It’s a Free Blog Weekend, and playing the part of Chipalatta is his understudy, Brian Todd. I know, I’m disappointed too. But Chip’s travelling for work, so you get me. Quit bellyaching.
Anyway, here are a bunch of random thoughts and topics that should keep you busy asking questions, spouting opinions and calling for Luhnow’s head for a couple of days.
ALL-STARS: About this time last year, I remember trying to make the case that Houston deserved two all stars. At the time, I thought it was Jose Altuve and Jason Castro. Altuve was still batting somewhere in the .290s, and Castro was about the same. Put ’em both in, I said.
Altuve, of course, tanked before the All Star break, and Castro came on, well, not exactly strong but …
And then there was Bud Norris. If you ignored the fact he couldn’t win a game (wins are an overrated stat anyway), he was pitching sort of good.
Yeah, I know. It was a stretch. Altuve did not deserve to be an All Star, and neither did Norris. Castro did, but he was not exactly a slam dunk at the break, other than the fact Houston gets one … minimum.
Obviously, 2014 is a different year. Altuve has the second-highest AL batting average among second basemen, and the guy ahead of him has a lower OPS. Most steals, most hits, and just one over-the-shoulder, running-flat-out, sun-in-his-eyes error.
George Springer‘s .882 OPS ranks sixth among AL outfielders with at least 50 at-bats. He’s currently a little short of being a stats qualifier, but that’s likely to change soon. I know he’s not going to remain last-week-hot, but if he just keeps up the .850-plus OPS until the break, he probably deserves some consideration.
And then there’s Dallas Keuchel. You know, our fifth starter? He’s currently sixth in ERA in the AL at 2.55 and second in WHIP at … drum roll please … 0.98. All Star!
In fact, all three deserve serious consideration.
Heck, I’d even add Tony Sipp to the list. In 9.2 innings, he’s allowed no runs, one hit, one walk and whiffed 13.
Which leads me to my next point: Luhnow is building quite a team. But it probably gets harder next year if we’re not the worst team in baseball, and I think we all know why.
WAIVER WIRE PICKUPS: You see, being the worst team has its advantages. You pick first in the drafts, and that’s nice. But it means every player who hits waivers, you get first crack at him. Every one.
You like Tony Sipp? Well, in 2015 we probably don’t get a crack at the next Tony Sipp. Did you know Alex Presley currently has the sixth highest batting average on the team? Yeah, someone else grabs him as their fourth outfielder next year. Collin McHugh probably doesn’t get past two or three other teams to the Astros if we’re not the worst or next to it.
This is also true of the Rule 5 draft, where Josh Fields — as unpredictable as he is — goes to another team if the Astros aren’t so bad.
The system in baseball is designed to help the losers get better. And for three years Houston has reaped that benefit in more than just the Rule 4 (first-year players) draft. Rule 5, international and the waiver wire have all been Worst Picks First.
GORGEOUS GEORGE: But it looks like those days are behind us. And a big part of it is George Springer. I bet his jerseies are flying off the racks at the souvenir shops at Minute Maid Park. And why not?
As I write this, he’s had seven homers in his past seven games. Other than a two-hitter by Jered Weaver when Springer hurt his hip flexor, each of those games has been an Astros win.
That includes the one game among them where he didn’t homer (he homered twice against Seattle on his return from the hip thing) but a gem by McHugh, Sipp and Chad Qualls made up for Springer ONLY getting a single and a walk.
Yep, this team is getting better, and as we (hopefully soon) exchange Jesus Guzman for Jonathan Singleton, bring up Austin Wates and let him DH or play left field, and get more bullpen pieces back, the Houston Astros might look like a real team.
BULLPEN CHAOS TIME: According to some media reports, we’ll soon have our first look at Jesse Crain in an Astros uniform. Matt Albers will follow not long after that. And Anthony Bass should be ready before long as well. Who do you boot from the bullpen to bring them in?
Don’t forget that Houston won’t stick with the six-man rotation forever. That means either Brad Peacock or Brett Oberholtzer becomes the long man in place of jerome Williams. What does our bullpen look like on July 1 if our choices are Crain, Albers, Qualls, Sipp, Kyle Farnsworth, Darin Downs, Williams, Fields and Bass? Oh, and either Obie or Peacock? That’s 11 guys for seven spots.
THROW THE BUMS OUT: Austin Wates is hitting .352 in Oklahoma City. His OPS is .938. Domingo Santana is hitting .295 with an .867 OPS. And, here’s some food for thought, Ronald Torreyes at shortstop is hitting .297 with a .724 OPS. Oh, and the “slumping” Jonathan Singleton is batting only .266 but still sports a .933 OPS.
Meanwhile Guzman is hitting .206 with a .586 OPS. Chris Carter may be surging, but his average is below the Mendoza line, and his OPS is a paltry .706. Personally, I expect more from a guy whose only job is hitting the ball. And Jonathan Villar just dropped below the Mendoza line and has a .614 OPS.
That’s four options to replace three of Houston’s biggest offensive offenders. Add Robbie Grossman to the list, and we could swap nearly half our lineup in one fell swoop. Would you do it? Maybe just Singleton? Singleton and Santana (bye bye Carter and Guzman)?
ONE FINAL THOUGHT: Walks. Thursday night no Orioles got a free pass. Wednesday afternoon, Jarred Cosart walked two in five innings, but seemed to be laboring with 3-2 counts all day. Tuesday, no walks from McHugh & Co. One walk on Monday in Feldman’s start. Sunday, and Keuchel ain’t giving nothing for free (other than his throwing error). Saturday and there’s one walk in Obie’s first win.
And that’s the winning streak thus far. Six wins, a total of six walks given up. You can talk about ground ball rates and people getting new pitches like candy canes at Christmas from the new pitching coach, but if you throw the ball over the plate, good things happen.