Free Blog Weekend: Hopes, streaks, offers and questions


It’s a tradition here: Free Blog Weekend!

Qualifying offers.

  • There is a myriad of players who will receive qualifying offers this year under the CBA.  Players such as Nelson Cruz, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, Max Scherzer, Hanley Ramirez will be extended or get the estimated $15 million QO. With some appealing possibilities and the likelihood the Astros will increase their estimated $50 million 2014 payroll, it doesn’t seem likely Jeff Luhnow will wade into that territory this off-season. Yes, the top 11 picks are protected, meaning both the #2 pick and the next one (probably sixth-to-eighth ultimately) are untouchable. Signing a player who receives a QO (then declines) would require the Astros to give up the 31st pick recently obtained in the Jarred Cosart trade. With the Luhnow Plan in place, that doesn’t seem plausible.
  • Would you consider signing one of those big salary players and giving up the #31 pick?

What have you done for me lately?

  • Folks, streaks are inevitable in baseball, especially over the long haul of a 162-game season.SeveralAstros are notoblivioustothisstreakiness. Consider:
    • After threatening to pass the 40 HR/100 RBI threshold in recent weeks, Chris Carter doesn’t have a single HR or RBI since September 5. Moreover, he’s hitting only .256 in that time frame, though he has maintained his OBP (.408). Talk about an about-face.
    • Meanwhile, how ’bout that Scott Feldman? He’s streaking the other way, turning in six consecutive quality starts and a 2.00 ERA over the last six games. He has only two wins in that period but he’s joined Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh to solidify the rotation down the stretch.
    • You have to go back to the summer of 2010 to find back-to-back .500+ months for the Astros. Following a 15-14 August, the Astros are 8-7 and, despite all the warts, the team is playing fairly well, though not consistently. Obviously, the rotation is carrying the team a long way and providing opportunities for those wins.
    • Houston is 10-6 in its last 16 games, 16-12 in its last 28 and 27-29 since the All Star break.  Tom Lawless’ club is on pace to finish 71-91.

The greatest hope!

  • Dan wrote eloquently about the greatest fears for 2015. On the flip side, fans, management and even players must have hope! My greatest hope is that your greatest fears aren’t realized! 🙂 Seriously, the greatest hope is that the Luhnow Plan begins to take firm root and flourish. I still believe in the overall plan to build from the minors, in the draft and with key acquisitions. My hope is that the budget pushes upward toward $70-$75 million and that Luhnow keeps the key cogs (Jose Altuve, McHugh, Keuchel, George Springer and, yes, perhaps even Dexter Fowler, Michael Foltynewicz and others) to build around as the nucleus of the future.
  • What’s your greatest hope?

And a few questions for you to start the weekend.

  • Can the Astros catch the White Sox and the Cubs in the standings?
  • Picking up on the “hope” theme above, what are your three greatest hopes for 2015?
  • As of today, the Astros have a 16-game improvement over 2014. That’s second…in the American League! Which team has a better improvement?
  • The Astros named their minor league players of the year recently. Which Astros would you name winners of: MVP, Pitcher of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Inspiration of the Year? Any other awards you’d like to dole out?
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96 comments on “Free Blog Weekend: Hopes, streaks, offers and questions

  1. I’ve got some good news today. In 2014, Astro pinch hitters have provided us with a .119 BA, .200 OBP, .134 SLG and a grand .334 OPS. We’ve had eight singles and one double, with six runs batted in. These stats are far and away the worst figures in MLB in all four categories noted. Heck, the next worse team in OPS has posted a .490. We are truly terrible coming off the bench as hitters. We might be the worst in ML history, but I don’t know where to find those stats.

    So back to the good news. If we don’t use a pinch hitter, not even once, in 2015, we’ll improve. I don’t think it’s possible to duplicate those stats as long as we don’t pinch hit. So that’s my lesson in non-advanced metrics for the weekend. Steven?

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    • Haha. How true.

      Managers issue though. His job is to put the right people in the right situation to succeed. To me the best metrics of a manager is pinch hitters and bullpens. His job is to take the non George Springers of the world, the guys that aren’t good enough to earn those starting positions, and figure out how to make them successful by putting them in the best matchups. Maybe Porter is where he should be? Both pinch hitting and bullpens are bad, but wow I didnt know the PH was that bad.

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  2. The Astros have a good chance to catch the Cubs and White Sox, because their schedule is easier. But if they don’t hit against the Mariners pitching any better than they did against the Indians, they will be too far behind to catch up to the two Chicago clubs. The Mariners are one game behind an Oakland team that is falling and there is blood in the water.
    Now is the time for the Astros to make a mark in determining the outcome of the AL West. They need to take two of three from Seattle and that would be a real hurt.

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  3. Thoughts –
    – I will revisit something I wrote about Chris Carter in a comment earlier today. September 5 is right about the time the Astros moved Carter from the 3rd spot with Fowler behind him to the 4th spot to (this space for rent) behind him. If you look at the 12 box scores since his last home run / RBI – you will find that in 10 of the 12 – with Castro, Dominguez or Krauss/Singleton batting behind him (5th) they totaled 2 hits in 36 at bats!!! – In the other two games Marwin had 2 hits and Marisnick had 3 hits.
    Basically, no one has to give Carter anything to drive because he has no protection – none.
    – And in an effort to make my buddy Billy C even more unhappy as I search for reasons why certain players seem to be laid back and unemotional – when I went back and looked farther – Castro, Dominguez and Singleton were all born and raised in California. It’s a fact jack….
    – I have this fear that the Astros are hitting the same malaise they hit at the end of last September – I don’t think they will catch either Chicago team.
    – Three greatest hopes for 2015
    1) A bullpen with an ERA 3.75 or better
    2) Springer playing 150 games
    3) A better hitter at 3B
    – I think the Red Sox must be the team that improved the most this season in the AL
    – Here are my Astro awards
    MVP – Altuve
    Pitcher of the Year – Keuchel (because I will give…..)
    Newcomer of the Year – McHugh
    Inspiration of the Year – Springer – I thought this team was practically on life support until he made things fun for them.

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    • Conspiracy theory guy says the removed any semblance of protection behind Carter to make his arbitration increase less this off season.

      Nice jab at the Red Sox. At least they are now trying to pretend they didn’t start losing on purpose back in July.

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    • Maybe I didn’t phrase the question right or you didn’t understand. But the Red Sox actually won the NL East last year and won 97 games. So they’ve digressed this season for sure. Looking for the team that has improved 2014 over 2013 more than the Astros.

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      • If the Red Sox won the NL East last year, I’ll take up shuffleboard. Without looking I’ll go with the Mariners. I know they were bad and now they’re good.

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  4. Greatest hope – that Keuchel and McHugh are not fads, and will be solid next year. If Feldman can be .500, that 1-2-3 punch is a great start. One more steps up from a stable of possibilities out of Peacock, Obie, Folty, Nitro, etc., it could be a 80-85 win season next year. If the stars align, and Springer does become the MVP candidate I think he will – it could get special around here quick. I mean the guy was on a 162 game pace of 40+ hr and 100+ rbi. Have to find a guy to protect Carter in the cleanup though – assuming Springer is in the 3 hole next year.

    I would consider Nelson Cruz. Would solidify LF. Gives you that middle of the order bat – how does a 3-4-5 of Springer-Cruz-Carter sound, with Fowler in the leadoff, Altuve in the 2 hole. Still 6-9 looks blackhole, and there is a bit of a lack of durability in that 1-5, so there are still places to go, but its looking better around here.

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    • Steven, I was going to note the 2005 WS team had weak hitters. I then checked and Ausmus hit .258, Everett hit .248, & the pitchers hit .168. But in 2005 – no one hit .300. Your argument still holds and HOLDS TIGHT – a black hole.

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      • In 2005 there were two hall of fame pitchers and a third fringe candidate. A Cy Young. And a solid bullpen. Not the case now. Offense has to be better, especially more consistent than the sub .200 averages it has now at the bottom.

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      • The key to 2005 was two-fold: the old adage of pitching and defense. Can’t leave off one of the best defensive years for the team. Top 3 in NL in fielding %, GO/AO, SB %, errors (2nd fewest), stolen bases allowed, not to mention best Defensive Efficiency Ratio.

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  5. Can the Astros catch the White Sox and the Cubs in the standings? I don’t see it happening with our lack of offense right now.
    Picking up on the “hope” theme above, what are your three greatest hopes for 2015? 1. McHugh is not a flash in the pan. 2. Springer stays healthy all year 3. Luhnow upgrades the team in free agency.
    As of today, the Astros have a 16-game improvement over 2014. That’s second…in the American League! Which team has a better improvement? The answer has already been given so I won’t pretend to say I knew it was the Angels.

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  6. The Astros named their minor league players of the year recently. Which Astros would you name winners of: MVP-Without a doubt it is Jose Altuve, Pitcher of the Year-I will this and the next one to McHugh, Newcomer of the Year-see prior answer, Inspiration of the Year?-McHugh again as he was looked at as a complete castoff Any other awards you’d like to dole out? I am too depressed from a 3-game losing streak to dole out any more awards.

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  7. If we really do fix the bullpen this time and add two real bats, then yes, we can have a pretty good team in 2015. Springer brings so much to this club when he’s playing. Rarely do you see a rookie appearing to take on a leadership role right off the bat. At the very least, he got some asses in gear. I am cautiously optimistic, but that is tempered by what we’ve already seen from Crane/Luhnow. When are these guys going to finally say it’s time to win and put a whole team on the field?

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  8. I’m optimistic about 2015 because Springer will be in the opening day lineup, we will find out for real if Singleton is really a .170 hitter or just screwed up in the head or both, and that if Springer, Fowler, and Marisnick are the starting outfielders we will be so good defensively. I’m optimistic because we may actually have a good OBP 4th outfielder in Grossman.
    I’m optimistic because if we don’t have a new SS, we might have a new 3B and if we do have a new SS at least we will know about Dominguez ahead of time and bury him in the eighth spot. I’m optimistic because if we get a new 3B and not a new SS, at least we will have Correa at SS soon.
    I’m optimistic because it seems we have a DH capable of hitting .230 with power and I wasn’t optimistic about that this past April.
    I’m optimistic because Weiland, White, Wojo, Nitro, Peacock, Folty may be healthy.
    I’m optimistic because now Luhnow has learned how to mess up a bullpen and may be better building it on his fourth try.
    I’m optimistic because Keuchel and McHugh and Feldman appear to be major league starters, Ober is learning real fast how to be one and we have a lot of good arms in AA.
    I’m optimistic that Luhnow is going to hire a good manager this time.

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    • Okay Billy, I can’t see the game, but is it Peacock? He goes back to the mound after his offense loads the bases with no outs and can’t put a single run across. Then, the first two batters of the next inning reach on errors. I’d be a little despondent myself.

      For those of you watching — and I’m really sorry — but how was Peacock pitching? Location. Presence. Etc…

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      • Dont know, as i can just go by the boxscore, but he seems to be the only one who.can’t seem to shake off adversity, judging by how much worse his stats are compared to everyone else. Pitch counts are always higher too.

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      • Peacock grooved the home run pitch. But I fully agree. You’ve got to score some runs when you’ve got the bases loaded and nobody out. And I though we determined a long time ago that Carter can’t play first base.

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  9. Could we possibly duplicate the 15 game losing streak from last year? Both the Rangers and Mets are playing decent baseball so it is conceivable we could end back-to-back seasons on 15 game losing streaks. Yes, I am being a bit melodramatic here, but does anyone think it’s not possible the way we are playing?

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  10. The 7 run inning –
    I was not watching but just backed up the DVR.
    – Line drive that Villar short hops and throws high and wide as Carter can’t quite make a swipe tag after jumping to catch it. Good throw gets him by 3 steps.
    – Peacock regroups and gets a grounder to the left of Carter that could have been a DP – Carter shows me that I was wrong – he is just as bad as Singleton and muffs it.
    – Peacock works on Zunino who is supposed to bunt but works it to 2-1 count. I think Peacock thinks he will attempt to bunt again and grooves one that ends up a 3 run dinger.
    – Peacock strikes out the next guy which should have been out #3
    – He walks the next guy and then that guy gets thrown out stealing
    – There is a review and Peacock cools his heels for 2 minutes and the call is reversed.
    – He is a bit out of whack now and walks the batter
    – Cano does a nice job going the other way on a ball on the outside part of the plate
    – They replace Peacock and Buchanan gives up a 3 run dinger

    Remember Peacock had some back issues and has not pitched since Sept 8. He did not pitch thru the problem but he had no help or luck either

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    • Possibilities
      – Bo Porter has returned
      – Lawless fell down and hit his head
      – The Luhnow computer spat out that Krauss was the better choice
      – Krauss handed Lawless a note that if he wanted to see his family again….

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    • If I never see Jonathan Villar at SS again for the Houston Astros, it will be too soon. All the tools in the world can’t make you a good ball player if your head is not in the game.

      Altuve doesn’t unplug his brain for a single pitch. Villar sleepwalks through the game. And the results speak for themselves.

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    • Because that’s when the pitcher on the other team looks at the scoreboard, sees a seven run lead and fires it in and says “lets see how many runs you can score when I fire it right down the middle”. The answer was “2”.

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  11. I know I expressed a need for looking on the bright side of the team play but…. since they lost 15 in a row to end last season, they have now attempted a run at that record by losing 4 in a row. Bah!

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  12. TWO GAMES IN A ROW…………when Villar starts at short, the pitcher pay’s the price. I’m not saying that Peacock was stellar tonight, but go back through the year and check it out for your self…….Jonathan Villar is a LIABILITY on the field. There comes a point where you just have to cut ties with this kid. The few extra wins this team will end up with, are being compromised by letting that kid back on the field.
    I’ve had ENOUGH of his idiotic errors, and I’m glad non of you are standing behind me because I just cussed a BLUE STREAK over this game…………………….

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  13. A week ago everyone would have laughed at this, but all of a sudden a last place finish in the AL West is plausible considering how well the Rangers are playing right now. If we get swept by Seattle and then in Arlington…oh boy.

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  14. We all agree that Villar has been terrible at short. But in spite of all the errors, both he and Marwin have the same 0.5 defensive WAR. That might be why the club keeps trotting Villar out there. They already know what Gonzalez will give them defensively. But then again, they should know by now what Villar is going to do.

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    • Then maybe the club should stop using WAR and start using common sense or baseball savvy. Now, that’s two words that set a sabrmetric’s hair on fire

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      • oldpro, I think the club is trying very hard not to give up on Villar. They might well have the same vision you do, that Villar will turn into a very good major league shortstop someday. And maybe their advanced metrics are telling them the same thing!

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    • Nope Chip, that stat came from 69 games at short. But I should add that since I last looked, Marwin is now showing an 0.6 DWAR at short.

      And I’m not saying by any means that Villar should be out there. Gonzalez is easily the wiser choice based that he produces at the plate. There are not that many shortstops today posting an .OPS over .700.

      And Brian, the flipside is that while Villar can’t seem to make a routine throw over to first, he gets to balls and makes some plays that very few guys can. That’s how his DWAR ends up comparable to Marwin’s.

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  15. It seems like the offense is the most key part of the team because with the exception of a few starts in the last 20 – the starters keep us in the game – but when the offense can’t score more than a run or two – we go down.
    And right now we have a team where the whole second half of the lineup is pitiful.

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  16. I think it would be a safe bet that Villar may be around next spring at least. He’ll still have at least one option year, he’s only 22 and that would allow the Astros to have somewhat of a safety net (even though that net may leak like a sieve).

    Remember, Luhnow may need to only plan SS until mid-season next year if — as some believe — Correa will be ready. (Can it really be?)

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  17. He’ll be ready defensively, but, so far, the best pitching he’s seen is High A California league. But I will say this, the other California league teams are using pitchers a lot older than we were. Other teams are throwing guys from 21 to 26 years old there ands we were throwing ours from 20 to 23 years old, so Correa was seeing pitchers who have been around.

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  18. They moved Carter back to the third spot and in his second game he hits a dinger. Marisnick took a hanging curve on to the train tracks. Even Dominguez decided he could finally get a hit.
    Loved how they stretched Keuchel through 8 innings. Nice game and I guess they send out McHugh tomorrow.

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    • This month Marisnick is .286/.408/.315 (avg/slg/obp) and Grossman is .302/.397/.357 . Totals post-ASB? Marisnick- .270/.351/.302 Grossman- .255/.348/.353. Most people weigh OBP higher than BA. and there’s not much difference in their slugging % at all. think Grossman is going to be the starting LF next year…Grossman/Fowler/Springer with Marisnick as the 4th OF….unless they go with a platoon in LF.

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  19. Class act by Lawless to take Altuve out with 2 outs in the 9th so the fans could honor him.
    Not going to anoint either Presley or Marisnick – but they both had a good couple games and especially good to see Marisnick show off a little bit of power two days in a row.
    Second time in 3 games we get to see Fowler strike out with the bases loaded and no outs.
    Altuve can get hits every way possible – beating out infield hits – pull one past the 3B – poke one to the right side – line drive up the middle – I think he stole Harry Potter’s wand and is using it to show what a magician he is at the bat.

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  20. That was a nice move by Lawless.

    The discussion among the 3 potential OFers is interesting. Presley strikes out the least of the 3 and considering how often this team Ks we need more contact hitters. It is still a toss-up on the 3, but Presley deserves strong consideration.

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    • His offense runs hot and cold, but he’s the type of player who needs to be playing regularly in order to be any good. His arm is somewhere south of lousy, at least based on the small handful of games I’ve actually been able to watch, so there is that to consider.

      Looking at those strikeout rates…

      Marisnick 23%
      Grossman 30%
      Presley 17%

      So yeah, Presley does have the lowest SO %. Thing also to consider…he has by far the lowest OBP

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      • It is so close, but the constant Ks on this team is driving me crazy. We can’t carry a lineup of 6+ players with a K rate at 30% or higher. Marisnick appears to have the most power of the 3, definitely the strongest arm and better defensive OFer, but he is going to have to be more disciplined at the plate if he wants to play regularly. Of the 3 I would still probably go with JFSF, but I hope we add someone via FA. Nelson Cruz anyone?

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      • Presley had a career .352 OBP in the minors, but he also had a career BA of .292. Him and JFSF are similar offensive players, except Jake has a bit more power.

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      • Presley only has a .301 career OBP in the majors, and at the age of 29, he’s not going to get any better.

        Cruz is 34, and coming off a career year. With his age, low OBP, and high strikeout totals, I think he’s going to decline pretty quickly. Maybe a 2 year deal and flip him at the deadline.

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      • He has had 2 years with OBP above .330. He has never had regular playing time. I am not crazy about him, but I do like his K rate. He could be a serviceable backup.

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      • Cruz is likely going to come at a cost beyond a multi-year deal. As I mentioned in the entry above, he’s likely to get a QO in the range of $15 million. If he accepts (unlikely), he’ll be considered signed. If not, a team like the Astros will have to ante up not only with a multi-year deal (maybe 3 years, $45-$50 million possibly), but also one of its top draft picks. In the Astros’ case, they’d have to give up the #31 pick they picked up in the Cosart deal.

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    • Chip, I am curious, would you be willing to give up the #31 pick if we could get Cruz at 3/$45M? Are there better options out there? We already addressed the 3B market and that looks slim outside of Panda and Headley. We have got to find some offensive upgrades at 3B, 1B and LF, in my opinion. I can live with Marwin for another year at SS, but only if we get upgrades at other positions.

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      • Tim, I’m sure there are better options than Cruz. But it will all depend on the QOs and who may become available through trade and/or who may become available because an option isn’t picked up or someone who is non-tendered.

        Lot of variables between now and the end of the World Series. As for Cruz, he’ll be 35 at mid-season 2015 and he’s not exactly durable. In 10 seasons, he’s played 128 or more games only twice. And, this was a career season for stats, including a record number Ks and his first time more than 90 RBIs.

        The Astros’ payroll may increase, but Luhnow is not going to have a ton of flexibility, especially with several players arbitration eligible.

        First consideration may be what to do with Dexter Fowler. Is he traded or do the Astros pay him in arbitration?

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      • Nelson Cruz is .241 / .306 / .461 in the second half this year. I think that’s more representative of the hitter he is than the numbers he posted in the first half.

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    • Did you happen to see Castro’s hit? It was a dribbler along the 1B line that the pitcher mishandled. It was a borderline error. Castro looks to lack confidence right now. They are better off, for the rest of this season, playing Corp or Stassi. Since Nitro is pitching tomorrow Stassi will be catching.

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      • He is beyond terrible. I’d play Corporan or Stassi the rest of the way too…absolutely no reason to let that gimp-kneed loafer start…what would be the point?

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  21. I like to watch Stassi hit – he has a nice short stroke and has hit some nice line drive hits since coming up. Surprised he did not have better numbers this year in the minors.

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