CHIPALATTA

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Starting over: Astros’ mid-week questionnaire


Some basic mid-week questions after a feel-good win in the first game for what’s-that-new-manager’s-name?

  1. Should we circle the September 1 date on the calendar with a big red marker as the day things changed for the better for the Astros?
  2. What are the odds that the Tom LawlessAdam Everett combination gets the Astros’ manager/bench coach job in 2015?
  3. After the discussion yesterday on the 40-man roster, which of the regulars is most likely to be wearing another uniform next season?
  4. Jose Altuve is being called “prolific” in some circles. Regarding his play this season, what has been your most pleasant surprise?
  5. Let’s assume for a moment the Astros go big this off-season. Looking at Tim Dierkes’ current free agent power rankings, which player would make the most difference in an Astros’ lineup?
  6. Using the rankings from the previous question, which of those players makes the most sense for the Astros? As in, would he play in Houston, are there connections and would the Astros make a good enough pitch?
  7. The Astros have 23 games remaining. Predict the record down the stretch.
  8. Of the many things Lawless could try to implement or change over September, what’s the #1 thing you’d like to see?
  9. Most likely to be in the Astros’ rotation on opening day 2015: Michael Foltynewicz, Mark Appel, Nick Tropeano or Alex White?
  10. Yes or no? Jeff Luhnow is on the hot seat? If yes, what’s the over/under date for his dismissal?
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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.

33 comments on “Starting over: Astros’ mid-week questionnaire

  1. Astro45
    September 3, 2014

    1. Not really. 2. 10% 3. Feldman, Fowler, Dominguez, Castro ( 5. Last 2 especially if Sandoval or Martin are signed) 4. The overall team improvement. 6. Sandoval and/or Martin. 7. Can’t be .500 so 12 – 11. 8. Let more prospects play – not just sit on the bench. 9. Folty if not traded in a package. 10. November 2015.

    Like

  2. Dan P
    September 3, 2014

    1. September 1 – Red letter day? I would like to circle May 23rd – the day the Astros were 17-32 as the turn around day. They have been 43-47 since that date…. Obviously September 1 could be a watershed day in the long run – if it is addition by subtracting Porter – but can’t say that right now.
    2. Chances of any interim manager / bench coach getting the long term job is usually low as the organizations want to flash their search and vetting processes and come up with “the best man for the job”. However, if Luhnow has been considering this move for a long time – perhaps Tom Lawless is more than a lame duck. I wouldn’t bet on it though.
    3. Regulars likely to be elsewhere (and I’m including the starting rotation and people who may be traded at next seasons deadline) – Feldman and Dominguez.
    Note – since I am never able to predict Luhnow’s trades – the names above are for entertainment purposes only.
    4. Pleasantly surprised improvement for Altuve – Last season he was successful on only 73% of steals, led the league in caught stealing (13) and seemed to be running into outs on the base paths consistently. This season he is successful a great 88% of the time, leads the league in steals (50) and seems to be a much smarter runner on the paths.
    5. Hey, I don’t think any big time FA is coming here – but if we can dream – I’ll dream of Scherezer among the pitchers and Victor Martinez and Melky Cabrera on the hitting side.
    6. Nothing jumps out at me.
    7. They have a tough schedule down the stretch but seem to be hitting their stride – I say 11-12 and they make the 70 win total.
    8. Lawless needs to sit Mr. Singleton for about 3 or 4 games to let the kid clear his head.
    9. Most likely to be in next season’s rotation – Tropeano????
    10. Luhnow is good through 2015- I think if there is any fall back on the big club – more bad FA signings, more botched draft work and high prospects failing in the minors his seat will be very hot this time next season.

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    • Steven
      September 3, 2014

      Ha Dan – I remember years ago on chron.com I suggested trading Pence straightup to the Dbacks for Scherzer. I was shot down by the masses. Too bad Ed Wade didn’t read the blog.

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      • daveb
        September 3, 2014

        I wish someone would keep track of our predictions and play them back from time to time, simply for entertainment purposes. Steven, re the Pence/Scherzer thing, I’m guilty as charged. But Scherzer would have been too expensive for this organization by now, so he would have been traded anyway. With the Pence trade, we’re already on our second wave of guys, Moran and Marisnick for Cosart, so it’s impossible to even guess at what at Pence/Scherzer trade would have done for us ultimately.

        One other thing about Scherzer, as good as he is, he might have been a .500 pitcher for this club. Detroit has given him a few more runs than he would have gotten here.

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    • Dan P
      September 3, 2014

      Yeah Steven – he has been an outstanding pitcher – but not for us.

      Like

  3. Devin_
    September 3, 2014

    1. No. We have no idea who the mgr will be, whether he will add value, be a puppet, or any number of other variables. Personally, I would enjoy a news conf where Luhnow announces Dierker as the new skip, indicates the lineups and shifts are pre-arranged each game, Dierker says he will go with his gut and ignore the output of Deep Thought and the Nerd Cave, and then Luhnow fires him on the spot.
    2. TCB people have nominated Morgan Ensberg as the new manager. That seems like a Luhnow move to me. I think Adam Everett sticks as a req for the new hire, but TL is back to the minors come Oct.
    3, 5, 6 – I don’t see us getting any of the top FA straight up. Kung Fun Panda would be a worthwhile target, and Russell Martin makes sense, but I think they get better offers to win elsewhere for high dollars. Beckett makes sense to counter the PR disaster that was 2014. I’m not sure he adds wins over a Feldman/Keuchel/McHugh/Olber/Folty starting five though, given declining health and ability.
    4. Altuve. Look, we knew he was good. He went and improved in areas I thought he couldn’t.
    7. I’m hoping for 10 wins this month. The schedule is daunting.
    8. Obviously, I’m excited about the introduction of the tandem system to our MLB club.
    9. Folty…
    10. August 1, 2015

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    • Billy Castillo
      September 3, 2014

      Don’t know how good Ensberg would be as a manager, but would have no interest in him as a hitting coach, as his philosophy at the plate seemed to take any and every pitch in the strike zone in crucial situations.

      Like

  4. kevin
    September 3, 2014

    Day 1 what a warm and fuzzy day it was, fun to see, Reading the dumped water on Lawless and Fields gave him the game ball, maybe things were a lot worse in that dugout towards Porter than I imagined. Have no Clue on FA’s besides bull pen help, is the $$$ right fro a rental at 3rd till Moran or Ruiz ready. Seems like catcher is the weakest position in the minors so is it worth trading Castro ??? Martin would be an Upgrade but he is not young.
    I think we go 13-10 the Lawless-Everett factor.
    I see Tropeano starting, and Folty being a closer unless he finds a change up in the off season.

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    • Tim
      September 3, 2014

      I agree on Nitro starting and Folty in the pen. Nitro has more pitches and better control. I think Sandoval might be a nice pickup for 2 years, but not sure if he is a Luhnow type as he doesn’t walk much.

      Like

    • Steven
      September 3, 2014

      I will be excited to see Tropeano’s first start. I think we have to temper the expectations on a guy that has his only plus pitch be a change up – but he does throw a decent fastball and has a curve.

      Lots of guys have lived off the plus change – immediately think of Johan Santana or James Shields – but both also had plus fastballs. A better comparison would be Jeremy Bonderman – but Nitro’s FB is slightly better. Look for him to land in another Santana land – Ervin. Pretty comparable pitcher – reaches into the low 90s consistently with the FB, hides his change up extremely well and throws a third loopy pitch to keep hitters off balance.

      If Folty wants to become a closer – and my guess is he doesn’t – but if the Astros want to use him in that role, he is going to need better command of both his FB and curve or slider – assuming he abandons one for the other. His change is also averaging 84 – he may need to drop that to around 78-79 while still hiding it, or abandon it also and become very effective at 2 pitches. Otherwise, he will just end up another hard throwing middle reliever. My vote would be to continue to try and develop better command on all 4 and leave him a starter.

      Like

  5. Dan P
    September 3, 2014

    I guess the question is – Re: Sandoval – if he is just a short term rental does it matter if he is not a Luhnow kind of guy? It should be -does he do a better job than what you are tossing out there.

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    • kevin
      September 3, 2014

      HMM had to think for a milli second Sandoval- Matty D HMM

      Like

    • daveb
      September 3, 2014

      Dan, Sandoval has a lifetime .852 OPS against righties. Dominguez, .651, including a .561 this year. And if Moran or Ruiz were to warrant a jump to the big club, help might still be needed at first, and Sandoval can play there too. All that said, I still think he gets far more money and years than this club is prepared to invest.

      Like

      • Dan P
        September 3, 2014

        Oh I know he is a better offensive player – like I said in the beginning – I don’t think any of these top FAs will come here and that is probably tied to being a competitive destination as much as money at this point.

        Like

  6. drbill14
    September 3, 2014

    Not sure we will circle 9/1 as a red letter day but I do think letting Porter go will have a beneficial result on the rest of the season much like when Mills was let go in 2012. The first rule of holes says that when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. The Porter/Luhnow rift was not going to mend so stop the bleeding and press on in a new direction. As for Lawless and Everett I would rank their chances of staying at <20%. I really don't know much about Lawless as an instructor which this team still needs but by all accounts Everett could make a positive impact on the infielders. Why not tie Vilar to him every day the rest of the season. If Vilar can't learn from a fielding wizard like Everett then he's irredeemable

    Not sure which of the regulars might be gone by the beginning of the season but I would not expect Feldman, Fowler or Dominguez to finish 2015 as Astros barring a huge turnaround in Dominguez' performance.

    Altuve has surprised me more with his defensive and baserunning improvements and he is clearly becoming the leader of the team with his performance and consistency.

    I hope Tropeano gets a good look as a starter this month. I was encouraged by him being placed on the 40 man now and can't think of any reason to do so unless they plan to put him on the mound.

    Sandoval would be a great pickup as would Martin but I fear they are pipe dreams.

    I want to see a lot of Stassi this month. While his offensive stats were not overwhelming he stated that he worked most on his catching. He never had a chance to get behind the plate last year before getting hurt. One other thing I found encouraging about him this year is that he stayed healthy. Maybe Castro will wake up now that Bo is gone but his bad body language up to this point makes me hope he lands elsewhere soon.

    Like

  7. Steven
    September 3, 2014

    1. No – baseball is about the long run, I don’t give much to any one single move. It’s the slow climb, using an over arching strategy, that is critical. The only day I would circle is the day Luhnow was hired, but we have yet to see if we are using a red or green marker for that day yet.

    2. I don’t really care, unless they are going to let Everett work with Villar, but they may need Bagwell to work with Villar also lol. TBH, I don’t see how bloggers can see enough of the bench coaches to judge if they are good moves or not.

    3. Moves are inevitable. Roster and lineup turnover is common, so there is no way we will be immune. My guess is its possible that Carter, Castro, and Dominguez may get some traction, as well as possibly Fowler. I would think they Astros will be looking for a temporary third sacker that can be a little more consistent even if unspectacular, and a SS that can give them a steady 400 plate appearances and play decent defense. Given that two of the Astros best prospects play those two positions, I wouldn’t expect a Sandoval/Ramirez type move.

    4. I knew he would improve – but I didn’t know that it would be this type of step. The fact that he found his consistency, learned to pace himself over 6 months, and didn’t fade after the good start – it bodes well for this guy possibly becoming the premier second baseman in the AL – or at least giving some water cooler arguments with Cano.

    5. No doubt Scherzer. I don’t expect the Astros to go big, they aren’t one piece away, and Scherzer is a lot of your resources into one guy – which puts you one injury away from going belly up on a season. He is likely to get the largest pitcher contract ever. Got to love his durability though – 30 or more starts for what will be a 6th straight year – yet he still hasn’t logged a terrible amount of innings – and he is at just over 20000 pitches. Shields has been consistent, but is nearing 30k and is a little older. Lester isn’t bad either. Couldn’t go wrong, at least initially, with any of the three. There aren’t any real big options on the offensive side, so someone will probably get over paid – I’m guessing either Ramirez or Sandoval.

    6. Back to reality – we aren’t attracting any of them. Predictions – Lester back to Sox, Scherzer – Yankees. Shields is the wildcard, but I’ll say the Tigers make a run as a cheaper replacement for Scherzer.

    7. 10-13.

    8. Play the kids – get them as many plate appearances as possible. Don’t fall in love with the lefty/righty matchup, be smart with it. Use the bullpen better, get those established roles, give them some expectation as a pen where everyone fits and when they are most likely to be used. Establish good routines for the position players, let them know when they will be taking infield, when they will be doing bunting drills, etc, and treat these things like game time scenarios, hold them accountable.

    9. Think we will see Appel next year, but not opening rotation. If Luhnow starts feeling the heat about a failed number 1 pick pitching poorly at AAA he may get crammed down our throats before he is ready. I think Nitro will continue to do what he has done for years now, pitch well and impress, and get his shot. Folty won’t get a shot until he gets better at throwing strikes regardless of how hard he throws. Never been a fan of White.

    10. I’m not sure if there is a such thing as a non hot seat in MLB. The Astros are on pace to lose 90 games or more next year, yea I think he will be gone sometime in August or September – time to give the new GM a chance to evaluate the product, learn the players before the inevitable offseason turnover.

    Like

  8. rj
    September 3, 2014

    carter hits # 34. remember when the astrodome scoreboard would go off after a homer?

    Like

  9. Flash
    September 3, 2014

    Well if had been really good this year I would ask for Scherzer, Lester, and Panda. But, if we are talking about FAs that we have a reasonable chance to sign, I’d go with JJ Hardy, Melky Cabrera, and the Panda (I’d over pay him for three years. A short enough time for him to get a second crack at free agency.) Two of those three would go a long way towards making the team better. I’d stay away from non-BP arms. They just do not pay off.

    Like

    • Flash
      September 3, 2014

      Fowler – most likely to be traded this offseason.

      Like

      • daveb
        September 4, 2014

        I thought Fowler would be gone, or going. But things are a bit different now. Luhnow really needs to put a better club on the field next year, for his own sake. And presently, Fowler is not holding anyone up from a job.

        Like

      • Flash
        September 4, 2014

        Good point. I’d like to see a FA-Fowler-Springer outfield next year with Grossman/Marisnick as 4th and 5th outfielders.

        Like

  10. Billy Castillo
    September 3, 2014

    Article on Villar at the Chron, where he heavily implies it wasnt easy for him playing under Porter and it was hurting his confidence.

    Like

    • Flash
      September 3, 2014

      Those are the kinds of words you want to hear about your manager. We don’t get to see any of the most important job of the manager. I don’t ever remember anyone speaking of Porter that way.

      Like

    • Tim
      September 3, 2014

      I was not a fan of Porter, but Villar was given ample chance to play and he just didn’t get it done. Carter struggled mightily for the 1st half of the season and I never heard him whine. Villar is not getting any sympathy from this Astros fan.

      Like

      • Billy Castillo
        September 3, 2014

        Same here. Another dumb error today with a manager he’s more comfortable with, so , yeah,

        Like

    • daveb
      September 4, 2014

      That comment damages Villars credibility further.

      Like

  11. Flash
    September 3, 2014

    Luhnow’s dismissal? I’ll say October 2. I’m just not saying what year.

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  12. kevin
    September 3, 2014

    Villar another bone head error and Singleton picked of second really. I know hes young yada yada , I’m pulling for Conrad Gregor or AJ Reed to jump up !

    Like

  13. Billy Castillo
    September 3, 2014

    Carter determined as hell to get to 40 homers.

    Like

  14. BrianT
    September 3, 2014

    Breaking out the brooms. I don’t know who to call the player of the game. It’s either Carter or McHugh. It’s certainly not Villar. Wasn’t he supposed to work on that in OKC? I guess what happens in OKC stays in OKC.

    Like

    • Billy Castillo
      September 3, 2014

      McHugh has been so good this year, and it looks like he’s starting to go deeper into games too. I hope he’s not a one year mirage like Lucas Harrell.

      Amazing how Carter does with Fowler right before him and Castro right after…

      Like

      • rj
        September 4, 2014

        yeah billy if carter had a strong lineup around him he would really be something. and he’d be heading to more than 40 homers.

        Like

  15. Steeeve
    September 4, 2014

    Would love to see the Astros go way big for 2015. Max Scherzer would legitimize the team the way Pudge Rodriguez did for the laughable Detroit Tigers in 2003. Time to start putting real pieces in place for the 2017 World Champions.

    Like

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