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The sky isn’t falling, but I’m off the ledge for now


From time to time, Dan, Brian and I get together to confab over baseball issues, life matters or — and this is the one we confab most about — the blog.

On Wednesday, they attempted to talk me off the ledge after reading many of the comments left on Brian’s entry. You may suggest I’m drinking the koolaid or see a glass half full, but at the risk of alienating some, infuriating others and hopefully engaging everyone, I’m going to share a few thoughts about your thoughts and the 2014 season thus far.

The sky is not falling – it fell already – it just isn’t jacked back up to its right place in the heavens. — Dan Peschong.

Yes, Dan, you are correct. In fact, the Astros’ main struggle is to find all the pieces before trying to reassemble Humpty Dumpty and the sky that is laying all across the baseball world.

The tandem pitching question.

  • This is one of those love it or hate it conversations and there seems to be evidence to support both arguments.. But remember, the minor leagues is a developmental league. It’s not the end game. The tandem pitching differences come from expectations.  The program is designed to get innings for as many pitchers as possible. It’s not designed to set a pitcher up to be a starter (or reliever). It’s not designed to stretch a pitcher out. It’s not designed to get wins for your team. None of that matters. That’s why the minor leagues are developmental.
  • Jeff Luhnow made a wrong call on Mark Appel, but it wasn’t the tandem setup. Since he didn’t have much of a spring because of the surgery, he should have gone straight to extended spring training rather than Lancaster.
  • The tandem pitching program is good for the first half of the season. It’s designed for only 8-10 weeks to help winnow out the chaff from the gold nuggets.
  • The tandem pitching routine didn’t seem to bother Collin McHugh since he has thrown more pitches in each of his games in Houston than in any single game at Oklahoma City.

But the reason they we’re here is that Luhnow doesn’t know baseball. –oldpro

  • oldpro, I would disagree. I would submit, however, that most anyone would be over their head with the project that he inherited. The key will be can he organize a team that can assess the problems, recommend and implement solutions and move the organization forward. If he’s worth his salt, Luhnow will have to admit his mistakes, including personnel from players to coaches to front office, fix the problem and move on. Otherwise, we’ll be having this same conversation in 2016 and 2017.

“Something is VERY wrong in Astros land, and we are getting a bad reputation through out MLB.” — Becky.

  • Becky, couldn’t disagree in some respects. I do believe the opinions of the organization vary, however. Some people laugh at the Astros, others look at the long-term blueprint and praise the direction of the organization. Is it time for a uptick in play and win/loss record? Absolutely. We’re halfway through the Luhnow 5-year plan and his team needs to show some on-the-field improvement. It’s time for something good to happen. Don’t look now, but George Springer (.353), Dexter Fowler (.318), Jose Altuve (.300) and Jonathan Villar (.294) have a decent stretch of games going since May 1.

Yes, the clock is ticking.

  • As I alluded to above, the team needs to show improvement in the second half. That means Bo Porter needs to improve, the team needs to hit and pitch better, the draft needs to go well (again) and the number of wins should increase. But, honestly, I expect all of that and more to happen (with the possible exception of Bo improving). If the team continues to drive like a car with three flat tires, Porter will be the first one to go. The talent is better on this team than last year — and it should improve with Jonathan Singleton and others added along the way — so the results should be better by late summer and fall.

Minority owners and MLB owners will get restless.

  • Perhaps minority owners, but what can they do? Do you know how difficult it would be to get them all on the same page against Crane? And, then what? Would one of the minority owners take over? Doubtful. And, oh yes, the franchise ain’t going nowhere (mis-grammar intended).
  • Would major league owners get so restless they would implement some sanctions or other procedures to force the Astros’ hand? Not only doubtful, but very doubtful. Believe it or not, it would need to get worse — a lot worse — before MLB owners step in. Is there a precedent for that? Morever, unless it was a clear-cut case of ineptitude or incompetence for an extended period of time, they won’t engage…primarily because they would be concerned that the tables could be turned on them at some point.

Okay, there. Now, I’ve said it. It’s out there. Thanks for your time. Please know I’m off the ledge, the window is shut and I’m resting comfortably in my easy chair, patiently awaiting your response as the conversation continues.

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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in beautiful Colorado Springs, CO, and wakes up each morning to the tallest spot in the region, Pikes Peak. He is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 50 years. A native of another picturesque city, Natchitoches, La., Chip enjoys watching baseball at most any level, especially pro and college. Several years ago, he worked as an associate of Pastor John Bosman, who enjoyed giving nick names to his staff. Pastor Bosman came up with Chipalatta, and it has stuck.

39 comments on “The sky isn’t falling, but I’m off the ledge for now

  1. Dan P
    May 8, 2014

    Chip – nice entry – especially that excellent first quote from an unimpeachable source.
    As I expressed to you Chip – even though the team is bad so far there are things I think are improved.
    The fielding has been better – they have had a few really bad fielding games – but they are just slightly above the league average in number of errors even though they are third in number of chances.
    The starting pitching is better – they were dead last in a lot of categories last season. This season they are 10th – almost a full run ahead of the last place Twins and have a decent WHIP.
    The hitting has been horrid – but it is warming up lately as Chip pointed out.
    The bullpen is killing them 6.16 ERA and 1.66 WHIP – way worse than any other AL team. If they could get Albers and/or Crain back and maybe a little help from the minors – they could improve – but this is the biggest area of concern with the team right now.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      May 8, 2014

      Dan, there will be two decisions regarding the pitching staff this weekend. Feldman is coming back tomorrow, necessitating a move. Albers is also likely due back this weekend, requiring yet another move. Feldman and Albers improve the staff overall. It’s possible that both moves will be in the bullpen. For example, if the Astros move Oberholtzer out of the rotation to make room for Feldman, he could move to the pen and push someone there to OKC. Granted Obie hasn’t made a relief appearance in the minors since 2010 and he does seem to be earmarked as a starter long-term, but that is one option.

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        May 8, 2014

        And, it looks like Porter is, indeed, considering moving a starter to the pen and demoting/releasing someone there, rather than sending a starter to OKC. McHugh stays in the rotation…for at least one more start, which means the starter getting the “out” card is either Oberholtzer, Peacock or Keuchel. Has to be Obie, no?

        Like

  2. Dan P
    May 8, 2014

    As far as the other areas:
    – If the tandem was a full season application I would worry about it.
    – I think Luhnow does know baseball and does know prospects – I think the problem is that any GM is going to hit an miss on things – his problem is that he has had to re-do everything so a lot of things require a shakeout time to separate that chaff and not everyone wants to give him that – they want things right immediately.
    – Something is very wrong – I just don’t think the team is responding to Porter at all – I know they are not a talented bunch but they seem to be looking over their shoulder to see if Bo is driving the bus at them.
    – Clock is ticking – To a certain extent yes – they will bring some more good folks up to get some experience – but I’m wondering if the mlb club has the managment and coaching to get the most out of these kids.
    – I don’t think mlb will step in with the Astros directly – however when teams were losing on purpose to get the first pick in the draft in the NBA – that is when they went to a draft lottery – I could see baseball considering something like that so the worst team does not automatically get the first pick. But baseball moves slow on changing rules.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      May 8, 2014

      Dan, the “clock is ticking” timeline is primarily in consideration of Porter. I don’t believe Luhnow or his gameplan are in danger at this point. To your point, it’s obvious Porter and his staff aren’t getting the most out of the team at the MLB level. If Porter goes at any point this season, Pat Listach is my choice — at least internally. Not trying to be a “homer” here, but he is from my hometown, which very few of you probably could pronounce. Just sayin’.

      As for MLB stepping in, don’t see it happening. In your NBA analogy, there were several teams “vying” for the first pick, not just one playing against itself. If, indeed, one team (the Astros) are losing intentionally, what do the other 29 teams care?

      Like

      • Astro45
        May 9, 2014

        http://www.forvo.com/word/natchitoches/

        Here is everyone’s Cliff Notes entry for today.

        Like

      • videoidget1
        May 10, 2014

        The other 29 teams care lots. The piddley demand for Crane’s product means no revenues, no TV deal, and first round picks year over year.

        Because of the welfare fraud going on here (profit-sharing), sooner or later the other owners will cry foul.

        Then again, they could see the 22 fans on Chip’s BLOG, and realize that there really IS a following for this miserable franchise. Who knows?

        Like

  3. kevin
    May 8, 2014

    Appreciate you all and Chip you always have a glass have full of awesome theories philosophies, and statistics. Sometimes one just has to go with your gut and just the eye test. There is just no way in heck we should still be this bad. Lunhow may know baseball, that doesn’t mean you know how to run a team. Porter may know baseball doesn’t mean you know how to lead and manage. We have made a lot of bad decisions on people either ours or other teams and in the dugout. The mix of leadership on this team inst working. You can see it, feel ,it and watch it it. I was in upper mgmt for 30 years there are a lot of good # 2 folks that no matter how smart, just couldn’t make a difference as the leader, number 1 person..

    Heck there is no way we can get any worse so what, we get excited 2 weeks from now when we win 3 games in a row. I’m still not sure we will win 60 this year. All teams have some injury issues or miss on a player . We have something else going on a profound lack of leadership and a culture that accepts excuses , condones mediocrity, and accepts loosing because we have a plan!

    We have a lot of talented young guys that are going to fail if we don’t change leadership and get back the ol Astro’s culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chip Bailey
      May 8, 2014

      Kevin, can’t disagree with anything you’ve said. I agree wholeheartedly the “mix” doesn’t seem to be working. My take is that it’s on Luhnow to admit where it ain’t working and fix it, even if that means getting making changes on choices that he’s made (e.g. Porter). And, agreed, that this team needs improvement and that we’ve passed the mile marker to be seeing that. I’m willing to give him the rest of this season to show that marked improvement, but if things aren’t looking up by the ASB or shortly thereafter, even the glass-half-full natives will be more than just restless.

      We’re not far apart on our assessments, nor our hopes. Only on our perspectives and rope that we’re willing to extend. Make sense?

      Like

      • kevin
        May 8, 2014

        Yea we are Chip I guess I need to clarify .I don’t see anything good out of firing Lunhow this year. I think the mess Uncle Draty left, he gets 2014 That’s it, without saying w e need to re-evaluate the plan. I.m not sure what to do with Porter, I think he was the wrong guy for this young team. However he still doesn’t hit or pitch.

        I think Crane and Lunhow as newbee’s in their positions should have went for a solid experienced Vet. at the helm, To me they need to own up to that and not throw Porter under the bus.

        Like

  4. Devin
    May 8, 2014

    I’m not on the ledge, just sitting in a nice, cozy armchair. The Luhnow plan called for a ground up reconstruction. That takes longer in baseball. The concern is whether our drafts too closely resemble the one profiled in Moneyball when it is all said and done.

    We need to remember that Springer was Bobby Beck’s guy from the Ed Wade era. Santana, Singleton, Cosart, and even Villar are all here courtesy of Ed Wade as well. With the exception of the lukewarm free agent signings we aren’t seeing much of the Luhnow plan in action. Now, I am giving the benefit of the doubt that the milb ops are being treated like an academy, but do also believe they are trying to win down there and will turn it around in the summer.

    The MLB team looks like they are overmatched. They need to catch a few breaks to loosen it up. Also, I want to see Carter dial it up, look for first pitch breaking balls, and try to take out some light poles.

    Like

  5. 1oldpro
    May 8, 2014

    -The tandem system is not good for the first two months or any months of the season
    -Collin McHugh’s 14 innings in the tandem system is not much of a defense and McHugh has not commented on what he thinks about the tandem, since he was in it for about two weeks.
    -You mentioned four players who are heating it up as some reason for optimism while the team’s record in that time period is 1-6.
    -The performance of the bullpen is totally a reflection of the guy who built it and the guy he put in charge of it.
    -I don’t think Luhnow wants his team to lose. But as long as the fans put up with his losses, why should he care. Where did anyone get told that The Plan was a five year plan that involved having the worst record in baseball the first three years of it? I did not read that anywhere. There are a lot of places in today’s posting that seems to take the blame of losing off of Luhnow.
    -The Astros are the new Mets of baseball. And Jeff Luhnow is their guy. Just look at the standings. They don’t look any different than they did the year before Luhnow was here. But Crane’s not going anywhere. Luhnow and Porter aren’t going anywhere. You are right about the fact that, with these three guys running the show, the Astros are definitely not going anywhere.

    Like

    • Dan P
      May 8, 2014

      Oldpro
      I think you have some good points – I am not at all letting Luhnow off the hook – he owns this situation at this point. But face facts – the Mets won the championship in 1969 after stinking for a number of seasons – the Astros won the championship – never.
      I think things will improve with the major league team – I think they would already be better if they had – for instance – brought Springer up at the end of last season to find his feet instead of after the start of this season.
      I’m in for the long run and I think things will improve over the long run.

      Like

    • Chip Bailey
      May 8, 2014

      oldpro, see my above comments/response to Kevin. They also apply here.

      Like

  6. Dan P
    May 8, 2014

    Chip –
    In the old days of the NBA – the last place teams in each conference would end up in a coin flip for the 1st and 2nd picks in the draft. In 1983 the Houston Rockets decided they wanted a shot at Hakeem Olajuwon or Michael Jordan and after starting the season poorly – they made personnel decisions and playing time decisions that got them into the coinflip and they ended up with Hakeem.
    So this “tanking” led to the current system where all teams that do not make the playoffs are in a weighted lottery for the first 3 picks.
    I ws just saying it is possible baseball might decide to go that way. I’m not sure it is as critical in baseball – none of these #1s step right into the majors like they do in basketball.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      May 8, 2014

      Hopefully, this discussion becomes moot in the coming years. However, all I’m saying is that it would take more than one team doing poorly over several years (read Astros, Cubs, Dbacks, Padres etc) before significant action would be considered. IMO.

      Like

  7. BrianT
    May 8, 2014

    Some Astros fans think there’s a cliff in front of us we’re all about to fall off. I think it’s a place to see the glorious view in the distance.

    Still, watch your step.

    Like

  8. Chip Bailey
    May 8, 2014

    Brian, I agree. I think we all are seeing the same train wreck. Some believe it’s happened, some believe it’s approaching quickly and others are hoping it can be avoided. It’s about perspective. That said, this team needs to improve over the next 2-3 months. If it does, and if that improvement is marked, much of the conversation about promotions, tandem rotations, batting orders will go away.

    If, however, the Astros are still saddled with a projected 110-loss season by mid-to-late July, all bets are off, and Porter should be dusting off his resume.

    Like

  9. BrianT
    May 8, 2014

    I don’t recall JD Martinez being this good of a fielder when he was with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Devin
      May 8, 2014

      Missing the game due to work, but checking the box score I see that Springer hit his first MLB HR.

      I also see four starters today with batting averages below .170. Yikes.

      Like

  10. Becky
    May 8, 2014

    The boys are up 3 to 2 today, Springer hit his first homerun today. Still, I’m not confident the boys will win this game. That’s what happens when you lose all faith
    in your ball club.

    Like

  11. rj
    May 8, 2014

    a big hand for springer who hit his first dinger

    Like

  12. Mr. Bill
    May 8, 2014

    There was a lot to like about today’s effort. Keuchel’s ground ball ratio is excellent. And he struck out 7 over 7.2 while walking no one. That is a quality start by anybody’s definition. Of course, seeing Gorgeous George’s first home run was nice as well. The fact that he went opposite field with it was also encouraging. He also took a BB and scored on Matty’s 9th inning Moon Shot. Not to mention he showed us some quick, daredevil outfield defense we have been sorely missing in RF. Hoes got three hits? Hoe, Hoe, Hoe, Merry Christmas! Villar in the #2 spot? That could make things interesting. Carter still at DH despite a .159 BA? That is an absolute embarrassment any way you look at it. But hey, a win is a win. And those are few and far between for the Mudville nine, so I’ll hush and just enjoy. It appears the sky really may not be falling – at least today.

    Like

  13. Dan P
    May 8, 2014

    Somebody (daveb or Steven or someone) had stood up for Keuchel in the offseason saying he had the type of peripherals to break out this season and he has been solid to date. Another nice performance by him today and the team broke out with 3 dingers and 6 runs.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      May 8, 2014

      Might not be the one you’re thinking of, but I have long been a Keuchel fan. Since before he was called up the first time. He could be a lefty Greg Maddux. At this point, it’s either Obie or Peacock leaving the rotation. Keuchel is on the “safe” couch!

      Like

    • Devin
      May 8, 2014

      We keep disparaging his stuff, but the MLB crew showed a stat that the avg of all fastballs thrown by starting pitchers this year is 90.9 mph. Besides, its all about location and movement.

      Like

      • Dan P
        May 8, 2014

        Frankly last season – Oberholtzer with similar stuff had better results – but he is not hitting the mark like Keuchel is…like you say Location-Location-Location

        Like

    • daveb
      May 8, 2014

      I can’t take any credit for Keuchel, but I might have said that he looks like a pitcher on the mound. He pitches rather than throws. He’s a keeper. But having watched Springer have good at bats on Sunday at the park, I did say he might get something going on the road trip. If he keeps going to the opposite field with that outside stuff and extending counts, he’ll be just fine. As evidenced by his first dinger today, he can hit it out of any part of any park.

      Like

  14. Becky
    May 8, 2014

    Question……..why is Chris Carter still on this team?

    Like

    • Devin
      May 8, 2014

      Because they can’t get enough for him in trade but know someone would claim him.

      Like

  15. Chip Bailey
    May 8, 2014

    Devin, I suspect you’re right, plus Carter is out of options. Nonetheless, not sure that Singleton is an option at the moment since he’s hitting .277 with six hits and two RBI in his last 33 ABs.

    Like

    • 1oldpro
      May 8, 2014

      Singleton broke out tonight, though

      Like

      • Chip Bailey
        May 8, 2014

        That he did indeed. Would really love to slide him into the Houston lineup. Now. He can’t do worse than the combined Astros’ first basemen this year. .175 avg,/.246 OBP/ .286 slugging %/.532 OPS. Needless to say, worst in the AL. Believe it or not, San Diego is worst in the majors. Yes, worse than the above Astros’ line!

        Like

      • devin_
        May 8, 2014

        Think San Diego would take Guzman back in a trade?

        Like

  16. Billy Castillo
    May 8, 2014

    I don’t understand the dislike for Carter. I mean, for years everyone wanted us to sign Adam Dunn. Well, now we have him! [/sarcasm]

    Like

    • Billy Castillo
      May 8, 2014

      Obviously, I mean the 2011 version of Dunn.

      Like

  17. Becky
    May 8, 2014

    Billy……I personally like Chris Carter, he just can’t hit for spit……..and this team
    N E E D S hitters!

    Like

  18. Astro45
    May 9, 2014

    It is early in the year to be talking about 2016, but due to MLB salary structure, here are some guys hitting Arb years that will probably earn over $ 1 million next year. Presley, Carter, Corporan, Bass, MGonzalez, Alex White & Tony Sipp. And this does not include Guzman, JWilliams and Crain that are already in the “Mile High Club.” This is going to be a very expensive team to own with little production.

    Like

  19. rj
    May 9, 2014

    presley, bass, guzman, jwilliams, wont be here. corporan, sipp probably wont be. gonzales, white and crain may not be. white and carter still in the organization next year.

    Like

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