getting weary of Luhnow bringing up scrubs and not giving more talented and highly touted prospects their shot and exposure to the big leagues. Giving the fans some hope ought to rank higher on his list of priorities. I won’t pay to go to games regularly if I’m given steady doses of Krauss, Hoes, Williams, Chapman/Valdes/Downs, and even Carter. If we’re going to stink at least let kids with some potential do the stinking. Why not bring up Folty and let him get his feet wet in the bullpen? Seemed to work out OK for Roy Oswalt when he first came up. I’d kind of like to see that triple digit fastball flash up on the scoreboard.

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    • Sir, you make some very good points. Indeed, Altuve not only has more walks (12) than Ks (11), but has only one caught stealing (after leading the league last season)! And, hadn’t made the Listach connection, but, indeed, you may be spot on with that observation. And I have long been a proponent of getting ’em started in the bullpen. As you point out, and I’ve suggested before, it’s worked with Roy O and a few others as well.

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  9. As much as I’d prefer to, I really can’t hold the Keuchel implosion against Porter. Luhnow has given him nothing to work with. The pen is now worse than last years. And reality has struck with McHugh. In real life, he’s not the guy that went 2-0 with the Astros, he’s the guy that was 0-for in his brief major league career before coming to Houston. He had nothing yesterday.

    I agree fully with oldpro. Springer is arguably the most valuable single resource we’ve got. He’s our center fielder. And he should not be moved all over the line up. But I saw a few good at bats from him yesterday. Maybe this is the road trip that gets him going.

    But back to Porter. It’s clear by now by now that he’s not the manager of the future any more than Krauss is the first baseman of the future. Question is how long they stay with his cheap contract? I think at some point, Strom becomes in the interim guy.

    Ironically, if Villar keeps hitting at an .870 OPS pace, the day could come when he replaces Altuve at second, once Correa shows up. By the way, doesn’t the lack of info on our # 1 prospect’s shoulder injury seem a bit odd? And why was our A+ team having a players only clubhouse meeting?

    Our squad is once again the worst in MLB. Porter has been given little to work with by Luhnow. Crane has given Luhnow little to work with. And so it goes…..

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  10. Anyone who strikes out by swinging big all the time doesn’t need extra pressure. Anything we can do to make Springer feel comfortable is a good thing … and batting him in the top half of the order doesn’t sound very comforting.

    Keeping Keuchel in the game was a mistake no matter how you slice it. He was obviously struggling.

    Villar has been a pleasant surprise. I think sometimes we forget how young these guys are.

    And on to the lightning round:

    We’ll all be seeing Keuchel in September. Probably Obie too. I think McHugh might have a half-season shelf life.

    Most walks: I’d guess Altuve.

    I think Peacock is the odd man out of the rotation, but he just heads to the bullpen. Whoever gets sent from the bullpen I have no idea.

    I’d guess Altuve and Chris Carter are errorless.

    I think Porter means fragile rookies need to feel comfortable. (See above.)

    I think we’ll pass those pitching numbers by the All Star break.

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  11. So Cosart gives them a pitching performance that would have won the last two games – but probably will fall short tonight.

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  12. So the Astros get two guys on with 1 out in the 8th IP and with a 3-2 count – they send Marwin G. who is only slightly faster than I am. Altuve strikes out and Marwin G is thrown out by 15 feet.
    Why do it Bo Porter – you know a strikeout is an automatic DP and end of the inning and you know Scherzer strikes out a ton of batters. Why do it?

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  13. Grades for tonights game:
    Cosart……A+
    the rest of the team:
    F-
    Two errors, and HORRIBLE base running. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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  14. Deja vu 2013. When someone pitches, nobody hits. When they hit, nobody can pitch. Ausmus has got to be drinking champagne thinking about not having to manage these Astros. He wanted nothing to do with this team. Smart guy!

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  15. That caught stealing was all on Fowler. He tried to go to 2nd when the pitch was in the dirt. There was absolutely no reason to attempt that when you are down 2 runs. Porter did not give him the steal so it is on Fowler.

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  16. Oh, and remember Jordan Lyles??? Yeah…….well he’s all grown up now, and has been the BEST starter on the Rockies staff. Why is it that nearly everyone that has played for the Astros, goes on the excel with another team?

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