Astros’ fan Dan takes a trip: And we can watch

Here at the Chipalatta Center for Advanced Storytelling Technology, we’re on the forefront of the next generation of narrative devices. Today, we will be testing our latest device, officially known as the Third-Person Omniscient Technology. The TPOT (or TeaPOT as we call it) is a micro drone in the shape of a housefly that can read any situation and transmit a perfect third-person omniscient text of the scene and character interactions.

This week our good friend Dan P is on a special assignment, his latest post written before he was taken away … I mean left, voluntarily. Well, to find out what Dan is doing, let’s take the TeaPOT for a spin. Using the TeaPOT’s patented (pending) Integrated Brainwave Geolocator, the fly on the wall can find Dan and zero in on his whereabouts. So sit back, pull up Chipalatta on the old laptop and read the tale – courtesy of the TeaPOT and the Chipalatta Center for Advanced Storytelling Technology.

From The TeaPOT:

The lane from the iron gate to the old house on the hill is lined with overhanging oak trees, providing a claustrophobic view of the road and the approaching abode. Between the high climb of the steps and the bars on the windows, the old home screams “get out.” Or maybe it’s saying “stay inside” to those within. And maybe those screams are real.

Over the door in faded brickyard red a sign reads, “Astroholics Asylum,” and in permanent marker underneath – in Bopert’s deft hand – are the words “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter.”

One upper room of the home, strangely, has no bars. Its open window seems almost inviting as does the soft, black leather sofa that fills half the room alongside a mahogany desk and thick leather chair. From the small speaker box on the desk, a voice chimes in. “Your next patient to see you, Doctor.”

A hand emerges from the depths of the leather chair, pressing a button on the box. “Send him in,” says a voice that sounds vaguely German and from Mexico City all at once.

After a moment, the door opens. In walks Dan, his haunted eyes darting about the room. “Is he here?” asks Dan. “Can I really meet the ‘Toy Cannon?’”

Leaning forward, the doctor laughs. “Oh, no, we just said that to get you from your cell.”

“You lied to me?” says Dan. “Who are you?”

The doctor leans back into the chair. “I am Doctor Emil Schaffhausen,” he says. “I am zee one whom zey call for zee spezial cazes.”

“Doctor Schaffhausen?” Dan asks.

“Zee third,” says the doctor. “Now let us talk about what is troubling you. It is your trust issues, correct?”

“Yeah, I just don’t know if I can trust him.”

“Trust who?”

“Luhnow. I mean he has this plan, and we’re all supposed to trust it. But when does it go from the ‘We’re starting over’ part to the ‘Now we’re trying to win’ part?” asks Dan, tears glistening in his eyes.

“And you used to trust zis plan?”

“Sure,” says Dan. “We all did. Or we all tried to. I mean was there another choice.”

“And you were happy zen?”

“I mean, his first move, he grabs Marwin Gonzalez in the Rule 5 draft. Not a bad move. But then it got rough. I mean losing Mark Melancon, our best reliever, to get Jed Lowrie. I could stomach that.”

“Tell me, Herr Peschong, what was zee low point for you?”

“Oddly, it came right after a high point. You know, we’d already lost Berkman and Oswalt, and trading Carlos Lee was a good thing. I mean who thought we’d get anything other than a bucket of spit for a couple of overpriced months at the end of El Guapo’s career?”

“But then your faith started to fade, right?”

Dan runs his hand through his hair, theb nibbles on a fingernail. “Yeah. I mean I don’t think anyone was crying when J.A. Happ and a couple of relievers left. And we supposedly got some good prospects. But then it was Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez for guys no one had ever heard of. And Chris Johnson to the D-Backs.”

“Zis vas all part of zee plan, though. Zee team needed a rebuild.”

“But what did Houston get for some solid guys? Guys we could have used? Wilton Lopez goes to the Rockies, and our big piece is Alex White, who can’t stay healthy. And for all the trades before that, we got Robbie Grossman, Matt Dominguez and Marc Krauss. The trades that actually netted anyone were Ed Wade’s. So how can I trust the Luhnow Plan?”

Dan lays down on the soft leather sofa, staring at the ceiling fan that gently swirls overhear. “How were we supposed to win?” Dan asks. “I mean, I’m a fan. I try to be patient, but our big offseason signing for 2013 are guys like Carlos Pena and Jose Veras. We fans are supposed to get excited about a washed up Rick Ankiel and Erik Bedard. Then we trade Jed Lowrie with no real shortstop in the wings.”

“Zee trade, though, it vas good?”

“Oh, we got Chris Carter and Brad Peacock. They’re major leaguers. One of these days Max Stassi will be too.”

“Zen zis vas good?”

“Well, we went from Ronny Cedeno to Jonathan Villar at short, so ask Becky what she thought of the move. Meanwhile, we cut Ankiel. We released Cedeno. And the best free agent signing, Veras, went to Detroit for more prospects. I mean, how many prospects do we need? You want me to have faith. But all we have is prospects.”

“Zere is still a team, though. A team to root for?”

Dan gives a weak chuckle. “Luhnow trades everyone. Even mediocre players. Justin Maxwell gets traded to the Royals for a minor league pitcher. Bud Norris goes to Baltimore for L.J. Hoes, Josh Hader and draft pick.”

Schaffhausen scribbles a few words on his notepad. “Zis is about zee future, though.”

“When does that future become now?” Dan asks. He sits up straight on the couch. “I mean next we’re trading Jordan Lyles. I thought he was supposed to be part of the future.”

“You don’t like Dexter Fowler?”

“Sure I do,” Dan says, practically screaming. “But is he part of the future? Even now, he’s trade bait. So where am I supposed to put that faith?”

“Luhnow, though, he signs Scott Feldman. He signs Chad Qualls, Matt Albers and Jesse Crain.”

“And how did that work out?”

“He picked up Collin McHugh.”

“Luck. I have no faith in luck. He also signed Jerome Williams. And he released J.D. Martinez,” Dan says. He puts his head in his hands, muffled sobs can be heard. “The last straw Cosart. We got a defensive center fielder and a prospect at third base.”

“But zey are zee future, no?”

“I don’t know,” Dan cries. “I’m just losing faith. I feel like OldPro or some Chronicle commenter.” Dan spits.

“Maybe you should read zee Crawfish Boxes,” Schaffhausen says. “Zeir faith is unswerving.”

“Look, Doc, I’m a Chipalatta guy. And Luhnow needs  to earn my faith.”

“What about zee signings zis winter? Herr Luhnow brought back Lowrie. He signed some real bullpen piezes in Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek. Does zis restore your faith in my – I mean his – his plan?”

“I just don’t know. I mean, I think I just want to be at the next stage of the plan. I want this team to be respectable. I want to win.”

Doctor Schaffhausen stands from his chair. “And zee Astros will win.”

“This year?” asks Dan.

“I cannot zee zee future, Herr Peschong,” Schaffhausen says. “But if you have zee faith, it vill come.”

Suddenly, Schaffhausen, his back to his patient, removes his glasses and with them his fake mustache. “Oh, look,” he says, readying his notepad to swing at something. “Zere is zee fly on zee wall.”

And with that –

So, here are some therapy questions to consider:

  1. Have you had faith in the Luhnow Plan?
  2. Is 2015 the year for a new phase in the Plan, or will the Astros continue to sell off pieces such as Jason Castro and Dexter Fowler? Are there other pieces that could be on the auction block?
  3. If Luhnow trades for major leaguers rather than prospects, does that signal a big shift in the Plan?
  4. A lot can happen between Opening Day and the end of September. Luhnow could put together a winner only to see George Springer dinged up again or Jose Altuve pull a muscle and be out a month. If the roster on April 6 is good, will you give Luhnow a pass for 2015?
  5. How many wins does it take to restore your faith in zee, I mean the, Plan?
  6. So far this winter, Luhnow has made significant upgrades to the bullpen and it looks like he’s solved Houston’s sticky third base situation by signing Lowrie. What other additions do the Astros need?
  7. After signing Lowrie, there’s still about $5 million or so to be spent. And this is without trading Fowler (another $9 million) or Castro (about $4 million). What should the Astros target next? A starter? Another outfielder?

40 comments on “Astros’ fan Dan takes a trip: And we can watch

  1. It’s funny. I went to baseball reference and pulled up all the moves Luhnow had made. So much of it was just shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. But that’s what he had to work with budget-wise. The Ankiel and Cedeno signings were perfect examples. He takes fliers on these re-treads and cuts them soon thereafter.

    I will say, this winter does have a different flavor. And I hope, for poor Dan’s sake, 2015 will be even another big step forward. I think we need to take the “re” off “rebuilding” and just build a winner.


    • It’s the ones he doesn’t make that is frustrating.

      For example, Carlos Rodon is poised to make the Astros look stupid for about a decade.


  2. Did this organization need to be rebuilt from the bottom up? Yes. Was the Luhnow Plan the best way to do it? Probably. Am I happy with the results? Well, I’ll let you know in July. Or maybe on opening day.

    If Houston trades off Fowler, I think it will feel too much like we’re still rebuilding. Obviously a catcher has to go. Part of me hopes it’s Corporan, and we get some decent offense out of Castro and Conger. Also, we can DH one of them and let Carter play first sometimes to give Singleton days off.

    Prospects are nice, but I’m tired for trading away today for a promise of tomorrow.

    Injuries could really turn 2015 into a letdown. Just look at the 2014 Rangers. If I see a real team on opening day, I’ll give Luhnow credit for that.

    I want to finish over .500. So 82 wins is a minimum to make me happy. (Provided there are no significant injuries.) If Luhnow wants to make me really happy, 85 wins would do it.

    At this point, I’d like to see a decent starter. And I guess when we trade Corporan or Castro we should get either an MLB player (a real right fielder, perhaps) or just a boatload of AA and AAA guys.

    Spend that $5 million or so on a starting pitcher. Something middle-of-the-rotation. I know, that gives Houston a lot of No. 3 starters. But I really think, with some offense, Keuchel is an ace. Look at his stats from 2014. If he can repeat that, we’re looking at a 18-game winner or better. Heck, he won 12 games on that crappy (70 wins is still crappy) 2014 team. He had a sub-.300 ERA. His WHIP was 1.18. And McHugh looks like a potential No. 2 or a good No. 3. Feldman was solid. Once Peacock stopped tipping his pitches, he had good outings. Maybe spend that $5 million on an outfielder. Trade Castro for someone worth about $9 million a season. Throw in a minor league pitcher.


    • Steamer’s projections are out – Keuchel at 3.81 with a slight uptick in H/9 and BB/9. Can’t say that is going to be completely off given just how good he was in those two areas last year. If their projections are correct he posts a solid number 3 type numbers on a contender, strong number 2 on a decent staff.

      He really is very difficult to read. His average velocity prior to last was 89 on his FB, last year it was 89.7. He had been somewhat below major league average in FB performance until last year when it skyrocketed into one of the best FBs in the majors (not velocity wise, but performance against wise). I would think it would be safe to assume at least SOME regression in that fastball performance given that it appears the improvement was almost all in the situation and location use, and not velocity.

      To put into perspective just how good Keuchel was last year – it will probably only take 2 or 3 outings of lesser performance to take him to that STEAMER projection.


  3. 1. Yes
    2. I think they want us to believe they are in a new phase, but they don’t have the money to start a new phase and the plan has come up a year short. I sincerely believe that Villar, Castro, Dominguez, Singleton, Kraus, Guzman and Grossman caught them with their pants down. They had no clue that those guys would play so poorly last year.
    3. Yes
    4. Yes, if the roster is good on April 6 and the top prospects in the upper minors have the years expected of them, I would give Luhnow a pass.
    5. 81 wins
    6. They need a good hitting third baseman and either Grossman or Marisnick to improve to an average batter.
    7. A real third baseman who can contribute wins with his bat.


  4. Well, if Marwin can produce another .727 over a full season, that’s a plus, because our other guys playing that side of the infield did not come close to what Marwin produced. So if we consider Lowrie an offensive upgrade over Dominguez, and I do, then we will have improved the left side of the infield at both positions. Heck, if Lowrie gives us something in between his 2013 and his 2014, that is a significant improvement over the 2014 Dominguez stats. My question now is which guy plays short and which guy plays third. Is Gonzalez a better shortstop? If so, Lowrie should go directly to third.


    • I like Marwin as a SS. At third I would like to see us use that as a position to balance the lineup some – since it’s not as demanding on the mobility of the player defensively (see Dominguez, one of the worst plodders on the planet but considered a defensive asset).

      I know I am one of the first, if not the first, to talk OBP, OPS, my favorite two stats. I like them so much because players can have a down year in a lot of spots, but if they have the hand-eye to tell balls from strikes early enough in the pitch to do something with it, they will succeed more often in the long run. Sure, they can struggle in the short term, but in many more cases than the other way around, the OBP guy wins because he is simply better at recognizing pitches right out of the hand and spends less at bats “reacting” to the pitchers pitch. It’s Daryle Ward vs. Lance Berkman all over again, Ward was better in that short term spurt when they first came up, but the other guy ended up the permanent fixture for a decade.

      That said – you do have to have some balance. They all aren’t going to be decent OBP guys WITH power. I don’t think you can have a lineup full of guys that 35% of the time get 1 or 2 bases, as you much more likely to just leave a bunch of guys on base – it will take more at bats to move them around the bases this way, which actually lowers production. You have to have guys that might get on base only 30% of the time, but account for more bases when they do. 1B, 3B, LF, RF, given the ease of their position to play or the lack of need of mobility, are your prime places to look for those power guys. I don’t see Gonzalez fitting this lineup at 3B, especially since it as Springer and a prayer right now.

      Now I do agree I would rather see Dan at 3B than Dominguez again, though I don’t know if Mr. Peschong is available on the market ATM. But I would rather find a solution that has a little more pop in the bat.


      • OBP and OPS…….sometimes I catch myself from bringing up my two favorite stats too often. I can live with Lowrie at third, even if he lacks the OPS we’d like to see from a corner infielder, if he can keep the OBP up. If Fowler is still around, we’ll regularly have multiple guys on base for the 4, 5 and 6 guys.


  5. After adding Upton, Kemp and Myers as a new outfield, the Padres flipped the Catcher Hanigan they got in the Myers trade to Boston for Will Middlebrooks to play third base. Then they signed FA Catcher David Ross to replace Hanigan.


    • Op, that bullishness is more of what I would have liked to have seen here over the past three years. And the Padres have also managed to develop a top 10 rated farm system. Too often, we’ve been suckered into believing that both can’t be done at the same time. Of course, all those moves do not guarantee a thing, but if I was a San Diego fan, I’d be pretty excited right now.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. 1. I have faith in the plan but have often questioned the execution. What is the maximum length of time before a rebuild can be deemed unsuccessful?
    2. I suspect the first 30 days of the season will yield that answer. If we get off to a slow start we will see panic / give-up moves. If we are around .500 we may see them make a push.
    3. Not necessarily. Anthony Bass is a big leaguer, but his results were terrible.
    4. Luhnow never gets a free pass. Look, he may have a tough job, but every move deserves scrutiny. We are not playing fantasy baseball online with our buddies. He is running a multimillion dollar corporation with antitrust exemptions for which we (fans and taxpayers) pay a lot of money (and subsidize) to watch grown men play a game.
    5. It’s all relative. A healthy team needs to win around half their games AND show signs that 2016 will be an improvement. If injuries decimate the squad then I would be satisfied if the players, despite probable losses, show fire and fight through the year. No more give-ups like under Mills and Porter.
    6. Given the Myers trade, I would be calling TB frequently to make sure I didn’t miss out on Longoria being posted.
    7. I’m not sure…I kind of feel like JL needs to be laying the ground work for an acquisition of a starting pitcher this break or next off season. I don’t want a one year rental or fringe player who costs anything. If White, Wojo, Folty, and Peacock are on the 40 man it’s time to see whether one or more can be in our future pitching plans.

    Can’t identify the movie, but your “doctor” made me picture a cross between Ernst Blofeld and Col. Klink.


  7. Linares moves up from Lancaster to run the Astros Aircraft Carrier Corpus Christi Hooks. Big-time officers to assist him in Brocail, Radison, and Lawless! They want that loaded team to produce!


  8. 1. I have had faith in the plan – but like doubting Thomas I need to see the real proof now. Time for real progress.
    2. If there is a trade off of a Fowler or a Castro it can’t be for A level prospects has to be for AAA or mlb immediate help.
    3. Sure trades for mlb ready is a shift into a new phase if the plan. It is called by JL “My Butts in the Frying pan” plan
    4. No free pass for JL
    5. I’m looking for 85 + wins for faith restoration
    6. Again I’m out of the loop but the Lowrie signing resolves 3B only if he is used there – right?
    7. $5 million would be well spent on a mid level starter it would seem to me.
    Pitching pitching and pitching


    • Dan, I do not want to lose Fowler or Castro for a prospect or prospects from any level. We’ve got plenty of prospects already. Castro remains the catcher on our roster likely to provide the most production. Fowler, especially valuable if playing left, will provide a better OBP than anyone we might pick up or replace from within to play the outfield in 2015.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. 1. Only the first year of the Luhnow/Crane plan. (Not too sure how much is money driven – or lack there of) 2. Not sure which direction (See answer #1). 3. If he trades MLer for MLer – Yes. MILer for MLer – Yes. 4. No. Win Loss is the yardstick. 5. Anything short of the playoffs is just another year of failure. 6. At least 1 more pitcher. At least one will be injured during the year. 7. See 6. above. In the history of the Astros – they are 200 games below .500. All of that total is in recent years. Houston deserves a better team. For me, the invoice on the Luhnow/Crane plan should be marked “Past Due.”


  10. Man looking at the McGehee trade – on paper – the Giants gave up two A ball prospects??? It would appear that Matty can outrun Casey to first so it may take a triple to score him from 2nd.


  11. I’m really torn about further moves. Would I like one more bat? Sure, but where? We’ve got one outfield spot, and I’d like to see what Grossman, Marisnick and Tucker can do. Would I like better production at first base? Yep, but I recognize that Singleton needs more ABs. Would a third baseman be nice? Yes, but if MarGo can repeat his 2014 numbers, is it worth it to spend big money on an upgrade?

    I guess the big change for me would be one more starting pitcher. But if we go into the season. With the six we have — Kechel, McHugh, Feldman, Oberholtzer, Peacock and Foltynewicz I would be OK with that too.

    I guess after years of pinching pennies, I hate to leave any of Crane’s money in his pocket.

    Liked by 1 person

    • BT: Funny but I had the same thought about not spending the money. And also after reading this column and some other comments – can you imagine back in 2005 or 2008 any of us posting “If we can get to 81 wins, I will be happy.” ” ……If you have never been to Paris France, Big Spring Texas will suit you fine.”


      • Hey Brian,
        I drove thru Big Spring many a time in my younger years. Seems like i stopped at Herman,s restaurant and the Texaco just past a highway on the southside of town many times. thanks for the post and Merry Christmas to all.


  12. 1OP has been with grandchildren and hunting this weekend. Believe it or not, I haven’t seen the movie because my better half is not into hilarity. So I watch stuff like Caddyshack when she’s not around. Actually, following the Astros is a lot like Caddyshack. Instead of spoofing golf, it’s a spoof of baseball.


  13. So it’s Tuesday morning and let’s stir the pot. The AL West is still going to be good, with Seattle doing the most adding and Oakland doing some subtracting. for the sake of BeanieBall. Texas should not be the doormat they were because of returning regulars, but the new coaching staff will either add or subtract, as will the new staff of the Astros.
    Using Luhnow’s word to apply to the Astros, the team has three “major league” catchers. That means they have a movable asset. They need to parlay that asset and their other assets(minor league middle infield prospects. minor league pitching prospects) to come up with a major league hitting third baseman, so that they can use Lowrie in his regular position and keep Marwin as the good utility guy that he is, where he is definitely used as he is best suited.
    That 3B combined with Lowrie at SS, Altuve at 2B and Singleton at 1B gives you the infield that does the job, assuming Singleton plays better.
    They would then have Springer, Fowler, Grossman and Marisnick for the OF, which seems reasonable. They would have Carter for DH which seems reasonable and they would have Tucker, Sclafani, Santana, Aplin, Duffy, Dominguez and Kemp brewing in the upper minors, in case something goes haywire, which it probably will.
    That infield, that outfield, the bullpen they are shaping, and the starting rotation seems like a team that would be very capable of holding their own in the AL West and might be a .500 plus team, especially if that #5 starter and Singleton work out. Tucker tearing it up in AAA helps them out sometime during the year from the left side, where they were the worst in the majors in 2014.


    • Can’t mince any of that. I would like to see them make a Upton like move for LF, but I can live with Grossman out there too if that move doesn’t happen. I think we are all, the entire Chipalatta family, in agreement that Dominguez is not a 600 plate appearance talent, and that while Lowrie might be a better solution, the current roster is a better place if they do indeed find a major league corner sacker, allowing MarGo and Lowrie to fill their roles.

      I would also give, as I said this time last year, Correa a legit shot in ST against ML pitching. If he isn’t ready, got it, AA it is, if he is, Yount it up, go with the kid.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Do I even need to let you know how much I agree with your post, OP? 😄
      I think I have made my feelings about Dominguez abundantly clear. He simply should not be the Astros starting 3B.


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