Some Astros’ perspective from the down under


You may or may not have noticed, but I have been out of the loop the last couple weeks, contributing no posts and just an occasional comment. My second son Peter lives in Australia and was married a week ago to a lovely young woman, Skye, so the blog and the Astros have taken second place to touring and celebrations. I thank Brian and Chip for hanging in there without my help,  especially if no one noticed I was gone.

Getting away for a couple weeks may have given me some perspective or maybe fooled me into thinking I have some perspective. At the very least this will be an interesting trial of whether my jet-lagged brain (basically it took us 27 hours from leaving our place in Melbourne to reach our home in Sugar Land) can express any coherent thoughts.

They Are What They Are

During the time I was away, the Astros continued to be what they have been this season a team that is improved quite a bit over 2013, but continuing to struggle with a few flaws. They were 6-9 from the time we left to when we returned and continued to have solid starting pitching (except for Peacock), hot/cold hitting (scoring 8 and 6 runs in consecutive games and then scoring 1 run in 15 innings the next) and a leaky bullpen. With even mediocre help from the pen they could easily have been 8-7 or 9-6 as they gave away three games including a couple big leads in late epic meltdowns. At this point, the bullpen is what the bullpen is (worse than United Airlines food service – but I digress) and it will again be the off-season focus of a team that could be quite a bit better with just a little help.

They Are Not What They Were

The Astros suffered two terrible losses while I was gone, giving up 6 ninth-inning runs to the A’s in losing 7-4 and giving up 5 eighth inning runs to the Phils to lose 6-5 a few days ago. After the A’s loss they won the next game and won 4 of the next 5. After the Phils debacle they bounced back and won the next two and counting as I type this. This is not the same team that phoned in the 15 losses in a row to end 2013. They seem to have heart, some talent and short memories.

Changes

I have watched a bit of the last two games since returning to the land of Comcast. I don’t know if this kid – Jake Marisnick – has the bat to stick, but I love to watch how he covers center field and I can imagine the pitching staff is salivating with the thought of Springer, Fowler and Marisnick applying their CF skills to all 3 outfield positions at once.

Gregorio Petit filled in for Jose Altuve, who is out with neck discomfort (we knew a healthy Altuve would not stop hitting like he did recently) and he seems like a competent middle infield backup.

Folty! It has been a long time since we have had someone hitting those upper 90’s and the magic 100 mph out of the pen. Michael Foltynewicz may end up being a starter, but it sure was nice to see someone lighting up the radar gun from the pen last night.

Patience Is a Difficult Virtue

I always liked Chris Carter‘s short compact swing – but I had despaired of him ever choosing to swing it at pitches he could actually reach. The last 5 weeks may be a mirage for Mr. Carter, but I have a feeling he may be actually getting it. Dallas Keuchel stunk in his first two tries with the Astros. Now he does not. Does that mean Brad Peacock will too? No. But it does mean that young guys have to have some time to show what they have and to learn how to properly do their jobs. They all have talent that 99.9999% of the population lacks, but they have to prove it against the other .0001% and that can be a difficult transition. George Springer stunk when he showed up. Guys like Jonathan Singleton need the reps to show who they really are. Hey, I think Robbie Grossman can be an adequate 3rd or 4th OF and I do not think he has had enough ABs to prove otherwise. We might as well be patient – it may well be rewarded.

Anyways – those are some almost coherent thoughts with what brain cells that remain in this noggin. What say ye?

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44 comments on “Some Astros’ perspective from the down under

  1. Welcome back to the top of the world (as opposed to Down Under). Congrats to your son and his bride. May they have a happy life filled with love and kangaroos.

    Yes, the Astros are what they are. But you’re right, they are evolving as a team and individually. As much as I dislike Carter (so many Ks!), he’s getting better. I hope it sticks. Heck, a healthy Feldman looks much improved. So does McHugh.

    The key, I think, will be to fill the holes. We have some good and even VERY good players, but when they have an off day, the holes in our lineup/rotation/bullpen don’t ever seem to pick up the slack.

    Welcome back. You were missed.

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    • Right on all counts Brian T. I can live with Carter striking out a bunch if he continues to do something good when he makes contact. Heck if he hits .260 he is going to have an OPS well over .800 and I would love that.
      Feldman is solid – has had 3 really bad outings out of 21 starts and has been good or very good in the others.
      But they are thin – thank goodness that Carter decided to hit with Springer and Fowler out or they would have been in trouble the last few weeks.
      Yes, I am back and the next frontier is getting to work tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan, welcome back. Must have been a wonderful trip down under with family, and a whole new family! I’m sure you managed just fine without a daily dose of the home term. You’ve noted that you think Grossman can be an adequate 3rd or 4th outfielder. I don’t think we should be aiming for adequate anything at this point. These last few years have convinced us, too often, to lesson our expectations. I think we’re letting ownership off too easy. Adequate is not acceptable.

    oldpro, what do we do with Joe Sclafani? He refuses to go away. This year alone, he’s played 2nd, 3rd, short, left, right and DH. I especially like the .409 OBP in OKC. Does he become the steadier version of Enrique? Ben Zobrist II? I just love guys like Sclafani who go out and get their moneys worth every time they get a chance to play. This is a another guy, besides Dan, who went all the way the Australia to play winter ball.

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    • Dan, I know you might laugh at me, but Sclafani is a perfect example of the Astros getting the first pick in every round. Think about how many players in our system that we have because when the draft turned over to the next round, we got the top guy left on our board EVERY TIME.
      Sclafani, Torreyes, Altuve, Marwin, Fontana, Kemp, Correa, Mier, Perdomo, Mayfield, Villar, Hernandez, Hyde and Meyer. You’re asking me what to do with all of those guys?
      OK, here’s my answer. Keep Correa, Kemp and Altuve and find a team with a good reliever and not enough middle infielders and trade a couple of them along with some minor league pitching prospect for that reliever who you use for at least 2 years or more in Houston, until we have our own guys ready.

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      • I would never laugh at you oldpro – I’m the guy who thought Marc Krauss might be a real major leaguer. Oh well.
        After Luhnow’s “success” picking up relief help in the off-season I’m not sure I trust him to trade off guys for relief help.
        If we are going to trade minor league pitching and minor league middle infielders for major league help – I sure would like it to be at SS.

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      • I was actually replying to dave, Dan and I just had a leftover okwhatever moment. Sometimes, I think I’m losing it. Sometimes? What could possibly cause this?

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      • Let’s face it oldpro, there are multiple dogs in that batch. Even Marwin, a guy who has helped make this team less worse in 2014, has an 0.3 WAR on the year. That’s what I mean when I say that we should not accept adequate. Is an 0.3 WAR even adequate? I keep Sclafani with the expectation that he can do more than Marwin in 2015.

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      • Dan – Now I’m disappointed, I agreed with you on Grossman, but I might be the only one left on the planet that STILL thinks Krauss can be a “real” major leaguer :/.

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      • As far as Sclafani – dude likes to walk, and doesn’t strike out a lot to boot. Not sure if he would keep drawing walks at that rate in the majors with his lack of power – kinda statistically reminds me some of Shuck – but once you get to the majors, if major league pitchers don’t fear you, they are going to throw strikes. Shuck was consistent at drawing walks in the minors, so far in the majors, not so much. He is getting a little long in the tooth to develop the power he needs to draw walks – don’t have to hit a lot, just enough to remind the pitchers around the league that if you give in, I can make you pay. Right now, at 5-9 and 185, he probably is going to have live a lot off of BABIP when he finally does get a shot.

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    • You know someone like Grossman has less about 450 ABs in the majors – less than a full season. I don’t know how good he will ever be – but at times I see good skills here.
      Maybe Sclafani will be a better Kike Hernandez – super-sub. Yes, I love those types too.

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  3. Last night, after emptying the Astros bench with a hot shot through the dugout, Jon Singleton had a big smile on his face. It’s the first grin I have seen out of him and it was good to see.
    Marisnick hit a line drive single last night.
    Fields got two big outs and didn’t walk anybody!
    Folty found out that major league batters can rocket a 99mph fastball if they expect it and it is right in their wheelhouse, AND he found out about that without costing the Astros a run in the ninth.
    Feldman pitches good when he isn’t hurt.
    Two “utility” infielders playing SS and 2B had the highest batting averages in the Astros lineup last night, by far.
    The last two starts made by Darvish against the Astros have been a perfect reflection of the entire Ranger’s team for the entire year. Sure makes me wonder if Kinsler meant a lot more to that team than just a good second baseman.
    Becky is right! imagine the ground that can be covered by Fowler in LF, Marisnick in CF and Springer in RF. And imagine me wondering what you do with Grossman? I mean, he has been the best player on the field the last two nights. It feels so weird saying that!

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  4. Welcome back Dan, nice post and congrats, I love the “land down under” Watching the game last night, who could have ever projected that line up with or without Altuve. What a gutsy showing from a mash unit. made me think with a healthy Albers and a June show up for Crain, add no missed games by Fowler and Springer, where we might be. I’m Thinking 58 wins right now ! Now I know why I don’t run a Baseball team, I would have sent both Grossman and Carter packing months ago and the dudes are doing OK. Got my broom out.! I think the Rangers will be under the Ryan Jinx for a while, karma.

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    • Thanks Kevin – I don’t know where the team would be exactly but it is hard not to think they would be way ahead without all the injuries. But hey that is a given in pro sports and you need to have some depth and they are not there yet.
      Yes, will Nolan Ryan being shown the door by the Rangers be like the Bambino being traded by the Red Sox to the Yanks?

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  5. welcome back dan and congrats to your son and new daughter. everybody get out your brooms and see if we get to use them. where is bopert about the TV situation now? and i need to hear how the rangers will dominate the astros for decades to come from him to. if we had a good bullpen and had not given away 10 games to ineptitude we would have a record hovering at .500. maybe crane wasnt crazy afterall.

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    • While the free-spending Angels are showing some winning fortitude, the Rangers aren’t getting a good ROI.

      In fact, the top ten payrolls in order (according to website called TheRichest) are the Dodgers, Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, Giants, Blue Jays, Nationals and Rangers. With five teams from each league making the playoffs, you’d think at lease four playoff teams from each league would be among these teams.

      You’d be wrong. If the season ended today, the division winners in the AL would be Baltimore, Detroit and Oakland. The wildcard teams would be the Angels and KC. Well, two out of five isn’t bad, right? But the top ten spenders has six AL teams, so that’s really 2 of 6. Heck, the Astros have a better winning percentage than that. Worse still, the top two AL spenders are on the outside looking in.

      In the NL, you’ve got Washington, Milwaukee and the Dodgers as the division winners, while the Pirates are in and the Cardinals and Giants tied for that last spot. Let’s say the Giants top the Cards. That gives us three–Dodgers, Nats and Giants–in the playoffs. OK, that’s three of five spots. But look who else is in. Milwaukee is 16th and Pittsburgh is 27th in payroll.

      Back in the AL, you have Oakland (25th), Baltimore (15th) and Kansas City (19th).

      I’m not seeing a lot of correlation between winning and money. Oh, sure, the Dodgers have the highest payroll and are winning the NL West. And maybe just because teams aren’t “in” doesn’t mean they aren’t contending. Right? I mean, the Yankees are a game and a half from the wildcard. Maybe they rally. Maybe, but the Blue Jays are in the same position, and they probably don’t both rally.

      But the Phillies, Red Sox and Rangers are not contending at all. Neither is team No. 11 in payroll … Arizona.

      Again, it seems the facts are getting in the way of a good story.

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      • Close your eyes and picture all the speed in the middle of that lineup:
        Carter
        Castro
        Singleton
        Dominguez
        Corporan

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      • I will say this that Singleton seems to be a lot faster than his body shape would make you think. I’m not defending anyone else in that batch.

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      • Singleton swipes bases (OK, one base) and hits inside-the-park homers (again, just the one), so I’d be careful disrespecting his speed. (Sarcasm font in full effect.)

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      • It is just that he surprises me at times in getting to 2nd on hits that None of the others would get a double on – he just surprises me at times.

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  6. Dan: Welcome back, you were missed. A trip to Australia/New Zealand is on my bucket list so I envy you the experience, especially for such a joyous occasion.

    Having more interesting players and a better story line to follow has made this season bearable. To think that we are only 2 wins away from our total of all last year should give us some satisfaction. I don’t dwell much on speculating about how much better we might be without injury issues because injuries are part of the marathon of a big league season and every time I drift that way I look at what has happened to the Rangers and I just shut up. Where we have been fortunate is in the health of our starting pitching. Off the top of my head I think Feldman is the only starter who has been on the DL this year. Perhaps that has been the stability that will allow the record this year to be so much better.

    I think Carter’s emergence is probably for real and I was one calling for his head not that long ago. When I look at the DH landscape he actually looks pretty good with some significant upside. When we get more guys in the regular lineup who have much better strikeout profiles I think Carter, Singleton and Springer’s high K rates won’t hurt so bad. But I would like to see Castro and maybe even Dominguez get a lot better or be gone. I don’t think we will be able to judge Luhnow until some of his position player draftees arrive. If guys like Tucker, Kemp and even Torreyes get here and produce I think the offensive mix will be potent for a long time.

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    • Dr bill – good points all.
      I think Castto needs to do like Altuve and work his butt off in the offseason and be a much better player. Or not be here long term.

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    • Yea – but I would argue that if Grossman is right in the head, he will get on base a bit more than Altuve. I think that if Grossman doesn’t clog the base in front of Jose, and there are still opportunities for Jose to run, it’s not a bad setup. I would probably bat Altuve first if it was my lineup card, he can turn a single into a double pretty quick, but I can’t blame Porter for wanting to start off with a guy that can post a .400 OBP if he is clicking (as he seems to be right now).

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    • I guess the $90+ million more that the Rangers spent – just does not buy them depth – ha ha.
      Yes they really have had a tough time.

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    • Yeah – but sometimes I think managers and lineups are like wives and furniture – they just love to tinker no matter what. (This actually is not true of my wife who recognizes that our furniture can only fit a certain way in our condo – but you get the idea.

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  7. Oh my goodness……I’m green with envy. I would LOVE to go to New Zealand, and Australia! You would THINK I would get off my butt and go, because I have free plane rides for life!! Oh well…….that’s for another day. These guys made the Rangers pitcher look like a Cy Young award winner. I lost count how many strike outs the Astros had today……but there was WAY too many. No, Crane doesn’t *have* to spend money…….but wasn’t that the plan when he bought this club???
    I love MattyD. and Castro……..but something has to change BIG time for me to rally to keep them. Winter ball will probably be on the schedule for a bunch of these guys,
    they need to get some extra at bats. Keuchel is allowed a stinker every now and then……..he’s thrown more pitches this year than he ever has, and who knows he might be having a case of “dead arm”. He’s still the ace of this staff…….I’m going to the game Wed. afternoon. Crawford boxes, and I’ll bring my glove!!

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