Hey, Look! It’s The Astros!


This is for you!

Earlier this week, Steeeve asked why we weren’t writing about the Sports Illustrated cover story. I gave a quick excuse thinking I had all the answers. But Steve asked some good questions of his own.

Steeeve: “I think there’s plenty of material there to discuss. Sure, every George Springer factoid has been reviewed here, but a national, positive 3rd party perspective of a franchise viewed by many as a joke represents an extremely rare opportunity. Did they cover the right stuff? Was it fair? Was it correct? Was there new material for you? Maybe I missed it here, but I found the process to narrow down the finalists to a high school pitcher for the 1-1, the third in history, was new for me and very interesting.”

So, gentle readers, I’ll ask Steeeve’s questions.

The SI story delved deeply into the process for picking Brady Aiken 1-1. OK, until or unless the Astros actually sign Aiken, this is going to look like a mistake. But, knowing what they knew at the time, did the Astros make the right choice?

The story also says Houston will win the World Series in 2017. Without Aiken, with Mark Appel coming along more slowly than we’d all hoped, with Carlos Correa getting a half-season delay thanks to his broken leg, are the Astros going off track again? Is 2017 a bigger pipe dream than before?

The article also talks a lot about how Houston has gone beyond mere Moneyball. They factor in a player’s personality and possible injury future as well as BABIP and all your favorite sabrmetric stats. Is Houston mixing old-school scouting with stat-based decision sciences properly?

The other big revelation was Luhnow admitting the Astros made a decision to not chase middling free agents to bump the win total to less-than-horrible.

So, what did you think about the SI article?

Did the Astros make the right choice (knowing what they knew at the times) in their three 1-1 picks?

Correa won’t be back until the Arizona Fall League. Will he still make his debut in 2015? Do you think he’ll be delayed to 2016 now?

Aiken and Appel, worst case scenario, are busts. Does Houston have enough pitching in the system (Mike Foltynewicz, Asher Wojciechowski, Josh Hader, Kyle Smith, Vincent Velasquez, Michael Feliz, Lance McCullers Jr., Nick Tropeano, etc.) that they can still produce a top-notch rotation by 2017?

And what about that prediction. By 2017, barring major injuries of the career-ending types, we’re looking at an infield of Singleton, Altuve, Correa and either Dominguez or Ruiz. Our outfield will be Springer, Santana and someone like Teoscar Hernandez or Tucker. I’m all for Kiki Hernandez at DH. Don’t forget Danry Vasquez, Conrad Gregor, Nolan Fontana, Tony Kemp.

In other words, this mass of players will all be ready by 2017. We’ll have an excess of it, frankly. Does that get us the pieces we need to be World Series competitive by then?


The magazine also noted that Jose Altuve is having a very non-Astros season when it comes to strikeouts. While Jason Castro jokingly said Altuve’s short arms mean he never gets jammed, but other analysis notes that Altuve takes a very studious approach to each game, concentrating on what two pitches he’s going to swing at, then watching for them. Is that a strategy other players need to take? Could it help Castro or (Lord forbid, Chris Carter?)

There was also an article about Springer’s attitude and how it has changed the clubhouse. Losing drops a little rain on the parade, but winning gets contagious. This is a young team, and that can be a problem at times. But as they young guys get just a LITTLE older, will this team become both youthfully energetic and talented with experience? Is that the magic mix that will generate a winner?

What do you think of SI’s recent Astros coverage?

Finally, the All-Star starters will be announced this weekend. Then the AL manager will pick the rest (minus one for the fan vote) of the roster. Does Houston still deserve two All Stars? Did it ever?

50 comments on “Hey, Look! It’s The Astros!

  1. I don’t think this organization rates an SI spread at this point in time. We’ve accomplished little or nothing at the ML level to date, so anything written about the clubs development methodology and it’s success is pure conjecture. I’d rather wait until 2016 and read something in SI about how well the unique systems implemented have created a fully home grown shutdown rotation, documentation of the unqualified successes of Springer, Santana, Singleton and others from within the organization and the deft trades and pick up of key free agents that have our club poised for a pennant run in 2017.

    In other words, the SI piece is well premature.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave, I’m not sure I disagree with you. I think if this were in the Chronicle, you’d have a different feeling here.

    If we somehow manage to win more than 70 games, I might say, yes, we deserved this article. But the SI writer is speculating as much as someone saying they know who our next president will be.

    Still, I did enjoy the glimpse into the decision-making process.


    • Nope, would not feel different if it was in the Chronicle or anywhere else. The system has not been proven. Take the use of pitchers in our minor leagues as an example. I’m dubious.


  3. So Brian – the one thing we know is that the SI jinx is still living and healthy as our team has turned south and the negotiations for Aiken have hit a snag – right?
    – No I’m not superstitious, I still think the Astros will sign Aiken and I still think they will click in at about 70 wins.
    – I agree with Daveb that it is really early to claim the ultimate victory of doing things this new way. It may take the young guys a few years to jell.
    – I said before and say again – it may be unfair but I think Altuve is going alone to the ASG.


  4. That SI article is more vapid than Chip’s proclamations (back during the late May mini-run) that the 2014 squad could approach .500.

    Completely empty and baseless.

    A more accurate story would be something along the lines of the mass viewpoints of players, fans, agents, and owners alike — all in open agreement that the ALastros are the laughingstock of the league.

    The reputation of the Astros’ front office, at this point, is nothing more than a clown-car, except their antics aren’t funny at all.


    • I win the pool on how long it took Bopert to grouse (I had “Less than 5 comments”). But the betting line on his next direct bashing of Crane or Luhnow is still in play.


    • Well, considering we at one point were less that 10 games below .500, and was a lot further behind at the end of April, well…isn’t that approaching .500? If you meant it was empty and baseless if they FINISHED the season close to .500, well, maybe you’ll end up right, maybe not.


  5. I would put the odds at higher than 30 to 1. However, once you get into the playoffs, the odds improve drastically. So as DaveB said, “way premature”. Most Astros fans would be happy with .500 in 2017.


    • O.K. guys, you have to realize you two are “Astroholics” – denial keeps you in bondage. When I said “Most” – I meant normal people. Historically, before the last few years, the Astros (and 45’s) were right at .500 and we became fans during those 50 years. We want them to “compete” – and we do not require a pennant every other year. “Happier” would be the word should we ever win a WS game.


    • I truly doubt most Astros fans will be happy with .500 in 2017. I think they expect this team be around 75-80 wins next year (assuming we get to the 70 win plateau this year) and then be over .500 in 2016. If we are a .500 team in 2017 I believe most Astros fans will be disappointed and call the Luhnow plan a failure.


  6. I think if the Astros are to compete for the championship in 2017 it will not have all three of Springer, Singleton and Santana. They won’t need three all or nothing sluggers in that lineup in 2017. They will have a guy without the strikeout tool in the middle of the order. There is too much emphasis in their minors on OBP, power and BA for them to keep three players like that. Enjoy them now because a .290 hitter with power is going to make at least one of them expendable.
    Also, by 2016, if Matty D is still a .240 hitter, with a low OBP and a high strikeout rate, his defense and arbitration will get him traded. There are too many strikeout guys in an organization that looks for walks like the Astros do in their drafting.
    If someone is going to use the Cards as a model, they are not going to end up with a team that leads the majors in strikeouts at the end of the rebuild. That would be like hiring Miley Cyrus to play Grace Kelly in a movie. It won’t work, no matter how good your makeup artist is!


    • Funny last line.

      And you are spot on with Matty D and his offense. I think we will probably be looking at Ruiz by 2016.

      And something has got to give on the strikeouts. But those players are not Luhnow’s players. All three came from the previous administration. I think Luhnow will need to make a choice on Santana vs. Singleton at some point. Springer, however, looks like he’s here to 2020 at least.


  7. I agree it is premature. Until you can show me at least one starter ready to compete for a Cy young and a Kimbrel-like closer I don’t think this organization can reach the top. One thing to consider, however, is that the minor league teams were almost universally successful last year AND it wasn’t by running a bunch of gray hairs out against the youth of other teams. Each year you will see prospects fall to the wayside, but if teams have enough quality players in their system they should, statistically speaking, continue to win as the players are advanced.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really like your comment and I want to add to it. if I may.
      In 2010 Keuchel was listed as an “other in Sickel’s Astros top 20 Prospects, as he also was in 2012. In 2011 he was #14. McHugh, Feldman, Keuchel, Cosart and Peacock were NOT top 10 Astros prospects in the beginning of 2011 and yet they are the starting rotation for us now. So we don’t know where our starters in 2017 are going to come from or even if they are in the organization right now. But our chances of them being in the org right now are much, much higher than than we had back in 2011. And you never know when a David Rollins or a Thomas Shirley or even a Kyle Westwood could turn into a Dallas Keuchel if someone pulls their string and the light suddenly comes on! None of them were mentioned in Brian’s article.


      • I just got tired of typing. Westwood, Shirley and Rollins are as likely to be in our rotation as the rest … especially Westwood and Shirley in my humble opinion.

        But I think you’re right. We’re even better stocked now than then. And with good coaches (Strom) we are certain to find some diamonds in the rough.

        I think we will be at or just above .500 next year. Then 2017 will be a real breakout. World Series? Well, that requires a bit of luck as well as all the right pieces. But we should be a serious playoff contender.


  8. Sorry, I have got to throw this out there. Starting for Colorado Springs tonight against OKC is 41 year-old Brett Tomko. You just never know what’s gonna happen in AAA baseball. Jake Buchanan is 26, the average age of the league and his opponent, Tomko apparently faced Jake’s grandfather, Edgar Buchanan in a 50’s western. TeeHee.


  9. BrianT – well done, kind sir. I agree with those who feel the article is premature but enjoyed it none-the-less, and will park the issue in a safe place for 3 years. Hoping to pop it out and find the prediction was spot on. Totally agree with Devin that it’s not happening unless several Cy Young candidate quality pitchers emerge.


  10. Jon Heyman, in a CBS sports column, mentions Mark Appel sustaining a wrist injury a couple of weeks ago that required a Cortisone injection. Heyman mentions also, that Carlos Correa will not play fall or winter ball this year according to an interview Heyman had with Jeff Luhnow.
    Heyman talked about Aiken and said that nobody in Aiken’s camp or the Astros’ camp is talking right now other than Luhnow saying they think they will sign Aiken and if they don’t it would not be a good thing.
    And this morning the Houston Astros are tied with Arizona for the worst record in baseball.


    • Typical. Hyman gets more information than any of the local media. At the same time, why does Luhnow make an obvious effort not to let the fan base know what’s going on? He keeps doing business this way, he continues to lose credibility.


  11. Some interesting minor league stuff:
    OKC has only three outfielders on their roster. Ross Seaton is on 7-day DL as is Weiland, who is on rehab in GCL. Weiland pitched pretty well yesterday. He gave up 1 run on one hit with 1 walk and somehow is credited with a loss. Two relievers gave up a total of seven runs in an 8-2 pounding but the starter takes the loss. Weird. Also, Matt Duffy is listed as a DH on the roster and not as an infielder.
    Corpus Christi- Aaron West is still missing and Cain and Alaniz are on rehab. MP Cokinos has only played one game since June 22nd.
    Lancaster- Borchering, Correa and Velasquez on DL. Mark Appel pitches tonight against a 17 year-old Dodgers phenom, Julio Urias. Urias is a lefty pitcher and is the youngest player in all of High A baseball. Lancaster has been very inconsistent since Correa’s injury. Josh Hader lasted only four innings last night and lost his first game of the year.
    Quad Cities-Ronnie Mitchell hit his 11th and 12th HR last night for QC and continues to mystify. How does a guy have 12 homers and only 4 doubles? Only thing I can figure is he’s very strong and hits a lot of fly balls and few line drives.


  12. Not to be the second coming of Vi1(Bopert ??) but MLB is a very difficult sport. Santana has 6 SOs in 7 ABs. Now he will probably be a good player some day, but he is now facing pitchers that can throw 90% of the time to his “weak spot.” Chris Carter had a .283 Minors BA. That does not auto-translate to anything similar to MLB. Our two top catcher prospects have regressed at the plate this year. Heineman has -0- HRs. Singleton and Springer struggled/are struggling. Castro has regressed this year. My point is it is not always an uphill chart. To go presently tied for the worst record in baseball to the World Series in 3 years will require multiple miracles. Not saying NEVER – just saying we have a LONG way to go. If you want to compare, look at the A’s – only Cespedes & Gray (I think) were signed by them. Almost every team attempts to mix and match strengths and weaknesses. At some point, each team realizes that a position or two can not be filled by the farm system.


    • I agree on most.. I don’t have a clue why 21 year-old Santana was brought to the majors and 25 year old Wates is still down. I think the 40-man excuse is hogwash.
      I’m not sure you are correct about Stassi regressing. Stassi spent little time in AA and he was hot and even he said he didn’t know why he was seeing the ball so good. Stassi moved up to AAA and is playing the hardest position on the field. Good catchers are rare. Great catchers are double rare. Stassi probably could be ready by spring 2016, but he has Perez on the same team and they are sharing catching duties, so he is not in a consistent place right now. I think the guy is still green. Heineman is a little more steady. Year one in rookie ball, year two at Lancaster. Year 3 in CC with Rene Garcia, who was a AA all-star catcher for CC last year. . If Stassi needs another year in AAA what happens to Heineman? I guess he repeats AA. That’s what other teams do with their catchers.
      Buster Posey came up at 22 in Sept 2009 and hit .118.
      The next year he was ROY and MVP. Of course, look who his manager is. A magic man.


      • Yep. The key word is adjustment. Those who make them progress. Those who cannot get left behind. The tough thing, as a fan, is watching a club where two players appear to have an approach at the plate better than pure guesswork ( and oneis on DL ). Is it a coaching problem or a player personnel problem?


  13. Patrick Murphy started his first GCL professional game this morning for GCL Blue Jays against GCL Astros. 5 hits, 4 runs in a third of an inning and a loss. His professional ERA now sits at a cool 108.00. Ribs and a few beers, please, ma’am.


  14. I enjoyed the article except for the part that implied Bo Porter was still the manager in 2017. If he is still the manager in 2015 I’ll be shocked and disappointed. I’m not sure a young struggling team needs a young struggling manager. The Astros don’t need motivation they need improving skills. Springer especially and Singleton a bit less so are too good athletes to be striking out at the rate they are going. I don’t think Carter has the requisite ability to put the ball in play more no matter what he does and Castro is severely under performing. If the students aren’t learning then the teachers aren’t teaching effectively. A veteran manager MUST be hired if the team is going to improve substantially and not just incrementally. Porter really has no history of accomplishment and more and more I find myself agreeing with those who feel he was hired because he was cheap and dumb enough to get involved in this rebuild. He is proving out the Peter Principle and it is hurting this team.


  15. Doc, when last season ended Bo Porter needed:
    1. A first baseman. They didn’t get him one. They traded a backup shortstop for a backup RH first baseman named Jesus and actually kept Wallace for most of the spring. Then they waited two months and gave a long-term contract to a guy who admitted he had a problem with pot and booze, who is too young, not ready and hitting as bad as any first baseman they’ve had in three years.
    2. A left fielder. They did not get him one. That is what they did.
    3. A center fielder. They got him one and he is on his second stint on the DL in the first half of the year.
    4. A right fielder. They didn’t get him one. They made Springer stay in OKC and finally, begrudgingly brought him up.
    5. A shortstop. They didn’t get him one and, instead, relied on the one who was too young, too dumb and too bad last year.
    6 A. closer. They traded his closer last year, didn’t get him one but instead they signed pretend closers who are old and hurt or weren’t closers.
    7. A DH. Worst DH in AL last year, so who do they make the DH? A guy who can’t hit, can’t run, can’t play a position and can’t hit in MMP last year or any park this year.
    8 A starter. Who did they get? Scott Feldman, a guy with an 88mph fastball to be their ace. I’m just going to leave that statement out there.
    Finally, one of their valued assets is an All-Star catcher who has been horrible at the plate and he’s not a young kid who Porter is supposed to have to get figured out. He’s a veteran who is supposed to be leading this team and looks uninterested.
    So how is all this Bo Porter’s fault? Luhnow did nothing for this team in the offseason, screwed with Springer’s head, screwed up the draft pick, screwed up Appel, and apparently isn’t so tech-savvy either. You may notice that I haven’t said one word to defend Porter’s managing. I can’t. But, Doc, this is the GM’s mess!


    • I go along with your reasoning but cannot think of a single player who Porter has made better. The ends of 2012 and 2013 are telling. Under Tony D a much worse team than the 2013 bunch finished September at .500 while in 2013 the season ended on a 15 game losing streak. I don’t know that Tony D is the answer but someone of his ilk is needed. Luhnow has certainly made LOTS of bonehead personnel moves but I wonder if those moves at the MLB level would have looked better if the players had been led more effectively on the field. I don’t follow any other club closely so I don’t know if other teams have as many AAAA guys who flop when they move up to AAA. Kike Hernandez is actually the only guy I can think of who came up and had a good start with the possible exception of Grossman’s second stint last year.

      Regression by Castro and Dominguez concerns me. I’m not sure if anyone else noticed but even when Castro hit the walk off homer there was nowhere near the excitement that would have been generated if almost anybody else had done it. Castro is a pretty smart guy and I wonder how much he second guesses Bo. Porter is good at post game analysis after the damage is done. We don’t need accurate post-mortems we need prospective correction and good decision making during the games and when filling out the lineup card.

      Finally, i wonder if Springer in center tonight is a hint that Fowler may be seen as expendable/trade bait.


  16. Baseball is a tremendously tough sport – it is very difficult to predict what will happen with any one player moving from level to level or even at the same level.

    Most of us thought after 2013 that Altuve had been figured out and would never match up with his rookie flashes. Keuchel was one of our worst starters.

    Castro may appear to be someone who had a lucky 2013 – or he could turn it around in 2015 and put up good numbers again.

    With new call-ups we will have to give them a lot more time to show who they are.


  17. oldpro, all good points. I get tired of bringing some of this stuff up. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s noted that Castro does not seem all that passionate about his game these days. I’ve never seen a guy look so bad at the plate so often and yet not seem to give a crap. Okay, maybe Carter too.

    And Singleton. He looks unprepared for MLB at this point. For a guy that showed excellent patience at every level, he’s a mess right now. But he does have a real opportunity. I just don’t see him getting sent back down this year, regardless of how bad he plays.


  18. Tough loss tonight – score plenty of runs early – but Keuchel was not himself – wonder if he is recovered or not. Offense stopped scoring too.
    Trout did us in with his walkoff homer – he seemed dialed in all night – just missed on a couple earlier swings.
    Hernandez looked great in the field along with 3 hits. Not sure the last time Carter had 2 hits in a game (or a week).


  19. After seeing what the Cubs pulled off yesterday I hope it sends a message to Luhnow that if you sign quality FAs you can receive good value in return. Yes, Samardzija was the catalyst for the A’s, but Jason Hammel was a big part of the trade. The Cubs got the A’s top 2 prospects. Meanwhile, we get players like L.J. Hoes, Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, Robbie Grossman and Marc Kraus in trades. Ouch!


  20. So they just sent Santana back down after 13 ABs, 0 hits and 11Ks. I was surprised they brought him up when they did and surprised they sent him down so quickly. They are bringing up David Martinez – hopefully he can throw a strike that does not get driven over the wall….


    • Seriously? My gosh, how does the rest of baseball see the Astros when they bring up Santana at that age and send him down a week later? And waiting forever for relievers to get healthy and they come back and totally bomb it?
      And you bring up another kid to make his major league debut and in his first five games he is put in four different positions: LF, DH, SS and 2B. Can’t they find a home for a kid batting .400? What is wrong with these people. Do they know anything about baseball? Daaaaang it!


      • I missed all 13 of those at bats. I liked what I saw in spring training, though, and hope this doesn’t hurt his confidence too badly.


  21. And now we get to see Martinez and his 4.92 AAA ERA. Looks like Luhnow is going after that first pick again. Things are getting tense too. Porter ripped into Corporan in the dugout the other day. Don’t see that too often.


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