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The break: And, when we come back . . .


Except for that 7-game stretch in May, the next four days will represent the longest non-losing streak this season for the Astros. A nice respite and an opportune break to evaluate, ruminate and deliberate the Luhnow Plan and the Porter Predicament.

There will be a series of questions at the end, but until then, let’s start the Monday conversation with some observations, not to mention wishes.

The Astros have used 41 players over the first half of the season, a number that would normally be good enough for 162 games. Injuries and under-performance have been the chief cause, but it’s time for some stability in the second half.

When the Astros come back from the break Friday, here are some things Luhnow, Porter and the team should have in place.

  • Forget Jesse Crain and Matt Albers. Don’t count on Michael Foltynewicz or Asher Wojciechowski…at least not the rest of the year. If they make it back, great. Until then, dance with what ya got.
  • George Springer should be playing center field the rest of the way. An announcement should be made Thursday that the team is making the transition to the future. No more coddling.
  • Have a game plan for Dexter Fowler. He’s been an asset to the team and should be treated as such. An extension would be a step forward, though he’s under team control next season with one more year of arbitration.
  • Brett Oberholtzer should give his shuttle pass to someone else and be invited to find an apartment in Houston. Despite the flip-flopping, in six starts since May 6, Obie has pitched well. Realize that Luhnow wants to keep him prepared to start in case of a trade over the next few weeks or injury, but it’s time to make a commitment to the guy. He. Can. Pitch.
  • Plant Kike Hernandez in LF. Yeah, yeah, he’s looking like a Super Sub, but provide some consistency and let’s see what the 22-year-old can do.
  • Enough with the sub-.200 batting averages. If you can’t hit .200+, you don’t belong in the starting lineup, not regularly anyway. Figure it out, work overtime, but averaging a couple of hits every ten ABs isn’t much to ask for someone making at least $500,000.
  • Did I miss anything?

If Porter is looking for a fresh start out of the gate for the second half, here’s a look at a solid lineup starting Friday.

  • Jose Altuve 2B.
  • Hernandez LF.
  • Fowler RF.
  • Springer CF.
  • Carter DH.
  • Singleton 1B.
  • Dominguez 3B.
  • Castro C.
  • Gonzalez SS.

And, here are those questions I promised…

  • Assuming that we could theoretically be looking at two different seasons within 2014, what would you title the first half?
  • Has anyone seen Jesus Guzman?
  • How long do you continue to DH Chris Carter and his .205 average?
  • The Astros have only a few days left to sign Brady Aiken. Yes or no? Should they or shouldn’t they? Who do you believe, Luhnow or the kid’s doctors?
  • The Astros aren’t likely to reach Jim Crane’s .500 goal for the season. They’d need to sprint to a 41-26 record the rest of the way. That said, what is the biggest obstacle to Houston playing .500 (34-33) over the second half?
  • Dallas Keuchel, Jarred Cosart and Chad Qualls have been the pitchers in the first half. Altuve was clearly the best position player. Who captures those honors in the second half?
  • Last question: Who improves their “game” the most between now and October: Crane, Luhnow or Porter?
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About Chip Bailey

Chip Bailey lives in Colorado Springs, CO, and is an author and former sports editor and sportswriter who has followed the Astros for more than 40 years. A native of 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. He came up with Chipalatta, and it’s stuck.

26 comments on “The break: And, when we come back . . .

  1. 1oldpro
    July 13, 2014

    *Title of first half of season: Astros Finish aAhead of Rangers
    *Seen Guzman, no.
    *I continue to DH Carter as long as he is with the team this year. If he’s the DH, at least he’s not in LF
    *I think the Astros should and will sign Aiken. We have not heard from Luhnow or Aiken’s doctors, we have only heard from his parents, trainer and the people his team have leaked information to. There is nobody reputable speaking right now, especially from the Astros. They are not allowed to say a word about his medical condition.
    *The biggest obstacles keeping the Astros from achieving a .500 record in the next part of the season are the spots in their order who aren’t hitting, Castro, Singleton, Carter, Grossman and Dominguez. The second biggest obstacle is lack of quality major league relievers in our bullpen. The third biggest obstacle is a manager who can’t manage his pitching staff.
    *The same four players you named will be the most reliable in the second half, unless Altuve wears out. Then I like Fowler.
    *Luhnow can improve his game the most, because he is the only one who has the ability to improve and is in the position to make big moves. Porter can’t and Crane won’t.
    Daveb, Tucker had two doubles and two homers today. I will open the pod bay doors now, dave. I’m feeling much better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • daveb
      July 14, 2014

      oldpro, I was expecting your report, but have no fear, I’ve been keeping an eye on him too. I especially like the .371 OBP and the fact that he’s hitting lefties better than righties. And now he’s starting to drive the ball. I’ve got him pegged to be our next DH, but if Singleton does not get the hang of the senior circuit, at least we’ve got a back up plan.

      Like

  2. rj
    July 14, 2014

    Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do.
    I’m half crazy all for the love of you.
    It won’t be a stylish marriage,
    I can’t afford a carriage.
    But you’ll look sweet,
    Upon the seat,
    Of a bicycle made for two.
    [ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsty.com/valentines-day-daisy-daisy-lyrics.html ]
    Michael, Micheal, here is your answer true.
    I’m not crazy all for the love of you.
    There won’t be any marriage,
    If you can’t afford a carriage.
    ‘Cause I’ll be switched,
    If I get hitched,
    On a bicycle built for two!”

    i didnt realize there was a second verse!

    Like

    • Dan P
      July 14, 2014

      Rj – was this perhaps meant for the 2001 A Space Odyssey blog?

      Like

    • rj
      July 14, 2014

      it was a reference to HAL the computer and oldpro’s opening the pod bay doors

      Like

    • Dan P
      July 14, 2014

      Got it – thanks – good tiein

      Like

  3. Dan P
    July 14, 2014

    – First half of 2014? Baby steps (and Stumbles)
    – Guzman is just slightly more invisible out of the lineup than in it.
    – Chris Carter has been relatively on fire in July as he raised that average from .181. I think you ride him until the deadline and hope for something to happen.
    – Aiken – There is practically no pitcher that you can find that is not in line for surgery some time. Make the decision on his stuff and move on.
    – Biggest obstacle to .500 – still a bullpen that is bad and lineup that Ks too much.
    – Second half best pitcher – Cosart. Best everyday – Springer
    – Most improved in front office – none of the above?

    Like

  4. 1oldpro
    July 14, 2014

    Some interesting happenings in the minor leagues. Teoscar Hernandez was pulled from last Thursday night’s game after getting hit in the hand by a pitch. There are no reports on his injury but he is on the DL
    Last night, Tony Kemp was hit in the leg by a pitch and removed from CC’s game. Asked for a report on Kemp’s condition by a reporter after the game, manager Keith Bodie replied that he was not allowed to comment on a player’s medical condition.

    Like

  5. rj
    July 14, 2014

    i continue to call for patience for carter. he has 19 hr’s and projects to 32. his average is still poor but he has a 9 game hitting streak. he has 1111 at bats in the majors, about the same as two years of full time play. he may figure it out, i think he deserves and you need to see another 500 or so at bats before making a decision on him.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      July 14, 2014

      rj, I suppose someone who hits 30 HRs should have more rope. One reason it’s such an eyesore is because of the many other holes in the lineup are hitting around 200. So, from an overall perspective, something needs to change. And, I would agree, overall, unless and until something better comes along, Carter’s probably the guy. But I long for a DH who can hit .275 with an .350ish OBP and can hit 20 HRs with 75-90 RBI. And…not strike out 125 times! Am I dreaming?

      Like

      • Mr. Bill
        July 14, 2014

        You may say I’m a dreamer – but I’m not the only one.
        I hope someday we find him, and his OBP + S approaches One.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dan P
        July 14, 2014

        Or in Carter’s case something like striking out 212 times last year….

        Like

      • 1oldpro
        July 14, 2014

        Imagine

        Like

      • Steven
        July 14, 2014

        You mean 225 strike outs.

        The dream player you have is much more rare in the post steroids era.

        I am not sure what to make of Carter. Lots of players see slight up ticks in the K rate when they make it to the majors, but his up tick is over 12%, and it has shown no improvement (actually slightly worse than his rookie season in Oakland). I think its safe to estimate the average up tick around 3-4%, so he is not making some kind of adjustment.

        I think the brass are in a much better position to figure it out. What are the coaches telling Luhnow about Carter’s work? Is he spending time working on slowing the game down in his head? Is he spending time in the film room on his swing? Is he working on better pitch recognition? Or is he just showing up every day, getting his reps in batting practice, going through the motions, and content with his numbers? All these things, things we can’t know, should be the determining factor in sticking with him.

        From a pure statistical standpoint, I have to agree with rj.

        Like

      • rj
        July 14, 2014

        if you are gonna dream, might as well dream big, right?
        i just think a guy that hit 29 HRS last year, that projects to get 32 HRS this year and is basically a second year player, deserves some time to develop. 1111 at bats isnt enough time to say he’ll never get better at K rates or average. and he may deliver an even higher HR total. after seeing how so many have improved after leaving the team, i sure dont wanna see this guy hitting moon shots with a better average in a better lineup with less K’s for somebody like the *SPIT* yankees. a better lineup around him might help alot (just like it has for some who have left)

        Like

      • rj
        July 14, 2014

        great j lennon reference mr bill.

        Like

  6. Devin
    July 14, 2014

    – Forgettable
    – no
    – I stick w Carter unless I can find a really good match in a trade. I’m most concerned about situational hitting. When a fly-ball will get a run home there is no excuse for him to K. Right now it is hard to argue that Springer or Singleton are providing more value with the bat. Depending on how long the hot / cold spells last, that will change.
    – I don’t know on Aiken. It seems to me as though neither side will be happy. If the article mentioned in yesterday’s comments is correct, I’m not sure Luhnow should survive the AS break.
    – This team lacks veteran leadership. They look as though they fold too easily. .500 is not realistic. Let’s just try for 23 wins to start…and then shoot for better once we hit that.
    – let me go out on a limb and call for Dominguez to repeat the second half he had in 2013. For pitchers, I’m not feeling bullish on any of them today.
    – I’m not sure Luhnow or Porter make it to September.

    Like

  7. Steven
    July 14, 2014

    I’m not sure Hernandez is worthy of a look at this point. He is less accomplished than most of our other minor league outfielders. I would definitely pencil him in every day for the next week – one look at his minor league numbers and you see one thing is certain, he is very streaky.

    Maybe in the next 200-300 games of his career he solidifies the ability to play one spot – which will be more about opportunity and less about Hernandez – and prove to be a consistent hitter (hey he is just 22). I’ve only seen one game he played in, and he looked high octane in effort, loved his body language, but he has been all over the place in the minors. Let’s not take PT away from Grossman until we know what we have – and no, these lousy 154 plate appearances from Grossman so far this year don’t discount YEARS of being better than Hernandez at the plate.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      July 14, 2014

      Steven, I’m not particularly a fan of it, but when a guy is on a streak, you just have to ride it and take advantage of it. At least for now. Especially with all the .200ish averages. You got a guy that’s hitting .300+ over several games and he should be in the lineup, unless he’s hurting you in other ways. In Hernadez’s case, he’s also providing a lot of versatility, so ride the streak baby!

      Like

  8. Chip Bailey
    July 14, 2014

    I just think it’s odd that Guzman has appeared in only two games (3 ABs) in all of July, the first game of the month and the last so far. With Castro sitting a few games and the already thin roster, just figures that they’d want all hands on deck. When I was looking at GP, etc. I just assumed he’d been put on the DL or sent to OKC and I’d missed it. But, no, there he is on the roster, drawing a big ol’ paycheck to watch the other guys play.

    Like

  9. Astro45
    July 14, 2014

    Carter reminds me of a story a college football player said of his quarterback. “He can throw a 70 yard tight spiral and put the ball right over your shoulder and into your hands. However, when he calls a 10 yard down and out, he throws a 70 yard tight spiral…………….”

    Like

  10. daveb
    July 14, 2014

    At least through the rest of the year, I’d let Springer go back to right and leave Fowler in center. Somehow I think playing center is a bigger deal to Fowler. Might be a moot point however, as I still think there is a good chance he goes in the next couple of weeks. But I’d welcome an extension. Fowler makes good things happen at the top of the order. That said, if he’s extended, I’ll fall out of my chair.

    Unless Oberholtzer is prepared to take a job in the pen, it’s a bit premature to yank Peacock out the rotation. For a fifth man, he has not been bad. He’s given up a max of 4 runs in a game, and pretty much kept the team in every start. and he’s gotten little offensive support. I don’t think we’d be having this conversation if not for yesterdays very brief outing. But if we really want to make a change to the rotation, then get Tropeano on the 40 man and bring him in.

    I’d plant Enrique in the lineup everyday for now, but he seems to thrive on getting moved around, so no need for a plant in left. I’d try to give Grossman another month or two, but there is nothing I like about Hoe’s game and little about Presley’s.

    Carter should stay at DH until we find a guy that can produce an .OPS higher than his .746. That will be awhile.

    Enough with the sub .200 batting averages? Chip, then why did you pencil Singleton into your lineup?

    I have no real confidence in what little we ever hear from our GM. But there must be some question about health with Aiken. Mom and Dad and sister and Brady all showed up to sign for 6.5 million. If it ever got out that Luhnow tried to squeeze a healthy 1st pick further down at the last minute, then this might be the last GM job Luhnow ever has. And deservedly so.

    Good last question. Crane can only improve his game by getting a TV deal done. Luhnow can only regain a bit of credibility by making some sense out of the draft, whether he signs Aiken or not. I really do believe that more information should flow out of the organization to the fan base. Our organization is very bad at sharing information about it’s assets. If Aiken does not get signed, goes to UCLA and pitches like a first rounder, Luhnow might want to pack it in. The apparent pressure on Porter to get more out of this full of holes team with continue to wear on him. Mills was relieved when he finally got relieved. Porter might feel the same way at some point.

    Like

  11. Mr. Bill
    July 14, 2014

    Chip’s 1st Question: “Assuming that we could theoretically be looking at two different seasons within 2014, what would you title the first half?”
    Possible Answer #1: They Never Played the Game
    Possible Answer #2: ‘How Do You Clean a Fish That Stinks From the Head Down’?
    Possible Answer #3: Did Sports Illustrated See the Same Team We Saw?
    Possible Answer #4: Why Don’t We Just Call them the ‘Fan’ Club
    Possible Answer #5: When You Get Into our Bullpen, Watch Where You Step
    Possible Answer #6: * Spit *

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chip Bailey
      July 14, 2014

      Nice list sir. For your #5, I thought you were going to say “When You Get Into Our Bullpen, please leave matches, lighters and other combustible items outside.”

      Like

  12. 1oldpro
    July 14, 2014

    Highly regarded prospect AJ Reed was removed from the game after injuring his leg running the bases for Tri-city tonight. Reed has been very good in the month since he was drafted by the Astros.

    Like

  13. Becky
    July 15, 2014

    cHRis Carter is an enigma……the guy either strikes out, or hit’s a homerun. The fact that you never know which one is going to show up, is the $64,000 question. If Luhnow puts him on the waiver wire, he will get picked up ASAP. If you try to trade him, the rest of MLB will laugh at you. He *has* worth, but is he helping or hurting your team? And why in the heck is Guzman still on this team? Gone is the platoon of Carter, and Guzman………so dose this front office owe him too much money to let him walk, or what? I’ll take his place in the dugout, at least I could see the games…….AND get paid to do nothing!! Is that a great job or what! Saw where the Blue Jays actually got Brett Wallace back, and they even had to send MONEY to the O’s for him! I wish the kid well………he had to get away from this team, to catch a break. By the way did you guys stay glued to ESPN to watch the Home run
    Derby tonight?? Yes, I’m just kidding.

    Like

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This entry was posted on July 13, 2014 by in Astros.
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