Free Blog Weekend: Septembers, hits and other questions

It’s Friday, the weekend is ahead, so you know what that means: Free Blog Weekend. Let’s get started.

September Morn.

200 hits = Batting titles.

  • Someone mentioned this week that since Jose Altuve was only thesecondAstros’ player to reach 200 hits in a season, that explained whytheAstros had never had a batting champion. Perhaps, but I thought I’d look a little deeper to see how many similar teams had players with 200 hits. Here’s a short list of teams — with similar life spans as Houston — with the year of their inception and the number of players with 200-hit seasons:
    • Texas (1961) 7 players.
    • NY Mets (1962) 2.
    • Milwaukee (1969) 4.
    • Minnesota (1961) 4.
    • Kansas City (1969) 6.
    • Colorado (1993) 7.
  • That’s a short list. A little surprising to see some of the names that were on these lists of 200-hit seasons. Cecil Cooper had three 200-hit seasons. Others names on the list include Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla and even Juan Pierre.
  • For the Astros, part of this may be due to playing so many games in the Astrodome, where long fly balls were just long outs. However, you could argue that the dome vastness was also an advantage for spray or gap hitters.

Saving the farm.

  • Chad Qualls leads the team in saves this season with 17. With his injured hip and the fact the Astros may want to get a look at others, it’s quite possible he won’t reach 20. You have to go back to 2011 to find a pitcher who reached that mark (Mark Melancon, 20). Of course, when a team wins only 51 games, duh, it’s a little more challenging to save games, right? still, the Astros haven’t started the season with an established closer since Jose Valverde in 2009.

Firing line.

  • Just an observation. Five times since 2000, the Astros have fired a manager in mid-season. Jimy Williams, Phil Garner, Cecil Cooper, Brad Mills and Bo Porter were all fired in the summers.  Unless you count Porter, not since Larry Dierker “resigned” after the 2001 season has Houston had a “normal” between-season manager transition. Get this: Prior to this recent rash of in-season firings, you have to go back to 1982 to find the last such transaction. That was when Bob Lillis replaced the fired Bill Virdon, the longest-tenured manager in Astros’ history.

And, a list of questions to get your weekend started:

  • With the above-mentioned reference to closers, how important (rank it) is it for the Astros to bring in an experienced closer to start 2015?
  • As we’ve discussed before, it should be a busy winter for Luhnow. What is the single most important area Luhnow should upgrade (e.g. third base, shortstop, corner outfield, closer, etc.)?
  • Have you noticed a palpable difference in attitude, on-field decisions, etc. since Lawless took over as manager September 1? In your mind, after eight games, should he be a strong candidate for the permanent job?
  • This one calls for honor and honesty. Looking back at your Astros’ predictions and expectations before the 2014 season began, what’s the one you absolutely nailed and what’s the one you absolutely missed?


34 comments on “Free Blog Weekend: Septembers, hits and other questions

  1. Dan’s answers (nice write-up and starter questions, Chip)
    – I think we need to have a closer who saves at least an 80% clip if we want to take the next step to .500+. I hope there is such an animal available out there. Just remember – some times a good closer is an established one, sometimes it is a Brad Lidge or a Billy Wagner – a guy with a big arm who is moved from starter to the pen by their own organization.
    – The single most place needing an upgrade is the bullpen. (3B and SS are 1A and 1B)
    – I think the team may be a bit more relaxed under Lawless, but it was not like they were in some death spiral with Bo Porter – if I remember right they won the last two games under him. We have seen some things like two inning saves that were unique but might be driven by Qualls having a trick hip (How old is this guy?)
    – If I remember right – I said they would win 70 games – which was a good prediction. I think I also wrote a post about the 5th starter spot where I wanted Wojo over Keuchel. Oh well – we make predictions without consequences.


    • Dan, I agree that there are instances where a Lidge or Wagner in the wings. I seem to remember the Astros had a reasonable idea those guys would “fit” into the closer role, though. Still, even in the case of Wagner, here’s an interesting note: He never finished a game in the minors (started every game he pitched) but he never started a game in the majors. In other words, prior to coming into Houston, he was exclusively a starter. Thinking here about Foltylnewicz, of course, though he hasn’t gotten much work recently (only one appearance since August 29) in any capacity.


  2. The prediction I nailed was that the Astros should have had Springer in CF from day one and that the opening day roster was horrible.
    The prediction I missed was the starting pitchers. I totally underestimated Keuchel, Feldman and McHugh’s contributions this summer.
    I think it’s rather ironic that neither Crain, Albers or Qualls are available to pitch right now. Our bullpen continues to have it’s woes, but the younger guys seem to be carrying the day.
    Don’t you think it’s strange that a GM whose plan was to lose for years in order to build up it’s minor leagues and win cheap would fire two manager before his third year was finished? Especially since he was the one who decided they should be the managers in the first place.


    • I’m getting old and my memory fails me sometimes but I think Mills was a hold over from Drayton / Wade. I think the key here is that Porter was let go less for his results and more for not seeing eye to eye with the GM.


      • Yes, Dan, but to OP’s point (I think), Luhnow did make the decision to keep Mills in the midst of everyone else being dismissed. Now, I don’t think for a moment he was the long-term choice, but they wanted something “old” to go with all the “new”, if that makes sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Chip, that is my point. He incorrectly kept Mills and then had to remove him. Then he kept Brocail and then removed him. He hired porter over a lot of other guys and finally fired him because they didn’t get along from the start. It seems he’s good at hiring number crunchers but not very good at hiring baseball coaches.


    • OP I am going to go ahead and argue with you. Good managers often make poor hiring decisions, as do bad managers. The good ones, however, are quick to act when things go bad. Luhnow takes a lot of flak from people like JJO (should probably worry about being better at his job) who chirp from the sidelines. But it takes a lot of courage to fire the guy you just hired, or not sign the guy you just spent months evaluating because you recognize it is the best thing for the organization. Even if it is not the best thing for you personally.


      • And if he makes a bad decision in not firing a guy, then quickly fires the guy and makes another bad decision hiring the next guy and quickly fires him, he is probably a bad manager.
        And is JJO any better or worse than fans who continue to chirp from the sidelines in defense of a bad manager and use an unpopular sports writer as some kind of shield to defend their lousy GM?
        When Luhnow does something good I mention it. When he does something bad I mention it. That’s the difference between this chirper and other chirpers.


  3. I pretty much guaranteed we would hit 100 losses in 2014. I am happy to admit I was wrong on that one. Oh, I also thought Villar would hit enough to stay on the club all season.

    To balance it out, I did predict Carter would be better in 2014 than he was in 2013, but expected it would be the result of a fairly consistent output.


  4. I’m pretty sure I said the club would lose 100 plus games again, easily, but I don’t remember much of anything else from way back then. Should I? Chip, I’ve said this before. It would be entertaining for you to go back and post some of our best/worst picks for 2014. I can take it!

    It’s too short a sample to put Lawless on the manager to be list. And it seems that someone, maybe Crane, wants a manager with experience, whatever that means. I have not seen any changes on the field. Altuve still hits. Villar still throws the ball around. Castro is grouchy. Just a thought, but maybe Luhnow has pretty much taken game calling away from his catchers. I could see where Castro might not embrace that.

    Single most important thing would be to fix the bullpen, and that includes having a guy that will be an effective closer. Heck, if the rotation keeps getting better and we get a real pen, then we can win more games than we lose.


  5. Where I nailed it is when I said the Astros would not lose 100 games this year, but I missed it big time when I said they would be world champions in 2014. 🙂


  6. Bullpen – closer. Maybe. If there is one that will outperform. Need to see Folty first – is he gonna be a one plus pitch guy or multi plus pitch guy? All the great closers were guys with devastating out pitches – and the majority of them just used one other pitch – spending their time working on those two pitches. It’s why I always said Norris should have been auditioned for the role – with that devastating slider he would have been very effective IMO. In the end though, since the pitchers themselves can be woefully inconsistent statistically – it’s better to worry about finding a manager that will put them in their best positions to succeed.

    Upgrading – Luhnow sits in an inenviable position. 1B, SS, 3B, C, and most of the OF needs to produce better and/or more consistently. The problem is they are all young enough that any of them could J.D. Martinez you (interesting note, watching the Tigers game yesterday and the announcer’s exact words – “Martinez was picked up on waivers from the Astros – and that’s the kind of decisions that cost guys jobs.”) Hard decisions – we all know this team needs to improve offensively, yet there is something to like about every one of those players. What if you move past Castro and he looks more like the 2013 version? My picks – move on and find a SS and 3B. Leave Robbie Marisnick, Jason Castro, and Jon Singleton to their business, but tell them its short lease type business.

    Can’t watch most of the games – haven’t seen one Lawless has managed yet. Thanks Comcast.

    I was right about letting Carter walk out there and do his thing. Too much success and low(er) strike out rates in the minors to think a 35% K rate defined him. He had me worried I was on the wrong side of that fence until July. Hopefully he finds that level of consistency. I also said Villar and Dominguez were second rate hitters that didn’t provide enough of anything else to help you. I was wrong on Keuchel – and most of the rotation. I thought McHugh would turn in a Harrell type season, and that Keuchel and Obie were over their heads at this level. Can’t predict injuries but I thought the bullpen would be better. I would have to find it but I do remember in March stating that the Astros should give JD Martinez a shot at starting again in LF, only because they had lesser options. Don’t know if he would have had the same success here as he has had in Detroit, but imagine where we would be if he was here hitting .310 with 20 HRs from LF.


  7. Jimmy Parades walk of hit with the O’s. Good for him like most things in life right time , right place, pennant race. How many more games would we have won with JD, would that meant we keep Cosart, no Marisnick or Moran?


  8. All the talk about players under team control, I think it’s about high time to give a few of these guys a contract. I’d have no problem giving Keuchel, McHugh, Castro, and Springer a REAL contract. 2-3 years at $1.5 (or more) for two years with a third year team option. That would signal to these guys that they MIGHT have job security, that MIGHT have a positive outcome. I’m tired of penny pinching, and so are these guys.
    If you’re going to trade Matty D. you had better have a proven 3rd. baseman, or don’t trade him at all. Moran will probably be up by the start of 2016, and I’m ok
    with keeping Dominguez until Moran is ready. Who ya gonna call????????
    Like I said, Villar needs to be told his job is on the line, if he can’t pull his head outta his b*tt, he’s gone.
    I’m doing good, and had my first real meal last night, so I’m going to be ok…..thanks for your concern and good thoughts! Tanner is AWESOME! He can run now with no breathing problems, and his parents and the three boys are attending a camp this weekend for children with cancer. Tanner has two tumors in his brain, and this year is the first time that he will be a support person for another child with brain cancer. He’s quite an awesome child, but I’m kinda prejudice. You think??!!! Becky 🙂


  9. 2-0 so far against the first place angels. It’s crazy, but I’m actually more surprised when the team loses rather than wins these days.


  10. *ANOTHER* error by Villar, and it cost a run. Take this kid outta the game, and tell him he’s FIRED. Give me 30 min. alone with Villar in a room, and I guarantee he won’t make any more errors. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR


  11. The other day in my post I wrote
    “In the last 18 games, the Astros have had only one game where the starter had given up more than 3 runs or failed to go at least 5 IP.”
    That now is “In the last 21 games the Astros have only had tow games….”
    Ironically the starter both times was Oberholtzer, but boy he could sue for non-support for his fielders. Fowler / Villar botched a throw in on a sac fly that allowed Trout to score from 2nd. Fowler did not gun it back to Villar and Villar did not move to the right place where it would not short hop him. Looked like little league.
    Then Marisnick plain dropped a fly ball that he had to run a ways for but should have easily caught – just clanked off his glove. Looked like little league.
    (No offense to little leaguers please)..
    They officially called it 6 runs off Obie – 4 earned, but I think the bad fielding got to him a little bit – he was pitching really well before all this “stuff” happened.
    Oh well…


    • What does one do with Fowler man, all those look at me I’m cool catches, dropping balls, half assed throws back into the infield. I’m guessing that chatter here in Colorado about no one was sad Fowler was gone, might have some merit. He is decent at the plate, but what kind of message and mentoring is he sharing for The Springer’s of the world. Me I would have a serious heart to heart and put him in left the rest of the year, see how he reacts and if he pouts , ships his butt out! Heck next year no matter what he will only play 100-100 games just MHO!


      • There is a lot of truth there Kevin – it says a lot about their “fear” of his reaction that he has stayed in CF when not one but two other superior OFs played elsewhere (yes I know Marisnick made a bad error last night but he is allowed to booboo once in a while.


      • I’m pretty confident that our new manager will put his best centerfielder in centerfield, unless Fowler has something in his contract that keeps him out there. One thing for sure though. Springer does not need mentoring in the outfield. He’ll more than get the job done. One thing we seem to forget is that Springer made 3 errors in his entire minor league career over 272 games, 247 playing center.

        I also don’t understand why we’ve even discussed having Springer play right next year and Marisnick center. Springer was the highest rated outfielder and arm in the Astro system for three years. And throughout that time he was touted as our centerfielder of the future. There is no good reason to even consider giving the job to a kid with a .509 OPS in limited ML play.


    • i agree – springer in center for years and years.
      ok so i think i nailed it when i said to have patience with carter. he has exceeded his hr and rbi total of last year with 50 less at bats so far this year.
      i was wrong when i thought the bullpen would be much improved.


  12. Okay, so I guess I should ante up since I asked you to share your successful and unsuccessful predictions.

    Think one my “right on” predictions was the bottleneck that will occur in the next 5-6 years. Laid that out in this entry:

    Also predicted that players like Chad Qualls and Dexter Fowler would not be traded at the deadline and that the Astros would be looking to upgrade their roster at the break.

    What did I miss? Plenty, I’m sure, as many of us were hopeful if not optimistic in March. I had projected or predicted that Max Stassi might be at catcher, Michael Foltynewicz and Alex White/Asher Wojciechowski in the rotation and possibly an outside “acquisition” at shortstop…by the All Star break. Oops.


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