CHIPALATTA

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MMQB: Luhnow’s guys, predictions and opinions


So maybe it’s just this simple: Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow want their guys in the key positions. That means players, coaches, managers and the stat geeks alike.

If you joined the organization before Luhnow, the key for you is adaptability. Can you hang with the plan, the numbers and the philosophy?

Clearly, players like Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, Marwin Gonzalez and perhaps even Brett Oberholtzer and George Springer have made the transition. Obviously, Lucas Harrell, Jarred Cosart and perhaps Jordan Lyles and J.D. Martinez did not.

Apparently, Corpus Christi manager Keith Bodie didn’t either. The jury is still out on Oklahoma City manager Tony DeFrancesco, shortstop Jonathan Villar, catcher Jason Castro and even prospect Michael Foltynewicz. And how much more patience will Luhnow have with Domingo Santana and Jon Singleton, both acquired in trades prior to his arrival.

What is very clear is that Luhnow has specific expectations, both from his managers, coaching staff and players up and down the organization. That he would want his own team in place isn’t novel to a major business, it happens all the time. That he would want that team on the same page isn’t unusual — or unreasonable — either.

But with such a unique plan by past baseball standards, finding key people willing to depart from norms may be a more difficult task than usual.

Nearly 30 of the 44 players currently on the 40-man roster (including the 60-day DL guys) were acquired after Luhnow became general manager in December 2011. Last year at this time, the number was about half. By mid-summer 2015, those remaining from the pre-Luhnow days will be part of the core of the future.

No questions to start this week. Only opinions and observations for you to agree/disagree or expound upon.

  1. Luhnow has every right to have his own guys in the dugout, on the field and in the office. If my butt was on the line, you can bet your best cigar every key role would be filled with people I trusted and/or knew would toe the company line and not only follow, but champion, the plan.
  2. Luhnow says he’s satisfied with his major league coaches. That means the next manager may have to roll with John Mallee and Brent Strom, though it’s possible someone like third base coach Pat Listach may be moving on. Maybe to manage OKC or Corpus Christi?
  3. Clock is ticking on pre-Luhnow players Singleton, Villar and Jason Castro. No hit/high K rate/inconsistent defense will be their undoing. Will they survive the winter?
  4. Dallas Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett won’t last the season (snuck that one in there).
  5. This will be the busiest off-season for Luhnow since joining the Astros. Using a similar vein as the National Hurricane annual predictions, I’ll predict two named storms (major trades), two depressions (minor trades) and five other acquisitions, including free agents, waiver wire pickups and Rule 5 draft. NRIs not included.
  6. All of the leading candidates for the Astros’ managerial position would be first-time MLB managers. Except for Tom Lawless and Tim Bogar who are both interim managers today, all others mentioned thus far have never managed at the MLB level. Question: Can/should the Astros go with another inexperienced manager?
  7. Prediction: Neither Singleton nor Dominguez will be at their respective corners for the Astros on opening day 2015.

 

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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.

35 comments on “MMQB: Luhnow’s guys, predictions and opinions

  1. Flash
    September 8, 2014

    To my knowledge Luhnow hasn’t commented on who he is considering, other than the standard, “Not ruling anything out.” All of the candidates have been speculation on our part. It is difficult to diagnose who will be actual candidates, because you just don’t know who is sabre-savvy, even those that come out of that type of organization.

    Agree on MattyD, disagree on Singleton. I’m going to have to disagree with your assertion that the Lee trade is a bust. While MattyD has indeed provided negative value, Luhnow traded away negative value to get him, but received a great deal of potential in return. He hasn’t blocked anyone from being called up, and we didn’t pass on any FAs as a result of MD being there. A deal that I’d you would (and I bet you would) do again cannot be considered a bust.

    Singleton has needed an adjustment period at each level. Unless there is some flaw deep within the statistics (I’d expect they’d have seen it in the minors) I’d expect him to be there opening day. Now if Philly really wants there guy back with that contract, and wants to give up Cole Hamels, well…

    I’m afraid Fowler will leave this off season, but I’d prefer Grossman and JFSF be 4th and 5th OFs next year with a FA (Cabrera) in LF. Make a qualifying offer to Fowler after the season, and likely get a draft pick for him.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      September 8, 2014

      Flash, on Fowler, he’s still under team control, which means he’s arb-eligible this year. No qualifying offer, either offer arbitration or not.

      Yes, Singleton did need adjustment at every level. However, you can argue he never fully adjusted to AAA. Over 533 AAA PAs, he hit .241 with 141 Ks. While he did have a .366 OBP, his .800 OPS at AAA is not what a team will look for from its first baseman long-term.

      The fact the Astros continue to look for first baseman may also be a clue to their off season plans.

      As for the candidates for manager, Dave Martinez, Dave Clark and Mike Maddux have expressed interest, so that part is not speculation.

      Like

      • Flash
        September 8, 2014

        Chip, I meant keep him for next year, then make the QO.

        While those guy will likely get consideration, Luhnow hasn’t told us that they are on his list this time around. I have also expressed an interest in the job. Luhnow has yet to rule me out.

        Like

      • Billy Castillo
        September 8, 2014

        Oh God, NOT Dave Clark

        Like

  2. Dan P
    September 8, 2014

    OK – where do I sit with Chip’s agree/ disagree
    1. Yes, I would want key people in key spots for me throughout the organization. However ….
    a. I would start to wonder if my plan was tenable if I had problems finding enough Nazi youth (OK that is a bit extreme) to follow my plan down to the letter
    b. For people working for me – I don’t mind some dissenting opinion at times because how will I ever grow if I have all yes-folks working for me. There has to be certain absolutes that people are not allowed to violate, but there have to be areas where there are guidelines, not absolute rules reigning.
    2. If I were Luhnow I would make retaining Brent Strom a must for hiring a new manager. The rest I am not so solid on one way or the other.
    3. We saw Luhnow cut ties with Cosart (pre-Luhnow) pretty quick. I would think Villar has to be on the cusp of gone. Castro may be protected by – who else is there. Singleton is very interesting especially at his age. I would think he would wait on trading him until he at least lifts his value some.
    4. Garrett will be replaced by superior head football coach – Jerry Jones.
    5. I’m betting you will be as accurate in your predictions as the weather service is every year in predicting the real storms – haha
    6. I wish the Astros would go for an experienced manager – but I think only an inexperienced one will come and be a Luhnow techno-puppet.
    7. I think Singleton will be at 1B to start the season and likely not make it thru the year. I think Dominguez is in line to be someplace else.

    Like

  3. Devin_
    September 8, 2014

    5. If Altuve is traded, we riot.
    6. I have no qualms about a rookie manager. They need experience in the postseason…and hopefully 162 games is enough of a start should we miraculously make it to Oct next year.
    7. I think this depends on the creativity of the trades this winter. No one in system is ready to displace them.

    Like

  4. 1oldpro
    September 8, 2014

    Chip, can I go off course for a minute. This morning I read an article on another blog site that vehemently defended the firing of Keith Bodie. I thought that article was very out of place, as I had never seen one like it before on that blog. It got me thinking about the CC situation and so I went to the Hooks roster site on MILB and immediately noticed Doug Brocail listed as ONE of the pitching coaches. Then I noticed Brady Rodgers was missing from the roster, so I went to his MILB page and he is now listed as “Temporary inactive” on his player page.
    So I went back to the article and asked the writer if they had any info on Rodgers in the comments section. Twice I asked, twice my comment posted, and twice my question was deleted within ten minutes. I have commented on that blog site for years and always have been treated well.
    Something is definitely going on in CC.

    Liked by 1 person

    • daveb
      September 8, 2014

      oldpro, why not mention the name of the other blog? I’d like to read what they are up to. If it’s the Crawfish Boxes, I can see your stuff getting pulled. It’s a very Luhnow friendly site.

      Like

      • 1oldpro
        September 8, 2014

        My stuff has been pulled from TCB before, but never from WTHB. And my question was innocent and well worded. Apparently, it’s the answer to my question that is not ready to be discussed.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Dan P
      September 8, 2014

      I saw a bit of a rant on whattheheckbobby… I’m guessing that is it.

      Like

  5. kevin
    September 8, 2014

    – I’m thinking Lunhole will have a hard time finding an experienced Mgr that will gel with him, but that’s OK, I get tired of seeing re- treads in all sports
    – Matty D see u
    – If Casto wasn’t a catcher see u- we might be stuck there for part of 2015
    – Villar needs to join a circus
    – I’m not a Singleton guy as I’m sure you all know, but man he has like zero value right now. watching him a lot his swing is long, loopy with a lot of holes.
    – We need a proven big bat at 2 positions, 1b, 3rd, or LF
    – Great to see 4 teams with a worse record than us !
    – I’m thinking with Martinez being at TB ( sort of same system) and being Bi Lingual could be our guy

    Like

  6. daveb
    September 8, 2014

    I never thought it was a healthy business practice to hire a bunch of followers. I liked having people around me that would bring new ideas to the table and indeed, feel free to question me if they thought I was missing something. At some point, I wonder if this dysfunctional organization is damaged by the “toe the company line” mentality? I want free thinkers. I want a whole bunch of different personalities. And I want a GM that can meld that stew into a finished dish.

    If the next manager is required to use existing coaches, that will reduce the field of guys willing to take the job. And didn’t Luhnow, when Bo got fired, say that he might well be looking for an experienced guy this time? Most established managers want to bring their own guys in.

    I would not mind if Singleton went elsewhere, but didn’t our GM just sign him to a long term deal? Isn’t Singleton part of the plan? I think it might be too early to give up on the guy, but I also think, and I’ll try to say this politely, that Singleton might be damaged goods. But again, why did Luhnow, our man with the plan, sign Singleton to a significant contract when he has so much in the way of advanced metrics. Did the plan fail him on this one?

    I think Villar does not survive. I think Castro does. We don’t have another option at this point. Was Stassi brought up to help out in the pen? I think it’s nice that we’re not going to lose 100 games, but I’d rather see the kid get some exposure. And I would have liked to have seen how Foltynewicz handled one of those late inning situations against Oakland. We have not seen him since August 29th. Is he hurt? Shutdown?

    Flash, neither Grossman nor Jake have produced enough offense to be the fourth and fifth outfielders. But I fear they might end up being three and four. I’d sure like to see Fowler stay, this time in left, and I’d like to see another bat added to play right. Springer should be back where he belongs in center.

    Like

    • Chip Bailey
      September 8, 2014

      daveb, let me rephrase my opinion. I’m not suggesting that everyone agree on everything, but there is a time for your disagreement and discussion, then there is a time to move forward. I’m in 100% agreement that every manager, every coach, even players to a degree, should have the opportunity to discuss, even challenge (in the right way) the plan or philosophy. That’s the way a person — and organization — grows. But ultimately, once you’ve aired your concerns, differences, challenges, etc. it’s time to get on with the game plan. If you can’t “sign on”, then dust off the resume and move on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • daveb
        September 8, 2014

        Yes, Chip, as long as everyone is allowed to air their concerns, differences, challenges, etc……without being labeled as one with philosophical differences, that can be a healthy environment. But I have to wonder about how things are actually running inside of this organization, under this particular leadership. At this point, based on all we’ve seen, I think it’s a fair to question.

        Like

    • Flash
      September 8, 2014

      Hmmm, well I’d like to know what your standard is for being a fourth OFer. Grossman, even with his horrible start ranks according to wRC+in a group that includes Ryan Ludwick, Alex Rios, and Leonys Martin. Consider his second half, and I think any team that values OBP is happy to have him coming off of the bench. If you are one to value power, then RG probably isn’t your guy. But you’d also have to dislike Austin Jackson.

      JFSF doesn’t have track record to judge, but he offers elite defense, which is enough to keep him as a fifth OFer while his other skills can be evaluated.

      Like

      • daveb
        September 8, 2014

        Flash, what does Ryan Ludwick have to do with this? He’s over the hill. If you look at Grossman’s stats, he had a really good July. But every other month has been a dog. Last year, he was so bad early that there was no choice but to send him down. He’s had three good months in two years. And besides his woefully inconsistent offensive numbers, he’s simply not a good outfielder. Alex Presley came in to play D for him on Saturday.

        And no doubt, Marisnick is an elite defensive outfielder, maybe the best in the organization. But I’d argue that you can’t waste one of your 25 roster slots on a defensive replacement for the outfield. I think his other skills have to be evaluated somewhere else other than a major league roster. We’ve accepted some pretty bad offensive stats from a lot of different positions for too long. If we want to win 80 or 90 games anytime soon, we need more production.

        Like

      • Steven
        September 8, 2014

        All that said – Grossman is a woefully bad defensive outfielder. The stats are skewed to make bad outfielders look average in calculation – and he is still posting awful UZR’s. Monumentally awful. That is where Marisnick (and Presley like him) can make their impact – close games, 6-7th inning replacements, to play defense. Until we sign Robbie Marisnick we are stuck managing matchups and situations – hey, they can’t all be superstars.

        Like

      • Dan P
        September 8, 2014

        daveb – not to defend Grossman – who is not a good OF (though he does make good plays occasionally) – but Saturday they put Presley in for Grossman and on the last play of the game – Presley’s throw to the plate hits the ground around the short stop position and bounces and rolls the rest of the way in like one of those youtube videos of bad ceremonial first pitches.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Flash
        September 8, 2014

        Okay dave, maybe Ryan Ludwick is over the hill. I’ll forward that on to the Reds who have him starting in the OF. My point is that Grossman makes a fine 4th outfielder, he compares to many starters in the league. I guess you’ll settle for nothing less than say, Brett Gardner as your 4th guy.

        As Steven pointed out Grossman is a year in the ML. Since last year he has increased his walk rate, increased his contact rate, and decreased his out of zone swing rate while maintaining his SO rate, all logical progressions for a young player. His BABIP is 40 points below his (brief) career average. An increase in his line drive rate at the expense of fly balls will help that.

        When you say, “If you look at Grossman’s stats…” I guess you mean batting average. He is not the player we saw in July, but he is also not the player we saw in the first half.

        I’ll agree defensively, he is awful.

        Like

      • daveb
        September 8, 2014

        Dan, that was my point. If Presley, a mediocre fielder in his own right, was considered a late inning upgrade over Grossman in left, then the club must not feel real good about Grossman the outfielder.

        Like

      • daveb
        September 8, 2014

        Flash, I promise, I look a bit beyond the batting average. And I look at month by month stats too. He’s really erratic. Any guy that wants a job in the league has to get out of the gate better for one thing. Like I said, he had a very good July, but that’s it. And as a terrible outfielder (we can all agree on that) with a .646 OPS, well, that just does not meet my expectations. You think our pitchers want him out there?

        Like

      • Flash
        September 8, 2014

        Ummmm yes, if it is the eighth inning and we are down by two with Carter due up third, I want, in this order, Altuve, Fowler, Grossman, everybody else.

        Like

    • Steven
      September 8, 2014

      The skinny on Grossman is that he is just now completing “season 1,” in that he has completed 148 games and 627 plate appearances. The result is obviously less than stellar – .238/.329/.343 with an OPS of .645. His WAR to date is an exact goose egg.

      You have to be enthused though when a guy shows up and in his first major league seasons worth of play he is walking 11% of the time. He has enough talent to tell a ball from a strike, now he needs to speed up and do something about it a little bit more often. His numbers are very telling of a young player making adjustments.

      Now I know the last statement could also be said about the comparitively aged Marisnick – about a year younger – but Marisnick has shown no desire at any level past A ball to draw a walk. Even if he hits .280 his OBP is lower than Grossman’s by 30 points – he has little business being a starting outfielder on a team that wants to contend IF he isn’t going to have some power – and there is little indication that will happen – regardless of how good his defense is.

      Look at it just from a statistical standpoint – it will take him 20-25 games on average to make ONE play that Grossman does not. You can argue that he is better than that with the naked eye – but UZR stats, range factors, they all tell us the same thing – you can’t discount defense – but you can’t take defense over MARKEDLY improved offense, i.e. two players with similar power, but one gets on base much more. In that 25 games that Marisnick made that outstanding, rangy catch that Grossman didn’t, maybe saving us runs (or maybe not, maybe its the bottom of the 7th with two outs and noone on in a blowout), Grossman is on base 5-6 more times. That’s significant.

      The Astros would be silly to let Fowler walk. At the same token, they have to address depth given Fowler’s durability. Grossman and Marisnick are both in the plans I am sure – and Santana should get significant at bats too. I think all five outfielders will see lots of opportunity.

      That said, I am going to steal a line from one of my favorite Mad Dog radio hosts – you can mark the tape – Marisnick will never hit well enough to keep a starting job in the bigs. Bookmark it, come back to it, and if I am wrong I will eat crow and never make another player prediction ever again – defense or no – you gotta hit to play in the bigs.

      Like

      • Flash
        September 8, 2014

        Unfortunately defensive metric available to commenters on blogs have little meanings until a player compiles at least three full years of data. The data compiled by my eyeballs tell me that he is in a dead heat with Springer as the best centerfielder we have.

        Like

  7. Becky
    September 8, 2014

    The hot corner is one of the biggest NEEDS this winter, along with a good defensive short stop. Villar, Matty D. will be playing somewhere else next year. I hope.
    The best move for Singelton is to go to winter ball, if Luhnow can get him hooked on to a team down there. I think the kid will get more time to get it together. Presley, and Grossman probably aren’t in the future next year, but Marisnick should be.
    Think Luhnow will try to get Santana to play winter ball as well? I think he would benefit from more seasoning, but that’s my opinion only. Stassi is a question mark here……..when do we see how he can handle himself behind the plate?? I need to see more of him, before I give up on Castro. Speaking of Mr. Castro……what’s going on with him? He looks bored, and uninterested at the plate. Maybe he WANTS to get traded, or maybe he wants a real contract from this organization. I have no opinion on any of the potential manager searches, except the bench coach for the Ray’s. If Martinez saw how Madden handled the Ray’s, and could bring that experience with him, he would be my pick. Letting Strom go would be a mistake, the guy has done great things for our young pitching staff.

    Like

  8. Tim
    September 8, 2014

    I will say this about ‘The Plan’…We have gone 50 years of using the conventional method of scouting, player development, etal and it has gotten us 0 (zero) World Series titles. Thus, I am glad we are trying something different and being cutting edge. I don’t know if it will work, but I think it has potential as many teams are moving to the analytical route. Word has it that many baseball people want us to fail because of our new age methodology and Luhnow is not well-liked by those in baseball. Well, I would rather be hated and have a World Series title than be the ‘lovable losers’ (although the Cubs are following the analytical approach also) forever. That is why I am drinking the Kool-Aid.

    Like

  9. Steven
    September 8, 2014

    1 – Absolutely.

    2 – All bosses give their employees the thumbs up in the media, and almost always right before they axe them. The only way to make sure you are safe is just win – and sometimes even that isn’t enough. Jim Harbaugh is likely to be coaching in Miami this time next year.

    3 – Singleton probably survives given the track record of improving after awful starts at just about every level. I think Singleton is as dangerous a hitter as any player in the major leagues in any given at bat – the challenge for him is I don’t think he knew that playing 162 games against the best competition in the world was actually this hard. I am not convinced he will ever be a superstar as the potential promises – but he should be better next year. How much better and will it be enough to save his job – only time will tell. Castro has been awful most of the time – but he hit well last year and the options behind him are worse – so I think he will be around another year at least before he plays himself out. Villar is probably at AAA next year.

    4 – If the Cowboys are 3-5 at midseason, he will become a week to week watch. Nothing worse than a lame duck NFL coach. Seems like Rex Ryan has been week to week for 2+ years now though, so you never know.

    5 – Yea, turbulent offseason incoming. Altuve and Springer maybe the only safe bets. You could get surprised on Dominguez, Singleton, Robbie Marisnick, etc, simply because which ones get replaced may not be about how bad they have been, but rather the availability of better replacements.

    6 – My guess is they will be stuck going with another inexperienced manager – good luck getting one that can actually change the organization. Showalter changed the Orioles. LaRussa changed both the As and the Cards. It takes that kind of guy to change things – and you aren’t convincing that kind of guy to come here. Your next best bet is to find what you hope will be the NEXT guy that noone else knows about – so yea, I’m guessing they go no name.

    7 – As noted above, prediction is only true if availability of a replacement is there. Replacing Singleton with an Overbay clone probably isn’t significant enough given Singleton’s potential – and you don’t have to like Dominguez poor walk rate, low average day in and day out bad hitting – but he has some power and good defensive potential even if he is caught asleep ever so often. If you are going to replace either, it will cost a lot for what might end up being little to no improvement. Maybe Pedro Feliz is available?

    Like

    • Becky
      September 8, 2014

      Steven………LaRussa and Luhnow never got along, as a matter of fact Luhnow wasn’t liked by most of the Cards organization.

      Like

    • kevin
      September 8, 2014

      You all have to be watching a different Singleton than I do every night. He has power and more holes in His swing than 10 lbs of Swiss Cheese. ( needs to re-invent his swing). Villar great athlete and a lifer AAA guy along with Matty D

      Like

  10. Becky
    September 8, 2014

    Thought this was interesting…….Barry Bonds told Singelton to take that “S” for superman off, and replace it with a “P” for practice, and practice, and practice.
    He told him to pay attention to how the pitchers are pitching to him, and make adjustments. Like him or not Bonds can give some good advice.

    Like

  11. kevin
    September 8, 2014

    Bonds one of the top 15 players I have seen play the game. Sure wish he had stayed clean! He didn’t need the juice.

    Like

  12. Astro45
    September 8, 2014

    Don’t look now, but Victor Martinez is HOT. Come on Jose.

    Like

  13. Nance (@Bbfanlady)
    September 8, 2014

    1)Luhnow will pick a manager who is satisfied with the coaches Luhnow picks.
    2)Refer to 1) above
    3)I think JL is purging the system of all players he didn’t draft or trade for unless the computer says they fit his equation. May take him another year to get there.
    4) No comment.
    5) Yes – Busy but will be trades. Will be too difficult/expensive to get high profile FA.
    6) Yes – will be first time manager that Nolan, Reid, and Biggio approve of.
    7) Singleton may have a visit to AAA for a while. I am hoping Matty D is just having a sophomore slump. I love his glove. Or maybe all the losing has gotten to him. That’s what I think has happened to Castro.

    Like

  14. Becky
    September 8, 2014

    When was the last time we saw Peacock in a pitchers dual?? I guess he feels like he can finally breath, now that he doesn’t have Porter giving him the stink eye in the dug out!
    Nance I think we all love Matty D.’s glove, but the kid has got to connect with the ball. The off season will be interesting to see who stays, and who goes…..but I think you hit on something about guys who were not “Luhnow’s guys”.

    Like

  15. VeronicaFereday
    September 9, 2014

    There are 2 people that he probably favors for the coaching position, but who knows he could change his mind. Second, he is the most laid back cool understanding boss! He is a great boss and very forgiving boss. Porter was such a difficult drama king who had fits behind the scenes. I was glad to see him go. Like I said BYE FELICIA. I don’t know about having the coaching candidates open to the public. Jeff is doing to avoid all the false tabloids stories but it’s not something he really wants to do. So I figured don’t do it. He shouldn’t do it. Some things are meant to be behind closed doors.

    Like

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