Weigh in: Astros have their man(ager) in A.J. Hinch


UPDATE: Astros officially and formally name A.J. Hinch as their new manager.

Apparently the Astros were well along in their decision-making process when they interviewed internal candidates Tom Lawless, Pat Listach and Tony DeFrancesco on Saturday, continuing to piece together the puzzle for the future.

Word is spreading that the Astros will hire A.J. Hinch as manager later today. Hinch has previously served as manager — at any level — for the Diamondbacks in 2009-10 and has the worst record of any manager in that organization.

The 40-year-old Hinch played for several organizations as a catcher, which is often viewed as a solid proving ground for managers. Presently, former Astros’ catcher Brad Ausmus, Mike Matheny (St. Louis), Mike Scoiscia (Angels), Fredi Gonzalez (Braves) and Joe Girardi (Yankees) are former catchers now managing in the majors.

In case you may be wondering, Kirk Gibson was Hinch’s bench coach at Arizona and became manager upon Hinch’s firing.  Gibson himself was fired over the weekend after nearly five years as manager.

Hinch is a Stanford graduate and likely is a fit with Luhnow personally and professionally, especially given the public friction between the GM and Bo Porter, who was relieved of his duties on September 1.

The next big question will be what Hinch does with the current coaching staff and which pieces he wants to bring in. Look for a mix of hold-overs and new faces. Big questions may be what happens to Lawless and DeFrancesco.

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39 comments on “Weigh in: Astros have their man(ager) in A.J. Hinch

  1. Leave it to Luhnow to come out of right field. I’m sure A. J. is a quality choice, but I sure liked the bench coach for Tampa Bay, our interim manager and others.

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  2. It’s 4pm Houston time and when I went to Wikipedia to find out about Hinch, he is listed as manager of the Houston Astros. The announcement isn’t until 1.5 hours from Now. If you’re interested he lives in LaJolla and will be moving to Houston.
    Hilarious.

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  3. I sent Chip an email saying this does not exactly float my boat. I have no idea whether this is a good choice or not. The last manager chosen that had previous mlb experience was Scrap Iron / Phil Garner who took us to the WS! OK – I know , I know – AJ Hinch is no Phil Garner.
    Is he chosen because he agrees with Luhnow’s philosophy? Because he’s cheap? Because nobody else was really interested after they talked to Luhnow? Because they are really bopert in disguise?

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  4. Hinch has a degree from Stanford in psychology and is a former catcher. All this seems perfect to be a great manager right Chip?, Dan? Also, he should relate greatly with Castro and the Ivy League front office people.

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    • I guess folks on this blog hope he has more of a pulse than Castro seemingly does. I’m willing to see what happens because a manager’s performance ties a lot more to his players performance than anything he himself does (for the vast majority of the games).

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  5. OP, there just isn’t much to know. Really. Hinch didn’t even spend one full season as Arizona’s manager. He came in the middle of 2009 and left in the middle of 2010. Then he became of scout executive in San Diego.

    It will all boil down to how well he gets along with Luhnow and what kind of on-field staff he brings on board.

    My guess is he keeps Strom and perhaps Listach. Wondering also if Everett may not be retained as bench coach or perhaps Hinch brings back Kirk Gibson, who was his bench coach in Arizona.

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    • Or Joe Girardi, for that matter, Brian. As you point out, you may not know until spring training, but I think you’ll learn a lot by how he puts together his coaching staff. Is he going to have input? Will Luhnow insist he keeps certain coaches? Who picks the bench coach, that’ll be big! If Hinch can bring in his guy, it’ll say a lot. If it’s Luhnow’s guy, hmmmm.

      Just my perspective…

      But…to be sure…this is a risk! A calculated risk. Hopefully, Luhnow has done his homework, because he cannot afford for this one to go south. Either now or early next season.

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  6. Was listening to the Baseball Tonight guys and someone said that while Hinch worked well with the Front Office at Arizona, he eventually lost his clubhouse, allegedly because the players thought he did not back them up.

    We can only guess, but my thought is that some guys out there were not interested in the job, and Hinch was able to convince Luhnow that things would be run Luhnow’s way.

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  7. I’m one of those who voted to keep my powder dry (although my first response when I saw his name was, “who?”). I don’t want to draw any conclusions based upon numbers from his previous stints as a manager or player. Although Luhnow has made some good and bad decisions, I’m feel pretty sure that Crane sought input from Ryan, Biggio and other front office people about all the candidates. Obviously there had to be something far more compelling than Hinch’s previous stats.

    I do like that he was a catcher and that he has a degree from Stanford. What really caught my attention though, was that he managed Arizona when he was just 34 years old. Add to that, that he held those positions with San Diego while in his mid to late 30’s. In and of itself, that’s impressive. Despite his underwhelming stats (and candidly looking on the bright side), I think Hinch may have some good potential.

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  8. I find it interesting in the note about Crane sitting in the 4th row and a minority owner in the 5th row. Not sure how many rows were at the press conference, but it should be obvious to Luhnow — this is YOUR decision.

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  9. Should we start taking bets on who the new GM will replace him with in 2016?

    OK, sorry, couldn’t resist. I’m not sure if I am in a bad mood because of this hire or because I’m currently watching that talking heads discuss the possibility / probability of Hunter Pence getting ring #3 (but not with Houston). FWIW, I hope he gets it and wins series MVP.

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  10. Prediction……….Hinch will be gone after 18mos. on the job. Why don’t they hire Santa Clause……..he get’s along with EVERYONE. The revolving door, congrats
    to you Mr. Hinch, I hope you can appease this front office, because this front office could care less about their players! Good luck.

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  11. I’m still an Astros fan so I hope this hire is a good one for the team. I hope the guy is a winner. I hope he is a baseball fountain of knowledge. I hope he brings the best out in the players. I hope he has some players to bring the best out of.
    I hope he’s a leader and a teacher and he surrounds himself with a great staff. I hope he leads by showing the players he knows how to manage rather than just putting gimmicky signs up in the clubhouse.

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  12. Hinch resigns as VP of pro scouting with the Padres on Aug. 5th. Luhnow fires Porter on the first of Sep. Luhnow starts interviewing for a replacement on Sep. 24
    he makes the announcement about Hinch on Sep. 30th. Maybe I’m wrong here, but it sure looks like Luhnow had ALREADY approached Hinch, and made his mind up to fire Porter long before Sep. 1st. ALSO……..read that Hinch had a revolt in his clubhouse, with the veterans and the young guys. Look, we ALL hope that this guy will succeed, but it leaves a bad taste in our mouths, when the revolving door of the clubhouse swings so often. I’m going to look at this guy with my yes wide open, to see if he really knows “HOW” to manage. Evidently guys like Joe Maddon don’t grow on trees……..*sigh*
    Yes Jeff, anything you say Jeff…..yes sir, yes sir, yes sir.

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  13. So is Hinch (catcher / Stanford) anything like Ausmus (catcher / Dartmouth)?
    I don’t think that Porter was fired based on his losing – I think he was fired because he could not align with the organization’s (Luhnow’s) process for applying sabermetrics out on the field. Whether this was because Porter did not believe in it or because Porter had too much pride to bow to all that was emailed to him – we don’t know.
    It seems that Hinch is much more a sabermetrics guy – so it is far more likely that if he goes in the next couple years it will be for cause (wins/losses) and that Luhnow will go too.
    I hope Hinch is successful, but frankly it will come down much more to who he has in the bullpen to bring in to a game than it will with the managerial decision of when to pull the trigger.

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    • Dan, I think Porter was actually let go because of his inability to communicate effectively. Don’t think it really had much to do with the sabermetric approach. If you recall, Porter called players out in public when he should have been have one-on-one conversations. He let his displeasure be known. He apparently disagreed with some of Luhnow’s roster makeup. Who hasn’t? But, as an employee, you have to agree to go forward or just move on.

      I think Hinch’s future will hinge on wins and losses, sure. But the wins and losses will come, in part, by how effectively the team (meaning management) communicates.

      Again, I think the first clue of how well this turns out will be the coaching staff. If I recall, Bo had to pretty much take the staff that was in place when he got there. That can’t make a manager feel like he’s “in charge”. I agree with keeping Strom. Let’s see how the rest turns out, especially the bench coach.

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  14. I know this is just anecdotal, but AJ Hinch’s exit from Arizona along with Josh Byrnes should be a cautionary example for those who would like to see the technocrats swept away in favor of the “old time, gritty baseball people”. Gibson and Towers turned the club from one of the most sabermetric into one of the least sabermetric organizations in MLB. That got them one good season where the team far out performed its pythagorean, a couple of .500 seasons, and now, there they are at the top of the draft. That said, they weren’t any better pre-Gibson/Towers.

    A look at playoff teams this year and their use of sabermetrics shows that about half use it extensively (but all use it). However,as sabre tools get better I think you will see sabre teams drift toward the top (Red Sox, Pirates) and hold outs sink to the bottom (Braves, Phillies). Those horseless carriages sure looked ridiculous trying to make their way along rutted, muddy, early 20th century trails. But like most things, it is all in the execution. You still have to be good at it.

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    • Wasn’t Arizona done in by injuries over the last two seasons? Gibson isn’t aligned with how I think the game should be played. My biases that Hunch will need to overcome to win me over are that he reportedly lost control of the players quickly, and I’m not aware of San Diego growing a behometh of a minor league system through scouting. Can you remind me of his strengths again?

      Also, to be perfectly clear, the mental mistakes by players and coaches doomed us to 111 losses in 2013. I feel as though we were a little better in 2014 because guys like Altuve were better on the bases and Paredes was playing in another state, but we had a lot of terrible at bats and fielding miscues. Hunch needs to clean that up the first day of ST. I’m not confident about this. Then again, Buck Showalter was unavailable…and I agree with Becky that Ground Control probably had determined the best candidate months ago.

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      • I don’t think Hinch was ever given an opportunity in the clubhouse. Bob Melvin, who he replaced, was very popular with the players. Even, when Hinch was fired a year later many of the players reactions included regret for losing Melvin.

        Gibson lost the clubhouse as well with his fiery, no nonsense approach. Like I said, whatever direction you go, it is all in the execution.

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      • Mental mistakes are hard to correct. Some guys just don’t ever get it. It’s one thing Hinch can’t fix. If a player in his 20’s does not know how to play the game, it’s pretty much too late.

        And he’s not going to be able to fix most fielding miscues. The manager is not making the plays out there. Again, if a guy can’t make plays at this level, he should not be at this level. Same with bad at bats. If it is a regular thing, like with Dominguez for instance, at some point he loses his job.

        Very rarely does a manager make his players better. Luhnow needs to provide better players. And with better players along with Hinch making the best use of what he’s got to work with, putting his players in the best position for them to succeed, then he’s got a chance.

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  15. Welcome to a great city and a great baseball community, Mr. A.J. Hinch. We do not know you. Do not let that inhibit or intimidate you in the least. You have an opportunity to do something amazing in Houston. Take this opportunity to be great, and to encourage the young men that are going to come under your care and charge to be great! While it is inevitable that you will sometimes be criticized, and face challenges and even opposition, may you always take the high road, and rise above these things. Excellence must be in attitude as well as in performance. It must be in demeanor as well as in expression. And it must be on the field and off, day in and day out, and with the microphones open and with them closed.

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  16. For what it’s worth, I have a friend who played major league basebal and knows AJ Hinch personally. He says Hinch is a good baseball guy. Here’s what I asked:

    “As an Astros fan, I’m wondering about Hinch as their new manager. Did you work for him in San Diego? Is Houston with its emphasis on SABRmetrics a good fit for him?”

    My friend said this: “Good question. He’s a good baseball man. Sabrmetrics aren’t always for baseball guys.”

    Not sure if he’s including Hinch as one of those baseball guys who aren’t for Sabrmetrics, but my friend worked as a MLB advance scout for the Padres. He was also a long-time reliever for several MLB teams with a pretty nice career.

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